Monday, 30 April 2018

HDB to fit ramps for flats with multi-step entrances

Applications to open in second half of 2018; Government will foot up to 95% of the bill
By Felicia Choo, The Sunday Times, 29 Apr 2018

Seniors who are wheelchair users living in Housing Board flats with multi-step entrances can soon get ramps to make their homes more accessible.

The costs of the ramps - which will be portable or customised fixed ones - are still being worked out, but the Government will foot up to 95 per cent of the bill.

Previously, only flats with a single step at their main entrance were eligible for subsidies for ramps fixed at the entrance, under the Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme by the HDB.

Applications for ramps for multi-step entrances will open in the second half of this year.

Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong made this announcement yesterday. He said: "For single-step (entrances), it's easy. We already have a solution. But for the multi-step (entrances), it's more difficult... because some of these spaces, there's not a lot of access or corridor space."

He added that ramps for these spaces are not readily commercially available, so the HDB worked with engineers over two years to come up with the designs. He was speaking on the sidelines of a visit to Tampines Changkat division in Tampines GRC. Mr Desmond Choo, adviser to Tampines Grassroots Organisations, hosted the visit.

A portable ramp is suitable for corner units or those with enough space at the entrance, while a customised fixed ramp can be used for corridor units with a 1.2m clear width after installation.

Commercially, a portable ramp costs up to $700, while a customised fixed ramp costs around $1,600.

For flats which lack corridor space for ramps, the HDB will be piloting the use of a lightweight and compact mechanical wheelchair lifter, also in the second half of the year. HDB will evaluate later whether it will be offered as part of the EASE programme.

There are an estimated 170,000 flats with multi-step entrances. These flats were designed to offer residents, especially those living in units in common corridors, greater privacy and security, as their windows are raised above eye level.

Since a customised fixed ramp was installed at Ms Diana Norahman's flat entrance two weeks ago, moving her 71-year-old mother in and out of the home has become much easier.

"Before we had the ramp, I needed to have one wheelchair at the bottom of the stairs and another one inside the home, and my mother walked (up or down the stairs)," said Ms Diana, 50, who is a full-time caregiver to her mother.

However, her mother, who suffers from Parkinson's disease and has had knee replacement surgery, fell once and was afraid to leave the home. The ramp has helped her to regain her confidence, said Ms Diana.

The EASE programme offers subsidised elderly-friendly home fittings, such as grab bars, slip-resistant treatment for floor tiles and ramps, within the flat and at the entrance. It is offered together with the Home Improvement Programme, which gives financial assistance to owners of ageing flats to fix common maintenance problems related to such flats.

Since EASE was launched in July 2012, close to 163,000 households have applied for it, as of last month.

Seniors who use wheelchairs and live in flats for which neither ramps nor wheelchair lifters are feasible can approach HDB to explore alternative solutions.

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