SINGAPORE: New mandatory requirements on barrier-free accessibility will be introduced for existing buildings from 2017, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong announced on Wednesday morning (Jul 27).
Speaking at the launch of the Singapore Universal Design Week 2016, Mr Wong said these requirements will mean that owners of commercial and institutional buildings that are frequently visited by the public - such as schools, offices, universities, community clubs, shopping centres, markets and food centres - must include barrier-free accessibility upgrades when they undergo any additions and alterations works.
For instance, entrances must be barrier-free with either a ramp or stair-lift. The building must also have at least one wheelchair-accessible toilet.
"There are still many, many older buildings which are not accessible, and this is the larger stock of existing buildings," said Mr Wong. "Many of them were built before 1990. About one in four existing commercial and institutional buildings is still not accessible today, and I think this poses a 'last mile' problem in facilitating seamless travel."
The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will also extend the S$40 million Accessibility Fund for a further five years to FY2021, to encourage more building owners to incorporate barrier-free upgrades.
The fund, which has been expanded to cover accessibility features for the visually- and hearing-impaired, allows up to two applications per building or development.
"With these improvements to the Accessibility Fund, our objective is to encourage owners to plan gradual improvements to the buildings' accessibility that are in line with their maintenance and A&A cycles," said BCA CEO John Keung.
"We hope that the fund and the additional requirements will put us one step closer to fulfilling our goal of having 70 per cent commercial and industrial buildings in Singapore barrier-free by 2030."
About S$14 million has been spent on 135 projects as of June 2016, since the fund was started in 2007.
"We cannot call ourselves an inclusive society unless our built environment, especially the public places, is friendly for everyone to move around with ease and participate in community activities," said BCA's chairman, Lee Fook Sun. "While we have made progress on encouraging the industry to adopt UD (universal design), we still need more of our industry stakeholders to come on board."
An example of a space that incorporates universal design is the newly redeveloped Marine Cove at East Coast Park. Family-friendly facilities, such as an inclusive playground, encourage children - including those with special needs - to interact with one another.
Footpaths around eateries were also designed to be wheelchair-friendly and accessible to parents with baby strollers.
View of the playground at Marine Cove. (Photo: National Parks Board)
A guidebook that highlights universal design features in public places was also launched on Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, BCA is working with the Ministry of Social and Family Development on a joint Universal Design Mark for family-friendly businesses, which will be introduced towards the end of the year.