Just like in other nations across the world, accessibility in the built environment is a growing concern in Singapore. This is mainly due to the expected increase in ageing population and, people with varying abilities. In preparation to this, the government has over the years dedicated efforts towards ensuring friendly buildings for all. With the effective implementation of Barrier Free Access, the elderly and those with mobility challenges are able to enjoy greater accessibility in the built environment.
Over the years, there has been growing concerns about the importance of upgrading buildings to accommodate features and facilities for seniors and people with mobility problems or disabilities. This led to the 1990 legislation of the Code on Barrier Free Accessibility. The code was legislated to make sure that buildings designed, constructed and upgraded with features and facilities for people with disabilities. In 2007, the Code on Barrier Free Access spread its wings to include the larger built environment as well as a wide range of other special needs.
The key needs highlighted in the amendment of the code include, enhancing accessibility for people on wheelchairs, senior citizens, those with disabilities but can still move around and also families that have babies on strollers. Since the legislation of the Code on Barrier Free Accessibility, the Building and Construction Authority has been committed to a friendly built environment for all including, the elderly and young, families and people with varying disabilities.
The Accessibility Fund
Singapore’s Code on Barrier Free Access has so far made great steps towards ensuring family-friendly spaces in the built environment. These achievements can be attributed to a number of actions taken by the BCA over the years. One of them is, the setting up of the Barrier Free Accessibility Upgrading Programme in 2007 to cater for the upgrade of ‘’inaccessible’’ buildings. The programme was set to run from 2007 to 2016.
As the Building and Construction Authority reviewed the Code on Barrier Free Accessibility, one of the key areas of concerns was the buildings that were built before 1990. Most of such buildings had not complied with the regulations of accessibility in the built environment. In an effort to encourage the private sector to also take active steps in the Barrier Free Accessibility Upgrading Programme, the BCA unveiled the Accessibility Fund.
The Accessibility Fund, which is worth $40 million was created to facilitate upgrading of buildings that were constructed before the legislation of the Code on Barrier Free Accessibility in 1990 and, not compliant with accessibility regulations. Besides, the fund is also to be used in the upgrade of all key sectors and essential facilities across Singapore. All these were aimed at the provision of at least basic accessibility by 2016.
List of Buildings Compliant with the Code on Free Barrier Accessibility
Another important step made by the BCA in ensuring accessibility in the built environment is the introduction of design guidelines to give architects, developers and others in the building and construction industry a clear picture of what is expected in terms of ensuring accessibility in buildings. Besides, it also published a list of accessible buildings, which is frequently updated for convenience and safety to the public.
The Building and Construction Authority published a list of all the buildings approved to be accessible (those that have complied with the Code on Free Barrier Accessibility) and, frequented by the public. The list is expected to assist members of the public with accessibility challenges whenever they need to use the buildings. For a building to be approved by the BCA as accessible, there are lots of inspections and auditing conducted on the design, features and facilities used therein.
The list of accessible buildings also highlights all the Barrier Free Accessibility features including, toilets for people with disabilities, car packs, lifts and others. It is updated frequently, to also include new buildings that have implemented the BFA requirements. To even make it much easier for the public to find out if certain buildings contain accessibility features, the BCA has a dedicated search function on its website; ‘’Find a Friendly building.’’
Apart from just offering a better point of reference for the public, the list of accessible buildings is also set to encourage those who own buildings to voluntarily conduct improvements in their property for enhanced accessibility in built environment.
Universal Design for Buildings
Universal Design is also another key aspect of the Code on Barrier Free Accessibility encouraged by the BCA. It is aimed at creating an environment that addresses the needs of all people (young and old) including, those with temporary and permanent disabilities. Owing to the growing population of seniors, people with varying abilities and need for independence, UD has been able to develop over the years. For effective adoption of the proposal for Universal Design in buildings, the Building and Construction Authority launched the Universal Design Guide.
Released in October 2007, the Universal Design Guide offers a comprehensive set of directives that should be followed to implement Universal Design in the built environment. The guide covers adoption techniques and requirements for both residential, commercial as well as other kinds of buildings like, facilities used by members of the general public.
Although many building owners have made significant steps towards the adoption of Universal Design on their property, the BCA saw it was important to also introduce a way of encouraging even more property developers to take the stand. As a result of this, it introduced the Universal Design Award. Launched in 2007, the award seeks to recognize good practices and outstanding efforts made by owners of buildings, developers and professionals in the industry towards the implementation of the features of Universal Design and other regulations set out in Code on Barrier Free Accessibility.
Today, there are quite a number of buildings and places frequently used by the public that have adopted the Universal Design policy; thanks to the Code on Barrier Free Accessibility. In most public buildings, train and bus stations, and even shopping malls across Singapore, you can now find a wide range of Barrier Free Access facilities like, dedicated car packs, nursing rooms, toilets, lifts among others.
For more information about Barrier Free Access, you can also check out this document by the BCA.