Report of the CIB Expert Seminar on
Environments, Budapest 1991
Recent advances in accessibility legislation and incentives in Singapore
James D Harrison, School of Architecture, National University of Singapore,
Without natural resources and very little land to spare, Singapore's achievements
are entirely due to the endeavors of its population and its geographical
position; thus any steps to consolidate its greatest asset, the people,
are in the interests of the country as a whole. So far the dynamics behind
development have been in terms of market forces, but the realization that
some aspects of national responsibility cannot be achieved by these criteria
alone has brought a call for a more human face to be applied to development.
The country's economic strength has now led to the realization that it is
possible to become a more caring society.
Four years ago "Agendas for Action" were agreed upon to look at
aspects of society that would benefit from such development. The needs of
special population sectors were studied, leading to the publication of a
report in August 1988 on employment, accessibility and transportation for
disabled people. Of interest to this discussion are the proposals on accessibility
which called for the introduction of a mandatory Accessibility Code for
all buildings (including existing ones) and not rely on a voluntary one.
Introduction to Singapore and relevant administrative bodies
Singapore is an island republic with a population of just over 2.7 million
and some 614 square kilometers in area. Because of the limitations of land
much of the housing development carried out in the last 25 years has been
high-rise, and latterly the Housing and Development Board (HDB) has been
the sole national authority responsible for the physical planning and implementation
of public housing. Over 87 per cent of the population is housed in such
HDB-produced housing, and about 78 per cent of these dwellings are owned
by the occupants.
The central urban areas of the city are generally densely developed, having
some of the tallest high rise buildings in S.E. Asia. The Urban Redevelopment
Authority (URA) is responsible for the planning and development of commercial
and private-sector areas.
The city and the island as a whole has a well-developed infrastructure of
roads and footways, telecommunications, a sanitation and storm-water flood-control
system and all that would be expected of a modern city. Development of this
is largely the responsibility of the Public Works Department (PWD) which,
like the URA, is part of the Ministry of National Development (MND).
The Singapore Council of Social Service (SCSS), and in particular its Disabled
Services Division, plays an important role in coordinating a wide range
of activities, including 20 voluntary welfare organizations, and voicing
their needs and aspirations to official channels, as well as administering
grants and charitable incomes from the Community Chest.
Statistics and attitudes towards physical disability in Singapore
Available statistics on physically disabled people in Singapore do not truly
represent the situation as a whole. In the past, registration as a disabled
person was voluntary, but since the benefits of being registered disabled
are not yet very great (as compared, say, to welfare-state countries like
U.K. where they are very real and may include financial grants, parking
permits and so on) few people seemed to respond. As people in Singapore
become older, they may well qualify technically for the category of 'disabled',
but as this condition (or combination of loss of various physical abilities
through ageing) comes about gradually, they might not consider themselves
The Central Registry of Disabled Persons (CRDP) recorded 12,526 disabled
people (with all forms of disability) at the end of 1988, less than 0.5
per cent of the total population. This was clearly not an accurate picture,
compared to other Asian nations like Japan or Hong Kong. Using their approximate
percentages (3.8 per cent) a more realistic figure of 97,000 was estimated
in 1988. Because of its ineffectiveness, the Registry was disbanded in 1989
on the recommendation of the Advisory Council on the Disabled.
In the past some stigma has been attached to a lack of physical or mental
ability, often resulting in parents not coming forward to obtain help or
advice at an early stage, or in failing to send their children to school
or take them out in public for fear of adverse comment. Of course not all
the barriers to disabled persons are physical ones; an interrelationship
between awareness, motivation and the need for the creation of a benign
and accessible physical environment must be perceived by society as a whole
before any real change can be brought about. Singapore is a competitive
society, and some traditional beliefs and superstitions die hard. Attitudes
are changing and organizations such as SCSS have achieved much in informing
the public and promoting positive attitudes to disability.
