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Opening Address by Minister Desmond Lee at the CBD Accessibility Public Mapping Day

Type: Official Speeches (All), Official Speeches: Desmond Lee

Topic(s): Disability Services

Ladies and gentlemen

  • Good morning!
  • I'm delighted to join all of you for the CBD Accessibility Public Mapping Day, which DPA is organising for the first time.
  • Today, a number of organisations have come together to better meet the needs of our friends and colleagues with disabilities who visit or work in the CBD.
  • Friends from the Singapore Polytechnic have done a first cut in mapping accessibility in the CBD.
    o You researched commonly used routes in the CBD;
    o interviewed people working in the CBD, including persons with disability.
  • You have been assisted and guided by DP Architects and DPA, who have shared their expertise.
  • BCA also provided Universal Design training to our students alongside with DPA. And I heard that a tech company also provided technology.
  • And BNP Paribas, for generously funding this project.
  • We often take accessibility for granted, until we have a friend or colleague who struggles from getting from point to point. It is easy to take this for granted because accessibility is a lived experience for us.
  • Many years ago when I first started serving in Jurong, I had a resident who suffered from a stroke. And because he did not go for physiotherapy in time, his condition deteriorated.
  • But when we gave him assistance, he was very frustrated. He did not want to be medically certified to have a disability. We provided him financial assistance, healthcare support, and so on, but it got him more frustrated. He became frustrated because what he wanted to do was to have a job and provide for his family.
  • We worked with a disability organisation to find him a job. But the building operator and employer required this man to climb up and down a flight of steps for work.
  • Until one day, recognising the risk of a major fall, he decided that he better do something and change his job. What was a loss to the first organisation for not taking the effort to make things accessible, was a boon to his second employer. Day to day, I see him go to work, at the bus stop with a smile.
  • Accessibility, which a small little thing to us, makes a big difference to this man. I hope the findings from this project, every little finding, the little kinks and barriers, will provide to BCA input to study further improvements to CBD accessibility. It is not just accessibility in theory, but in practical terms. BCA will help you facilitate discussions, with building owners and stakeholders around here in the CBD.
  • On our own, each of us can only do so much. But when all of you come together, when each come to the table we can make a much much bigger impact.
  • Thank you all for contributing and lending your support to this important initiative.

Physical accessibility in Singapore

1 Along Singapore's journey towards an inclusive society,

  • One of the first things that we had to tackle was physical accessibility, And the integration of built and transport infrastructure,
  • By reducing physical barriers which many of us may take for granted, we better enable persons with disability to participate in the socio-economic life of society.

2 In 1990, we introduced the Code on Accessibility.

  • It affirmed that accessibility should be factored in the design of buildings in our city.
  • With detailed guidelines for architects and engineers, the Code ensured that all new buildings, and buildings undergoing major upgrades, would be accessible to persons with disabilities.
  • It also called for changes in our public transport infrastructure, to support commuters with disabilities.
  • This was just three years after the first MRT routes in Singapore, including Raffles Place MRT Station, were opened in 1987.
  • Making our city accessible and barrier-free - it never ends, it is continuous. The Code is regularly reviewed by a cross-sectoral Committee - led by BCA certainly, and comprising many representatives from social sector charities, trade associations, industry associations, academia and government department.
  • This is further improved through user feedback and user trials. That is where all the planning and work is tested by users.

3 I am pleased to report that the latest review has just been completed, and we are now ready to launch the updated version of the Code, known as the Code on Accessibility 2019.

  • The needs of the elderly and persons with disabilities are the primary focus for this new edition.
  • Two key changes are the new mandatory requirements for (i.) accessible changing rooms and (ii.) secondly larger accessible toilets to be provided in certain types of buildings, such as in healthcare facilities, transport nodes, and our larger shopping malls.
  • The accessible changing rooms will support adults with disabilities and elderly persons who may need the help of caregivers,
  • While larger accessible toilets will cater to users of motorised wheelchairs who require larger manoeuvring spaces.
  • In fact when I joined MSF, a lady wrote to me very passionately about making these facilities available. Incidentally BCA was already working to make this possible. I hope this latest enhancement will make a difference to the lives of people with disabilities.

