The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) introduced its new Code on Accessibility for the Built Environment (5.1MB .pdf) (“Accessibility Code 2013” or “The Code”) – a comprehensive set of requirements that building owners and professionals have to follow so that our buildings and public spaces meet a minimum standard of accessibility. For the first time, the Code includes requirements catering to families and more requirements catering to the elderly and persons with disabilities, supporting the Singapore Government’s efforts in building an inclusive society.
New projects and existing buildings which will undergo A&A (Additions and Alterations) will have to follow the new Code when they are submitted to BCA for regulatory approval from 1 April 2014. The seven-month grace period will give the industry, building professionals, developers and owners enough time to consider the new requirements when planning their projects.
For families, the Code specifies that public buildings and spaces frequented by families such as transport interchanges and shopping complexes must have nursing rooms, toilets that young children can use, and family car parking spaces. For the elderly and persons with mobility impairment*, the Code includes more toilet compartments with grab bars to give them additional support for themselves.
For the comfort and safety of persons with disability, the Code mandates wider corridors, non-slip strips at staircases and hearing enhancement system, among others. To help persons with visual impairment find their way in a building or public space, Braille information at staircases and toilets will be specified for publicly accessed buildings. Requirements for residential and industrial buildings to improve accessibility and comfort for all were also introduced.
BCA’s Chief Executive Officer Dr. John Keung said: “We want the new Code to support Government’s efforts in building an inclusive society. Because we spend a lot of time in buildings and public spaces, BCA’s goal is to make them accessible for as many groups of persons with diverse needs as possible. Improved accessibility will offer a better quality of life not just for persons with disabilities, families with young children, the elderly but also for all of us, who may be caregivers or relatives to those who have special needs.”
Handicaps Welfare Association’s Mr. Edmund Wan said, “With the requirements in the new Code expanded to meet the special needs for persons with disabilities, the visually and hearing impaired, it shows the foresight of BCA and the Review Committee in keeping with the changes and in ensuring Singapore to become an inclusive society. We are grateful to have been involved in the new Code and that our suggestions were considered and subsequently included in it. We recognise the importance of the new Code to further remove barriers in accessibility for everyone in buildings and public spaces in Singapore in the coming years.”
Singapore Institute of Architects’ Mr. Thomas Ho added, “As professionals from the industry, we play an important role in striking the right balance between making our building designs uniquely distinctive and at the same time practicable and meeting the diverse needs of everyone in Singapore. Having reviewed the Code and recognised in the intent behind every requirement, we are bridging the gap between us – the creators and the designers of buildings – and our users. We hope that with this new Code, building professionals will be guided towards making their projects more inclusive.”
Comprising representatives from government agencies, industry associations and many voluntary welfare organisations, the tripartite Accessibility Code Review Committee first reviewed the Code at the end of 2010. They placed more emphasis on Universal Design** concepts that benefit more Singaporeans, and considered the needs of parents with infants and young children. This is the fourth review of the Code since BCA introduced it in 1990.
In April 2013 when the Committee completed the draft of the Code, BCA started a month-long public consultation, inviting Singaporeans to give their feedback and suggestions. At the close of the consultation, the Committee evaluated the feedback; some of which were included in the Code’s final amendments. An example of this was the requirement to provide at least one accessible individual washroom (or unisex accessible washroom) to cater to the needs of persons with disabilities who are accompanied by caregivers of the opposite sex.
Dr. Keung added: “We would like to thank the Tripartite Review Committee for their hard work in reviewing the Code so that it benefits many Singaporeans and covers many aspects of our built environment. Our appreciation also goes to Singaporeans and other voluntary welfare organisations who have engaged us during the public consultation. Their views were valuable and constructive in helping us improve the Code so that Singapore becomes a friendlier place for everyone to live, work, play and learn.”