One recurring justification for providing an accessible physical environment
is the more predictable statistic of old age. The 1988 report estimated
that the population aged above 60 years would be 332,390 or 11 per cent
of the total population by the year 2000, increasing to 26 per cent in the
30 years following.
The information from the now-defunct Central Register of Disabled Persons
to accurately demonstrate how many would benefit by any access codes may
have proved a weak argument for their introduction, based on statistical
evidence alone; logically it would seem that by including old persons a
more weighty case could be made, and it is no surprise that the Access Code
includes old persons in its scope.
Precedents: A chronology of the development of awareness and application
The special needs of people with physical disabilities have been a concern
in many sectors of the government and professional bodies for some time;
since 1978 all of Singapore's New Town centers and the ground floors of
housing blocks built by the Housing and Development Board have been provided
with some accessibility features, and modifications have been implemented
as part of their 5-year maintenance cycles.
Interest in providing a wider barrier-free environment was obviously growing
during this period, including the formation of a study team in 1980 to consider
the necessity of introducing legislation to achieve "a barrier-free
environment for the disabled and the aged" but an appreciation of the
need was apparently not yet rooted into the general consciousness.
In one attempt to remedy this situation the 1981 Yearbook of the Singapore
Institute of Architects printed the findings of the SIA Research and Documentation
Committee (1979/80) in the form of a design guide, entitled "Barrier-free
Design for the Physically Handicapped in Singapore". This was intended
as a basis from which architects could convince clients to voluntarily adopt
accessibility features into new buildings.
In that same year the Singapore Council of Social Services published a useful
booklet entitled 'Access Singapore: a Guidebook of Accessible Places in
Singapore for the Physically Disabled', which was compiled to make users
more aware of existing facilities and presumably to encourage owners of
buildings that accessible buildings were a good thing. This has subsequently
been updated in 1989 and 1991.
The Singapore Institute of Architects continued to proclaim the importance
of designing adequate facilities in all new buildings; a special issue of
the Nov/Dec 1982 SIA Journal entitled 'Designing for the Handicapped' included
an article on 'Modifying our Environment for the Disabled: a Question of
Concern', as well as graphic illustrations of some of the typical problems
which wheelchair users face, and a description of provisions for accessibility
at Ang Mo Kio Town center.
In 1983 a committee recommended that the building regulations should be
amended to incorporate an Accessibility Code, that 'basic accessibility
features' should be incorporated in all government buildings, and that public
walkways, parks and gardens should be similarly accessible.
There appears to have been some reaction to the idea of introducing legislation
which would affect all new building, for in July 1985, when a committee
was appointed to find solutions to the problems of accessibility to buildings
by disabled users, the outcome was to recommend the incorporation of features
to conform to a set of guidelines proposed by the Ministry of National Development
(MND), but that no legislation should be adopted to force building owners
to make new buildings accessible; rather that government statutory boards
should set an example in providing basic facilities to the MND guidelines.
For their part the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) and the Real
Estate Developers Association of Singapore (REDAS) agreed to adopt these
guidelines and persuade members to incorporate 'basic facilities' in their
new developments. In practice the profession and the private sector were
slow to voluntarily adopt these standards, or perhaps developers were not
convinced that they were worth applying. It seemed that without some form
of legislation a truly barrier-free environment would simply not happen.
The Housing and Development Board's contribution
The Board (HDB), as the major housing authority in Singapore has been largely
responsible for rehousing the majority (87 per cent of the population) in
the last 31 years. Anyone who has visited Singapore will realize the impact
this has had on the physical landscape of the island, and its significance
in achieving the stability and prosperity which makes the Republic an international
center for trade.