Working together with the community

4 Beyond updating our Code on Accessibility, we have been working alongside our partners and the community to make our society more inclusive.5In 2007, a group of individuals formed a Steering Committee, and they came from various walks of life - persons with disabilities, caregivers, social service agencies, employers.

  • With the aspiration to build a fair, inclusive and caring society, where persons with disabilities are recognised, empowered and given every opportunity to achieve their fullest potential and to participate actively to society.

6 And so the Steering Committee launched our very first masterplan for disability policy, and we called it the Enabling Masterplan.

  • It allowed us to collectively take stock of our progress, and develop together, a comprehensive way forward in all areas and across each stage of life

7 The First Enabling Masterplan then was followed by a second in 2012, and most recently the Third in 2017.

  • With each iteration of the Masterplan, we built up each area progressively.
  • We always look back and see what we have implemented, what we have not.
  • In the area of physical accessibility, we worked with various partners to raise standards and enhance provisions not only for persons with disabilities but also our seniors and families.
  • So BCA introduced the Universal Design Award in 2007 and the Universal Design Mark in 2012 to recognise projects that go the extra mile.
  • To boost industry know-how, BCA launched a Universal Design Guide for Public Places.
  • Today, close to 100 per cent of public sector buildings and infrastructure frequented by the public have accessibility features.
  • All HDB estates are barrier free.
  • We need to continue to make sure we improve practically. When I go around in HDB estates - while we can say it is accessible, residents are still telling me otherwise. Lifestyles patterns have shifted, you make adjustments. Just because you label something accessible does not mean you cannot make improvements.

8 We have made our land transport even more accessible for all commuters, such as

  • Barrier-free access routes at MRT stations, bus interchanges and many taxi stands;
  • Priority queues for persons with special needs at public transport nodes; and lifts at pedestrian overhead bridges.
  • We are well on track to reach the goal of making all our public buses and bus stops wheelchair-accessible next year,
  • And LTA and SG Enable recently piloted the app known as the MAVIS Mobile App that give commuters with disabilities personalised journey guidance. It has been piloted and waiting for feedback.

9 There is still a lot more to be done.

  • We are working towards having priority queues at all MRT stations by the end of this year, and in all bus interchanges and integrated transport hubs by 2021.
  • LTA will also pilot a priority cabin for persons with special needs next year.

10 But it is not only the built environment that we need to keep working at, it is also how we work together on improvements.

11 Last month, you heard Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Heng Swee Keat, talk about a partnership to bring Singapore forward, partnerships in a deeper way.

12 As we roll out the Third Enabling Masterplan, we will do this with a stronger focus on:

  • Closer partnerships, including much further upstream;
  • Identifying problems early, and finding solutions to them with you;
  • And of course building networks of support, located within the community where we all live.

13 Recently, we launched several workgroups that involve members of the wider community. And I invite you if interested please step forward and join us.

14 This includes a Workgroup looking at how we can use technology and design to allow for greater independent living by persons with disabilities. Rather than institutions.

  • My colleague Sam Tan is leading this with Ms Chia Yong Yong, President of SPD , who is another strong advocate for the disability sector.
  • They are joined by representatives from across the public, people and private sectors.

15 Over the next year, the Workgroup will organise many consultations with various stakeholders to bring to the table different perspectives. But we cannot just talk, it is about working with you in all the aspects.

  • I hope you will take part when the opportunity arises.
  • We may have different views, and want different things at different times.
  • But when we work together, build personal relationships and understand one another's points of view,
  • We move forward together, and we build a stronger city together.


16 Whether you are: a person with disability, whether you are a caregiver, an employer, a co-worker a friend to someone with a disability, or just a concerned member of the public.

17 Today's event is a good example of how we can put ourselves in another's shoes and journey together.

18 I look forward to a fruitful mapping exercise with all of you. Thank you all for spending this day together.