Must All Businesses Be Made Accessible?

May 26, 2006

My husband and I settled in a remote village of the Southern Zone almost six years ago and have been operating ever since a small Internet Café. We installed the café in an existing building and obtained all proper permits. Now, we’re being harassed by an inspector from the Health Ministry about the Law for Equal Opportunities for People with Disabilities

(Law 7600).

My question is: do all little businesses have to rebuild their entrances and washrooms and build ramps to comply with the law? I do not deny the rights of the handicapped, but it seems exaggerated to force a tiny enterprise to make investments that would threaten its existence.

 

Marie-Danielle Croteau

Ojochal

 

While enforcement of the equal-access law has been lax ever since it was passed 10 years ago, all businesses are supposed to comply with the law.

In fact, the law gave a 10-year window for all public spaces to comply. That period ends Monday (see separate story).

According to the law, public spaces include both publicly owned areas and privately owned businesses frequented by the public.

Bárbara Holst, executive director of the National Council for Rehabilitation and Special Education (CNREE), told The Tico Times municipalities are usually in charge of making public spaces accessible to the disabled, though all government ministries are supposed to enforce the law.

The Ministry of Public Health gets into the act when sanitation permits are involved, said Francisco Amen, who deals with permits for the ministry. The ministry obliges businesses or other entities seeking permits or permit renewals to comply with the law, Amen said.

However, it is very difficult to obtain information about how this works. Our phone calls were transferred around many times at the ministry before functionaries told us they needed authorization to give out the information we sought.

For more info, call the Rehabilitation Council’s hotline at 800-266-7356.

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