Apartments, almost invariably in high-rise blocks, are generally owned by
the occupants whilst the maintenance of exteriors and public areas is done
by the HDB. Regular maintenance cycles ensure a commonly high standard,
whilst in recent years a program of upgrading and retrofitting of a some
aspects of these apartment blocks has been carried out, particularly in
some of the older buildings. In catering for the disabled user the HDB has
a record of providing accessibility features in all contracts tendered from
January 1985 and in upgrading existing buildings. The provisions are in
line with the HDB's own guidelines which, also according to the Accessibility
Code, allow such provision as Access Decks on upper floors to be wide enough
for two wheelchairs to pass, elevator landings on each floor (some earlier
blocks had a scissor arrangement with one elevator lobby shared between
two or three floors) and ramp access from external car parks to elevator
lobbies. In this respect the HDB has led the way in both provision and management
of facilities which benefit those with access difficulties.
But the sheer scale of upgrading older housing areas should not be underestimated;
in 1988 the Advisory Council on the Disabled reported "it was found
that a commendable start has been made by the HDB. Much more, however has
to be done. The concept of a totally barrier-free environment has yet to
be achieved in our public housing estates".
Access for disabled people in Singapore: Recent advances and the current
The Advisory Council on the Disabled was formed in April 1988 "to work
out a set of programs for the disabled as part of a government plan to implement
the Agenda for Action". Their report and recommendations submitted
in August were made public in the more comprehensive 'Opportunities for
the Disabled'. This put forward a convincing argument for (amongst other
things) accessibility of all communal areas and facilities for disabled
people.. By April 1989 the new Building Regulations were on the statute
books, whilst the Code on Barrier-Free Accessibility in Buildings, to which
it refers, appeared in February 1990. The Preface to the Code states:
"Before the Building Control Act 1989 and Building Regulations 1989
came into force, few buildings in Singapore had been designed with special
provisions to serve old persons and the handicapped. To create an environment
for a more caring society, a new requirement on the provisions for old persons
and physically handicapped has been incorporated into the new Building Control
Regulations 1989. The new Regulations require certain minimum facilities
to be provided in all new buildings to which old persons and the physically
handicapped are reasonably expected to have access."
This code, which is drawn up in pursuance of the Building control Regulations
1989, provides detailed guidelines to help developers, architects and engineers
in planning and designing the various special facilities in their building
projects to cater to the needs of old persons and physically handicapped.
The systematic introduction of the code's requirements into new buildings
and existing ones undergoing major retrofitting will make our building stock
more friendly to old persons and the physically handicapped.
In April 1989 the new Building Control Regulations were introduced, superseding
earlier ones published in 1973 and 1979. Under Part IV (Design and Construction)
regulation 36 covers "Buildings to be designed for use by disabled
persons". This simple regulation states:
1. "Where a proposed building is one to which disabled persons have
or may be reasonably be expected to have access, that building shall be
designed to the satisfaction of the Building Authority in such a manner
as will facilitate access to and use of that building and Its facilities
for disabled persons.
2. A building shall be deemed to be designed in accordance with paragraph
1 if a) the areas of the building specified in the Table in this regulation
have been designed to facilitate access to and use of the building and its
facilities by disabled persons and b) the building is in accordance with
the Code on Accessibility for the Disabled in Buildings":
In the Regulation is a table which defines 13 types of building (from residential,
commercial, educational and health buildings, to car parks) and the extent
to which provision is required; in most cases this is "Every area intended
for public access". This regulation obviously only covers applications
to construct new buildings and also "Where the Building Authority is
of the opinion that such repairs, alterations or additions are major and
substantial and are generally spread over the entire building" then
the regulation may be applied. In fact many existing commercial buildings,
ten or more years old, are currently being upgraded and hence will need
to have accessible public spaces. But the fact remains that the bulk of
the nation's existing building stock will probably remain relatively inaccessible
for some time to come.
The Code on Barrier-free Accessibility in Buildings contains another table,
(Figure 1) that is more specific on the minimum provisions in certain types
of public buildings. It does not entirely concur with the Regulation, in
its classification of building types, but is unambiguous in its requirements.
