SINGAPORE: The Housing and Development Board (HDB) will soon offer wheelchair ramps for seniors who live in flats that have steps at their entrances under its Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme.
Owners of flats with a multi-step entrance or entrance with two to four steps can opt to install the ramps for wheelchair-bound seniors, HDB said on Saturday (Apr 28). There will be two types of ramps – a portable ramp or a customised fixed ramp, depending on the suitability of the flat.
A portable ramp will be suitable for units with more space at the flat’s door and can be dismantled when not in use. The other option of a customised fixed ramp can be made according to the configuration of the flat’s entrance and space.
For flats where neither ramps are suitable, mechanical wheelchair lifts can be installed under a separate pilot scheme. However, these lifters will be costlier and require regular maintenance, said HDB.
HDB said it will provide more details, such as the cost of the ramps, in the second half of this year.
“The last time I had a ministerial community visit, there was feedback about having ramps to serve the multi-step entrances. Because in the past, HDB had designed some flats with steps. And these were in fact things residents had asked for in the past, because they valued privacy, security.
"So we have old flats with not just one but even two or three steps. But now the residents are older, so they have difficulty accessing the flats. That’s why we’ve been thinking what we can do for these multi-step entrances,” said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.
On the mechanical wheelchair lifter, Mr Wong said: "We've piloted it – we think it can work, but it's expensive and costly to maintain. For this particular lifter, we'll try it out first as a pilot, roll it out, get more feedback from residents, understand what it means to install and maintain the lifter before we do a more nationwide scheme."
There are about 170,000 such HDB flats, which were designed to raise the windows above eye level and thus offer residents, particularly those living along common corridors, greater privacy and security, HDB said.
HDB added that there are still a number of flats where these solutions will not be feasible. These are ground-level flats with five to seven steps leading up to the apartment. Wheelchair-bound seniors living in such flats may approach HDB to explore other solutions.
Home owners can apply directly to HDB for EASE, and it is also offered concurrently with the Home Improvement Programme which targets and upgrades ageing flats.
EASE currently offers HDB homeowners who have seniors living with them slip-resistant treatment for bathroom floor tiles and the installation of grab bars and ramps at subsidised rates.
First launched in 2012, the EASE programme offers elderly-friendly home fittings such as with the Government footing up to 95 per cent of their cost. Previously, only flats with a single step at their entrance were eligible for ramps.
Since end March, over 160,000 homes have benefitted from the EASE programme.
*Additional reporting by Channel NewsAsia's Wendy Wong.