Letter to the editor on whether our city is friendly to the handicapped

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Dear Editor,
A video about a blind person bringing her guild dog to the MTR station being criticized by other passengers went viral on the Internet lately and the question on whether Hong Kong people are friendly to the handicapped has been raised. From my point of view, the situation is far from satisfactory.
Doubtlessly, the facilities for the disabled constructed in Hong Kong are already well-developed. We can see lifts for the wheelchair users, yellow tactile guide paths for the blind and sign language interpretation services for the deaf everywhere in the city. The discount system in which the handicapped can travel by the public transport using merely $2 has been implemented by the government. Different welfare policies such as Pilot Scheme on Living Allowance for Low-income Carers of Persons with Disabilities are provided and law of Disability Discrimination Ordinance is set up to protect their interests. It seems that the city has done much on providing assistance and is friendly to them.
However, these measures only minimize the inconveniences they face in life. The mindsets of the people towards the disabled still remain unchanged.
First off, a lot of citizens in Hong Kong discriminate against them. Although it may not be that obvious, the problem still exists in many people’s hearts. Take workplace as an example. The latest figure released by the government shows the unemployment rate of the handicapped reaches 6.7%, which is far higher than that of the healthy ones. In a city which emphasizes cost-effectiveness a lot, employers in Hong Kong in general prefer hiring an able-bodied person instead of a disabled one because they think that the handicapped are rather clumsy and the company has to put more efforts and money to address their special needs. For some, they put an equal sign between their ability and their disability and choose not to employ them. Other employees may even laugh at the disabled. People regard themselves as ‘superior’ and those are ‘inferior’. This mindset hinders the citizens to really treat them with equal footing and strive for the well-being of them. So, how can we conclude that our city is friendly to them?
Another phenomenon is that Hong Kongers know little about the handicapped. From the example mentioned above, many passengers simply did not recognize the label of ‘guild dog’ on the dog and complained that it was just a pet dog. Some other people may think that the mentally-disabled people are very dangerous and thus not willing to approach them. In fact, the so-called ‘weird’ behaviors are just the ways of expressing themselves. These misunderstandings are the unbridgeable gap between the two communities. If the gap is not filled up, those misconcepts will become the truth. That is the problem of Hong Kong right now, hindering the able-bodies to respect the handicapped, not to mention to treat them well.
Actions have to be taken to change the attitude of people towards the handicapped and civil education is the key to tackling the core of the problem. Only by knowing more will people start walking into others’ shoes and do something out of their heart. We can only call ourselves as ‘friendly’ to them after reaching that stage.
After all, we are all human beings and we should respect each other.
Yours faithfully,
Elsa Tan
Elsa Tan