Figure 1. Provisions for disabled persons, by building type.
|Type of Building||Minimum Provisions
|Banks||At least one service counter shall be provided.
|Shophouses and first-storey shops||The shopping area shall be made accessible in accordance with this Code.
|Hotels||At least one guestroom shall be provided for every 200 guestrooms or part thereof.
|Concert halls, cinemas, theaters, stadia or other places of public resort where permanent seating arrangement is provided||At least one wheelchair space shall be provided for every 400 seats or part thereof.
|Religious buildings||The main area of worship shall be made accessible in accordance with this Code.
|Hostels, halls of residence or dormitories||At least one level, preferably the access level, shall be provided with facilities in accordance with this Code
|Hawker or food centers||At least one table without any fixed stools or chairs for every 10 tables or part thereof shall be reserved for use by disabled persons or at least two tables, whichever is the greater.
|Car Parks (surface car parks or multi-storey buildings)||At least one car parking lot shall be reserved where car park the total number of car parking lots is not more than 50 or at least two car parking lots shall be reserved where the total number of car parking lots is more than 50.
|Others: (Large department stores, supermarkets, resort, public concourses)||Seats, possibly of the tip-up type, shall be provided public for disabled persons who are unable to stand for a long period. An empty space to accommodate a wheelchair shall also be provided.
Tax incentives and SIA advisory service
In an effort to try to improve the situation of inaccessible buildings,
the Singapore Government introduced a scheme in 1989 to encourage employers
to modify their existing premises to allow access for physically disabled
staff, wherein the costs of such improvements can be offset against tax,
provided the work complies with the Code on Accessibility. Tax deductions
may be claimed to a maximum amount of S$100,000.
To promote this scheme, the Singapore Council of Social Service commissioned
and published a broadsheet, outlining the advantages and showing graphically
the sort of modifications which would allow basic accessibility features
for existing buildings. At the same time, volunteer members of the Singapore
Institute of Architects formed the Accessibility Advisory Service in conjunction
with the SCSS to give advice to interested employers on the ways in which
they might enhance their workplaces. This was launched at a press conference
on 5 December 1989.
Since inception, the scheme has received only a limited number of requests
for advice and, as far as can be ascertained, no owner has actually taken
advantage of this incentive to modify business premises. The reasons for
this are unclear; perhaps the current employment situation means that employers
are less than eager to employ someone who is registered as disabled, when
they can find non-disabled staff.
The cost argument
The cost of provision of basic accessibility features, as a burden to the
developer, was investigated by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in Singapore
as long ago as 1980. Using the Cuppage Center, (Commercial Offices, plus
multi-storey car park, food center and wet market) as a model, a controlled
costing exercise was carried out to compare the cost of the building with
and without facilities of access for disabled persons, and the conclusion
was that these could be provided for an additional 0.11 per cent of the
total (at 1980 prices).
Compared to incorporating accessibility features in a new building, the
cost of modifications to existing buildings will clearly be more expensive,
since many features will either have to be replaced or duplicated to make
them suitable. The cost of retrofitting a walk-up building with an elevator
is likely to be disproportionately high.
One factor which might be taken into account in summing up the opportunities
for providing accessible buildings could be the relatively high proportion
of high-rise buildings in Singapore. Because they are higher than five storeys
and would normally be provided with elevators of reasonable size, the upgrading
of the buildings to accommodate wheelchairs would be quite simple. But in
the public sector not all buildings would fall into this category, as schools
and clinics are generally low-rise.
Definitions of disability and a comment on the scope of codes
The generally accepted definition of disability in Singapore is much the
same as the WHO interpretation. "People whose prospects of securing,
retaining places and advancing in educational and training institutions,
employment and recreation as equal members of the community are substantially
reduced as a result of physical or mental impairment."
