Authorities in China have intensified efforts to advance the construction of barrier-free environments to ensure the rights of specific groups such as people with disabilities and the elderly, officials said.
The Supreme People's Procuratorate has identified the development of barrier-free environments as one of the livelihood projects promoted under a reform initiative to expand the scope of public interest litigation cases in 2019. Since then, the SPP, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and the China Disabled Persons' Federation have facilitated the nationwide comprehensive promotion of barrier-free facility construction.
According to the SPP, from 2019 to September 2023, procuratorial organs nationwide handled 7,526 public interest litigation cases pertaining to the development of barrier-free environments. This includes 7,497 administrative public interest litigation cases lodged against government departments and 29 civil public interest litigation cases.
Zhang Xueqiao, a deputy prosecutor-general at the SPP, said that procuratorial departments have focused on the construction of barrier-free facilities, addressing issues such as public facilities not meeting mandatory national standards and the illegal occupation of and damages done to barrier-free facilities.
Prosecutors have also tackled situations in which companies with disabled employees fail to construct or renovate barrier-free facilities according to standards and requirements. Through methods such consultations, public hearings and procuratorial suggestions, they have urged coordination with relevant departments to rectify these issues, Zhang said.
Procuratorial organs have also examined whether entities such as libraries, telecom service providers, self-service public service terminals and hotlines provide corresponding barrier-free functions, he said.
"Prosecutors carried out public interest litigation procedures to ensure that specific groups such as people with disabilities and the elderly have unimpeded access to information and enjoy the convenience and protection they deserve," he said.
Zhang noted that procuratorial organs, through means of public interest litigation supervision, have also prompted administrative authorities to carry out barrier-free service transformations related to public services that are closely tied to social life, eliminating obstacles in various fields of social services.
Xing Haifeng, a senior official at the City Construction Department of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said that the ministry has continued to vigorously promote the construction of barrier-free environments and has guided various regions to conduct specialized inspections, precisely identifying problems and weaknesses in the construction of barrier-free facilities.
In conjunction with tasks such as the transformation of old urban areas and the construction of communities, efforts have been accelerated to advance barrier-free environment construction as well as renovations that benefit the elderly, Xing said.
"We provide guidance for regions to formulate plans for the renovation of barrier-free facilities, organize and implement them, and support the installation of elevators in existing residential buildings. Tailored measures are taken to swiftly address these deficiencies and weaknesses as per local conditions," he said.
Since 2012, 761 provinces, cities and counties nationwide have formulated corresponding local regulations and rules, according to the ministry.
Xing said the ministry will cooperate with the SPP and China Disabled Person's Federation to guide various regions to ensure efficient channels are for complaints, reports, public opinion management and public interest litigation to enhance of barrier-free facility construction.