Mobility-impaired 'shut out' of about half of CBD buildings

Mobility-impaired 'shut out' of about half of CBD buildings

Access within the Central Business District (CBD) for the disabled, elderly and others with impaired mobility needs to be improved, said the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) yesterday, and it may consider rules to compel building owners to do so.

The BCA said about 70 out of 150 CBD buildings - nearly half - do not have features such as ramps for the wheelchair-bound.

This is despite a $40 million Government fund launched in 2007 that co-pays up to 80 per cent of the construction cost of basic accessibility features.

This compares unfavourably with, for example, the Orchard Road shopping belt, where nine in 10 buildings have such features.

"Even with funding support, they are still slow to take this up," said BCA's chief executive John Keung. "That's why we are studying whether we should look at some regulatory requirements."

Many CBD building owners say they do not see the need to improve accessibility, said BCA's director of universal design Goh Siam Imm. "But we see this need coming as we have an ageing population," she said, adding that the BCA will first try persuasion.

They were speaking at the inaugural Singapore Universal Design Week, organised by the BCA and held at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre.

The BCA also announced that it is extending its Universal Design Mark certification scheme to parks and other public spaces, in collaboration with the National Parks Board. In addition, it has launched a smartphone app for the public to access information about the accessibility of more than 2,800 buildings.

Singapore, said Dr Keung, is moving towards universal design - where everybody can enjoy the built and natural environment.

This means having not just ramps and wheelchair-friendly toilets for the disabled or Braille signs for the blind, but also nursing areas for mothers, play areas for young children and comfortable seating for the elderly.

Senior Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan, who opened the event, said universal design is becoming increasingly important for Singapore, because it depends on people as its key resource, yet its population is ageing and has a low birth rate.

Mr Richard Kuppusamy, 37, a wheelchair-bound architectural designer who recently returned to Singapore after 16 years in Britain, said: "This is not about charity... we have a duty to... treat everyone equally."

This article was first published on Nov 06, 2014.
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