Such a generalized statement does not differentiate between physical and
mental factors causing the disability. The possibility of improving the
situation for the physically disabled, by removing those elements in the
built environment which form barriers to access and facility, will be much
more easily achieved than for the mentally impaired. To this end Singapore's
"Design Guidelines on Accessibility for the Disabled in Buildings"
circulated for internal use by the Public Works Department of the Development
and Building Control Branch, tries to be more specific by stating that,
for the purposes of public buildings, "The disabled are those who,
as a consequence of physical disability or impairment may be restricted
to or inconvenienced in their use of buildings due to:
- presence of physical barriers, such as steps or doors which are too
narrow for wheelchairs,
- lack of facilities such as ramps, elevators, staircase, handrails,
- absence of suitable facilities such as WCs, telephones, suitable furniture,
Note however that in the preface to the Code on Barrier-free Accessibility
in Buildings the phrase "the elderly and the physically handicapped"
is used no less than five times in five sentences; the elderly, though not
specifically with physical disabilities, are clearly seen as one of the
major beneficiaries of the new legislation.
The current document, "Code on Barrier-Free Accessibility in Buildings,
1990," which forms the basis for the building control regulation requirements
in force in Singapore, which evolved out of the PWD's internal Guidelines
(much of the wording is identical) does not include the sensory disabled
(which its precursor did) but comes clean by stating that a "disabled
person" means (only) someone who is either ambulant disabled or a wheelchair
user, "as a consequence of physical disability or impairment".
In its 'Scope and Definitions' chapter the Code makes it clear that it is
narrowing the real thrust of its requirements as being "intended primarily
to apply to the wheelchair bound. Such provisions would also cater to the
ambulant disabled. However, where possible and practicable, optional access
provisions and facilities are recommended to serve the needs of the ambulant
disabled. Such provisions when taken as a whole would also greatly benefit
the elderly and infirm."
The Code also contains further definitions: "Ambulant disabled means
a person who is able, either with or without personal assistance, to walk
on the level or negotiate suitable graded steps provided that convenient
handrails are available." "Wheelchair-bound means a person who
is unable to walk, either with or without assistance, and who, except when
using mechanized transport, depends on a wheelchair for mobility."
Two things emerge from this; firstly the definitions of disability are closely
linked to the physical and built environment and to the inability of the
disabled person to adequately cope with everyday barriers and "normal"
facilities, and secondly the assumption that if the wheelchair user is accommodated,
then most other persons with disabilities will probably be able to access
the building and be catered to by its facilities, as well as to parents
with pushchairs or prams (though there appear to be few in Singapore). Such
rationale has the ring of pragmatism about it but it may well be true that
a wheelchair user can be most disadvantaged by even the lowest of barriers,
and thus has the most to gain in personal independence in a truly barrier-free
In its scope the Code on Accessibility breaks no new ground; door, corridor,
stair and ramp access dimensions and details are covered; minimum sizes
and heights of control buttons for elevators, (but no mandatory requirement
for audible signals) are given, and sanitary provision for both wheelchair
users and ambulant disabled people are comprehensively covered. General
design requirements cover such provisions as reserved parking lots, and
pavements from them to the building which are unimpeded and have a maximum
ramp gradient of 1: 1 0. Facilities with counters for writing or service
must construct the counters at a certain height and have clear space for
the wheelchair below.
Problems of the discontinuous system
Prior to the introduction of the Code on Accessibility a number of architects
and clients were enlightened enough to provide toilet accommodation accessible
to users with disabilities, only to find that the building was in itself
not entirely accessible to this section of the population (unless they arrived
by motor vehicle) because of curbs or steps in the public domain. In other
words, there was a mismatch between public and private provision, a discontinuous
system. Under such circumstances developers may be excused for being reluctant
to spend a little more money on special provision when those for whom it
has been provided are unable to reach it. Equally frustrating are examples
where public footways leading to a building are barrier-free, until one
arrives at the threshold of that building only to find that it has steps
up to its front door.
