Homeowners complain they haven’t been able to recoup the money spent to bring their facilities up to barrier-free access standards
By Tsai Ya-hua and William Hetherington / Journalist, with editor
More than 100 hotels and hostels in Taipei have installed disabled facilities, as required by the Disability Rights Protection Act (身心 障礙 者 權益 保障 法), but owners have complained of the law and appealed, the Taipei Hotel Association said on Sunday.
The additional facilities needed to comply with the law are expensive and are largely unused, the association said.
A protest is scheduled for November in front of the Construction and Planning Agency and the Taipei City Government to support demands for changes to the law, he said.
Photo: Tsai Ya-hua, Taipei Times
An amendment introduced in 2013 requires existing public buildings to install accessibility facilities for people with reduced mobility, and also required hotels with 50 to 99 rooms to have at least one room equipped with access for them, while large hotels must have a room equipped with accessibility. for 100 rooms.
Those who do not comply could be fined from NT $ 60,000 to 300,000 (US $ 1,933 to 9,667).
The Taipei city government began offering grants in 2014 to help hoteliers upgrade their facilities, and 104 of the 183 small hotels and hostels have completed the upgrades, he said.
Association director Wei Chien-hua (韋建華) said some hotels have spent NT $ 500,000 to make rooms accessible only to have them become unused.
Many large hotels only have one or two accessible rooms, but tourist groups of people with reduced mobility may have 20 or 30 people in need of rooms, he said.
Many people with disabilities travel with partners who prefer to stay in regular rooms, and many accessible rooms are only occupied once or twice a month, he said.
Across the country, there are around 3,700 rooms designed to accommodate people with reduced mobility, he said.
If they were to go unused 300 days a year, the industry would collectively lose NT $ 3.7 million for each of those days, or NT $ 1.1 billion a year, he said.
Owners of small hotels and hostels believe there should be a new industry to cater specifically to people with reduced mobility, he added.
Taipei Construction Management Bureau spokesman Horng Der-haur (洪德豪) said the issue was about a national law and therefore was outside the purview of the city government, but last month, he forwarded the complaints to the central government.
The interior ministry’s construction and planning agency will be the one that decides whether to change the law, he said.
The owner of a larger hotel said he had a 70 percent occupancy rate for his two accessible rooms and that booking the rooms was not a problem if good service was provided.
Hsu Chao-fu (許朝富), secretary general of the Access for All Association, said Taiwan’s aging population means demand for accessible rooms is likely to increase.
“If the owners don’t meet the need now, they will regret it tomorrow,” he said.
Those struggling to get reservations for their accessible rooms probably haven’t spent enough on their facilities, including support bars and metal railings, so travelers with limited mobility would not choose these rooms, a he declared.
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