Tuesday 15 November 2011

Most HDB estates barrier-free

By Joanne Chan, TODAY, 15 Nov 2011

Most housing estates in Singapore now enjoy barrier-free environments, with easy access to ramps and walkways that link to traffic crossings and public transport.

A S$22 million Housing and Development Board (HDB) programme launched in 2006 to make existing housing estates barrier-free will be completed by the end of the year, the HDB said in an update on the programme yesterday.

So far, 99 per cent - or 7,712 - of the blocks of flats have been installed with features such as ramps and railings. Out of the 15 town councils, 12 have completed the programme: Flats in Tampines, Potong Pasir and Marine Parade - totalling 78 blocks - are slated to complete their upgrading work under the programme by next month.

The programme has benefited residents such as 69-year-old Chiew Kiew, who takes his grandson on daily strolls around the Bukit Batok estate.

Before the ramps were installed, Mr Chiew had to carry his grandson and the pram up and down the stairs, a taxing routine for the retiree because he suffers from joint pains.

While he welcomes the added convenience, Mr Chiew feels that one of the ramps at his estate is too long and "has too many left and right turns".

The HDB noted that it may not be feasible to construct short ramps at certain locations, due to site constraints.

For example, to navigate a steep slope within a tight space, the ramp has to feature more turns to ensure a gradual incline that is less strenuous on users.

The Government launched the five-year barrier-free accessibility programme to make all HDB estates more friendly for the elderly and less mobile.

As upgrading is done to existing estates, the challenge is to work around space and layout constraints, according to the HDB.

Under the programme, the town councils decide on the barrier-free features needed by consulting grassroots organisations. The HDB provides technical advice and funding.

Since 2006, all new estates constructed have barrier-free features installed in flats and public spaces.

Members of Parliament (MPs) Channel NewsAsia spoke to said there is still room for improvement.

MP for Jurong GRC David Ong said: "Some projects were done earlier and we find there are some gaps, in terms of having the shelter extended all the way to the drop-off points. We hope to be able to have barrier-free access not only to the MRT stations but also to have covered link ways."

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