Since 1970 the Public Works Department has made it standard practice to
provide curb-cut ramps at all newly-constructed footpaths, but in a city
with an infrastructure as comprehensive as Singapore's, this represents
a lot of remedial work to upgrade those footways constructed prior to this.
Eventually, however, Singapore can achieve a barrier-free environment by
a combination of initiative in the public sector and legislation to require
the private sector to make equal provision.
Some special problems of designing in an equatorial climate
Singapore's equatorial climate poses some problems for the designer of barrier-free
pedestrian routes. The incidence of rainstorms and the sheer volume of water
precipitated require that any hard paved area must be drained and that run-off
must be controlled to prevent the flooding of building basements. For this
reason high curbs (often 200 mm or more) separating road from footpath and
raised thresholds at building entrances are very necessary. Storm-water
drains, often covered by metal gratings, are ubiquitous features of the
public domain. Obviously all of these can prove to be barriers or hazards
to the disabled user.
As the climate in Singapore is always hot and continuously humid, physical
conditions can be uncomfortable. For the average pedestrian the perceived
reasonable comfortable walking distances are more limited than in a temperate
climate. It is especially important to provide shade as well as shelter,
particularly as physically disabled people cannot so easily protect themselves
from the sun or the rain as they move about.
Although not a climatic problem some consideration should also be given
to the local method of cleaning floors, which is to use copious amounts
of water to hose dirt into channels or scupper drains and thence to floor
gulley-traps. Where such methods of cleaning are expected, (and this may
range from markets and canteens to domestic bathrooms and kitchens), it
is usual to provide a raised coaming or a slight change in floor level to
prevent washing water spilling over into other areas. These slight changes
in level are, of course, a hindrance to the wheelchair user, as well as
a hazard to the ambulant or the visually disabled pedestrian.
Current walkway schemes by the PWD
Since the introduction of regulations requiring accessibility to all new
or retrofitted buildings in the private sector, it has now become incumbent
on government agencies to match the level of facility in the street approaches
to buildings. In April, 1988 PWD undertook a survey, at the request of the
Committee on Employment, Accessibility and Transportation, to look at the
accessibility problems in the Orchard Road area, one of the main commercial,
hotel and shopping districts of the City and the Civic Center of the City.
Thereafter that same department began to draw up proposals for an ambitious
scheme for a level, unimpeded walkway system for both these areas and for
the downtown financial business district, all of which are nearing completion.
Costs for these are quoted at $49 million Singapore, of which $29 million
can be directly attributed to improvements for disabled user.
Imminent future plans include similar improvements in the touristic areas
of Chinatown, 'Little India' and Kampong Glam/Bugis Street. Eventually,
the upgrading of the other urban and suburban areas will include the removal
of all barriers like curbs and steps.
One of the major problems, especially in the Orchard Road area, is that
the shopping centers and hotels are set back from the street, so that vehicular
access is by means of a service road running between the building and the
footway. At each building plot's boundary the footway is intersected by
the entry/exit road, which is hazardous for pedestrians and difficult for
wheelchair users. PWD's scheme has eliminated the problem, relocating service
roads on the outside of walkways.
Accessibility by vehicle
Many large commercial buildings in Singapore have integral multi-storey
or basement car parks served by an elevator to the main floors. Such buildings
are adequately accessible to the wheelchair users provided that they use
cars. This is a relatively small proportion of those affected. A wheelchair
user wishing to arrive by taxi would be taken to the front door taxi drop-off
point, which may have curbs or steps, rather than to the elevator in the
car park, as this would demand that either driver or passenger have prior
knowledge of the facilities provided, and possibly be prepared to pay for
car park entry charges.
The Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) system is designed for rapid transport at
peak times and any potential delay is obviated. Consequently, no toilets
and only limited seating are provided inside the ticketed area, and the
vertical circulation is by escalators which move more rapidly than normal.
