Comm Eye Health Vol. 26 No. 81 2013 pp 07. Published online 21 May 2013.

From the field. Mobility impairments and access


CBM Country Director: Sri Lanka, describes how she encouraged Joseph Eye Hospital in Sri Lanka to be more accessible. Nagarathna has a mobility impairment, and uses crutches to move around.

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Nobody with a disability had ever come to Joseph Eye Hospital to work with them on increasing accessibility – it was all very new to them! I had to make several visits to the various hospital departments before they were able to understand the difficulties faced by people with mobility impairments.

Although the main entrance, wards, pharmacy, and optician’s shop were accessible, the fi nance, administrative and management departments were not. But this is important: people with mobility impairments may want to discuss their fees, or need to talk about problems they are having.

When we started to talk about how the hospital could become more accessible without making big infrastructure changes, the idea no longer seemed so daunting and the hospital team were keen to make the necessary changes.

Some low-cost ways to improve access for people with impaired mobility include:

  • Building a proper ramp with a railing – not too steep.
  • Having at least one toilet that is accessible to someone in a wheelchair: a wide door, a western commode, a hand rail, and a low basin.
  • Using non-slip flooring that is safe for people using crutches or calipers.
  • Creating a section of the reception desk that is low enough so someone in a wheelchair can see the receptionist (and be seen by them).

Finally, I think it is important that eye clinics and non-governmental organisations employ people with disabilities in different capacities – this sets a good example and helps to ensure that the needs of disabled people will be met.