Barriers in Accessing Public Buildings and Services
I have missed many opportunities in my life due to inaccessible buildings. I couldn’t take care of my education and student affairs [issues] at the university because offices were located upstairs and there was no accessible elevator. I couldn’t go to the English language and music courses I dreamed of. Once my brother had to carry my wheelchair up to the third floor to have my eyes examined for my driver’s license. The worst part was that only once we reached the third floor we learned that the ophthalmologist was not even working that day!”
—Homa, 23-year-old woman with physical disabilities, Tehran, November 20, 2016
Persons with physical disabilities told Human Rights Watch and the Center for Human Rights in Iran that finding an accessible public building is an exception. Persons with disabilities interviewed said that they find the entrances of most public buildings inaccessible, especially those who use wheelchairs due to stairs with no alternative ramps or elevators. Even when an elevator is available, interviewees said that many elevators were too small to fit most wheelchairs, or there were stairs before reaching the elevator. 
Ehsan, a man with a physical disability who lives in a small town in western Iran, said that while local hospitals and clinics have elevators, no other public building in his town is accessible. He said, “Even the municipality office which supports making public spaces accessible has more than 30 stairs.” Hamed, a 27-year-old man who uses a wheelchair, said that when he had to go to court in the town where he lives, two people had to carry him in his wheelchair up 40 stairs.
Even SWO offices are typically inaccessible, despite the fact that people with disabilities must visit them in order to receive various services. Mansour, an accessibility consultant and evaluator, said that the SWO office in the city where he worked is less accessible than many other government offices he visited. “The elevator was small and couldn’t fit a wheelchair. The safety handle was also very high and unreachable. The elevator’s door shut so fast that it could hurt you if you didn’t get in quickly,” he said.
Persons with physical disabilities who were interviewed expressed specific concerns about accessing banks and ATM machines. Inaccessibility to these financial resources hinders persons with disabilities from conducting their financial matters in a private and secure way. Most of them must ask a family member or friend to do their banking for them, which can undermine their privacy and independence. When a trusted person is not available, persons with disabilities may feel their only choice is to ask strangers for assistance despite the risk of theft.
Yashar, a 39-year-old man with physical disabilities, said that he has identified a few banks without stairs, but has not managed to find a single ATM machine that he can use from his wheelchair. He often resorts to asking strangers to withdraw money from his account for him.
Fatemeh, a woman with a physical disability, explained the difficulties she experiences accessing the bank. She said:
When I need to use an ATM machine, I stand in a corner and look at people’s faces to guess who could be a trustworthy and supportive person to help me. Then, I give them my card and tell them my pin and ask them to withdraw money for me or do any other banking I need. It is a stressful and uncomfortable situation.
Blind persons or persons with low vision reported inaccessible elevators in many public buildings. In some cases, elevator call and floor buttons are not accessible because they do not have braille or voice controls. One blind person said that in a few public buildings he visited, Braille signs have been installed improperly, such that the button indicated in braille that it is for the first floor, when actually the button is for the second floor. Blind persons and people with low vision also said that in many public buildings, elevators do not announce the floor number, so they must ask others to tell them which floor is coming up. If there is no one else in the elevator, they rely on trial and error to find the right floor.
Banafsheh, a blind woman who works for a public company in Tehran, described how one morning when she tried to use the elevator to go to her office on the sixth floor, she found that an inaccessible electronic touch key pad had been installed for the elevator. She said, “I was really disappointed that they had changed it without considering my needs. From that day onward, I needed to wait for a colleague to help me select the right floor. Quite often, I preferred to walk all the way up to the sixth floor instead.”