At a planning level it would seem the presence of wheelchairs may have been
seen as presenting problems too difficult to handle and that the conscious
decision might have been taken to encourage their users to take alternative
means of transport not difficult in Singapore where taxi services are good
and no point on the island is excessively far.
It is also rationally argued that the presence of wheelchairs would cause
evacuation problems in an emergency. However, this has not precluded the
MRT from providing facilities for ambulant disabled users; in fact there
are some seats on the MRT prominently marked as being for priority use by
the aged or disabled, but anyone with major disabilities would probably
find difficulty in claiming this right.
Taxi services are economical and efficient. Some taxis carry stickers "Care
Cabs" and belong to a SCSS scheme to match drivers to disabled passengers
who have transport problems in getting to work or school. A taxi subsidy
scheme alleviates fare problems for those who are unable to meet the costs
of daily rides. Recently introduced London-type taxis are proving especially
capable of accommodating wheelchair users.
Private car ownership
The number of owner-drivers of purpose-built or modified vehicles on the
roads is low (although statistics are not available). One reason for this
may be that disabled people are less likely than others to be high wage
earners and hence may not be able to afford a vehicle, even though substantial
waivers on import and registration fees are applicable for these classes
of vehicles. Also, owners would be eligible for benefits in terms of reductions
in parking fees in HDB estates. So far less than 60 new vehicles have been
registered under this scheme. It should be remembered that whilst specially
constructed or modified vehicles are quite common on European roads this
is not the case in Asia. The apparent discrepancy may be partially explained
by the history of the last fifty years: amputee ex-servicemen returning
from the Second World War were supplied with such vehicles, having been
drivers previously and still being productive wage-earners even in their
disabled capacity. The Asian counterpart would probably be much more difficult
to find, and only now are purpose-built or modified vehicles becoming used
The future may change the situation, Singapore is still a relatively young
nation. However, the ageing but relatively well-off population used to the
freedom of driving their own vehicles will surely expect to continue this
privilege even though some of their physical faculties may become impaired.
We may expect a greater demand for special parking close to building entrances
and better access from car parks to work places or recreation.
Conclusions: the future
It is too early to assess the success of the recent advances in legislation
and upgrading the walkway system. Most buildings coming up for completion
were already approved before the current legislation came into force, and
there are still major obstacles to be tackled in the public domain. Footbridges
are common and were formerly thought to be the most effective way of crossing
the road without disrupting traffic flows. Alternatives need to be found,
if total accessibility is to be achieved. In some places elevators are proposed
suitable for wheelchair users.
On a broader perspective, future trends will probably cater to a more financially
secure sector of the ageing population who, unlike their forbears, will
not give up their favorite pastimes, or stop driving their cars simply because
they are becoming older and they probably will not register themselves as
disabled persons. Just as an old man complains that the birds do not sing
as loudly as when he was young, so the older generation will be less tolerant
of a physical environment which presents barriers to their mobility. The
scope of access legislation clearly involves old persons as benefiting from
any improvements in that area, as well as pregnant women, parents with children
in pushchairs and so on.
Tourism is a major source of income. A relatively high proportion of visitors
are retired people, who are attracted by the safe and clean image of the
city. This industry will benefit by improved accessibility, especially in
those areas which attract visitors the shopping and hotel areas, and the
historical quarters; in turn will come the international prestige, which
a small republic like Singapore must maintain to survive.
What is perhaps most significant is that Government policy, whilst being
generally quite pragmatic in its approach, is now able to broaden its scope
to consider the needs of minorities, in the move "towards a caring
society". That it has done so in such a short space of time, and that
it has committed itself to the creation of barrier-free walkways which will
eventually cover much of the built-up area of the island, is very much the
style which Singapore does things. To quote the Minister for National Development,
Mr. S. Dhanabalan, "Singaporeans can look forward to living in one
of the best cities of the world by the turn of the century. We will certainly
be the first developed city in the equatorial belt."
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