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BCA to improve workplace accessibility to support older Singaporeans, the disabled
IN the past few years, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) had strived to improve accessibility of homes and shopping areas to people with special needs and abilities. Now, they are focusing their efforts to enhance accessibility of the workplace to support the employability of older Singaporeans and the disabled community.
Senior Minister of State for National Development, and Trade & Industry, Lee Yi Shyan, announced at the opening of the inaugural Singapore Universal Design Week, that BCA will be focusing its efforts to get building owners of existing commercial buildings in Singapore's central business district (CBD) to put in place features such as ramps, lifts, and accessible toilets.
Mr Lee added that BCA will also encourage the building owners to go beyond these basic features to also widen passageways, install easier-to-open door handles, or put in place hearing enhancement systems to amplify the sounds from speakers for persons with hearing aids at information counters or auditoriums.
BCA's Accessibility Rating System has revealed that many of the buildings in the CBD were built before 1990, prior to the implementation of regulations, and hence lack barrier-free accessibility features for people on wheelchair or with mobility impairment. Thus BCA will reach out to private-sector building owners and encourage them to tap the S$40 million Accessibility Fund (AF) which will fund up to 80 per cent of their construction costs for basic accessibility features.
Set up in 2007, AF is set to last till FY2016, and will also subsidise up to 40 per cent of retrofitted Universal Design features of buildings, such as nursing rooms and child-friendly toilets. Currently about S$12.4 million of the available funds have been either expended or committed to over 120 building owners.
Other BCA initiatives that were announced by Mr Lee on Wednesday include a new Universal Design Mark certification scheme, which has been co-developed with the National Parks Board, for parks and public spaces to improve the accessibility of these areas.
To cater to Singapore's tech-savvy population, BCA has also launched a new smartphone app - an extension of its "Friendly Building Environment Portal" website which provides access to up-to-date information of accessible facilities available, such as wheelchair-friendly toilets and nursing rooms - in some 2,800 local buildings in Singapore. This mobile app, available on both Android 4.0 & above and iOS 6.0 & above devices, will allow both locals and tourists with special needs to access information and plan their routes on the go.
Said BCA's CEO John Keung: "If we want to build an inclusive society, our built environment must be liveable, which is why we're giving a big push to the Universal Design facility."