SPD executive director Mr Abhimanyau Pal calls for products and the environment to be made usable to everyone in this letter published online in TODAY Voices on 25 August 2016.
We refer to the online reports “Escalators at 42 MRT stations to be upgraded for energy efficiency” and “POSB launches first ATM allowing videochats with bank tellers” (both Aug 16).
We applaud SMRT’s efforts to refurbish escalators at 42 MRT stations and POSB’s introduction of Video Teller Machines. We are encouraged that service providers are improving their infrastructure for their customers.
As infrastructural upgrades often involve substantial costs and are to last for a long time, it would be economical to consider the needs of different consumer groups, particularly different disability groups.
Necessary improvements can then be made collectively, to avoid retrofits and alterations along the way, which could be costly and could inconvenience consumers further.
Service providers could look into adopting universal design, which is to design products and environments to be usable for all, to the greatest extent possible. They could refer to universal design guidelines developed locally and best practices from other countries.
Products and services do not necessarily require specialised design in order to benefit persons with disabilities.
For instance, Video Teller Machines could potentially benefit those with visual impairment. Subtitles could help those with hearing impairment to use the service. The machines could also be made accessible to wheelchair users.
At times, the needs of specific groups within the community, such as those with special needs, may not be obvious and could be overlooked.
Service providers could work with voluntary welfare organisations like the SPD and persons with disabilities to discuss how those needs can be met better.
As easy access to infrastructure and services increases convenience for all consumers, we hope that service providers will consider the perspectives of various user groups, such as persons with different disabilities, when making improvements or planning new infrastructure and services.