Mr See Cher, President, Society for the Physically Disabled
My fellow Tampines GRC MPs and grassroots leaders,
Participants of the Breaking Barriers Walk
Ladies and Gentlemen
1· Tampines is a self-contained town with many facilities. We have markets, food centres, cinemas, shopping centres, a sports complex, a stadium and so on, all of which make for a better quality of life for residents in Tampines GRC. In our continuous journey to upgrade the quality of life for the residents in Tampines, it is good that we have not forgotten the needs of our residents with physical disabilities.
2· I am very pleased to join you this morning at the official opening of the SPD@Tampines centre. This is the first regional centre set up by the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD), and will serve disabled residents in the north-east and south-east CDC zones. Here, they will serve a variety of people with disabilities, children, the elderly, those who are at risk of acquiring a disability and those who are severely disabled.
Making Rehabilitation Services Accessible to Disabled Residents
3· Prior to the opening of SPD@Tampines, I understand that many SPD’s clients had to travel a distance to Tiong Bahru to receive rehabilitation services. The opening of SPD@Tampines has brought relief to clients in this region. In addition, SPD’s therapists will provide therapy at the homes of residents in the area who cannot make their way to the centre. I applaud SPD’s efforts in making rehabilitation services so much more accessible to those in need.
Supporting Children with Special Needs in Pre-Schools
4· Another key initiative of SPD@Tampines is extending early support for children with mild disabilities in mainstream pre-schools. SPD’s team of professional therapists, special education teachers, psychologists and social workers will help children with mild disabilities such as speech & language delay, autism or hyperactivity to be better prepared for mainstream education, as well as consultation and training for teachers and parents. I understand that SPD is in discussion with the PAP Community Foundation and NTUC Childcare on a pilot programme for students with special needs.
Barrier-Free Accessibility in HDB estates
5· As we work with community partners such as SPD to make services and software available to the elderly and persons with disabilities, we should also do more in terms of improving our infrastructure and hardware, so as to enhance mobility and accessibility for the physically challenged.
6· For our HDB estates, we have set the target of extending lift access to every floor for all eligible blocks by 2014. I am happy to report that we are on track to achieving this; to date we have already selected around 3,000 blocks for lift upgrading, more than half of the 5,300 blocks eligible for lift upgrading.
7· The Town Councils are also working to make all HDB Precincts barrier-free by 2011. So far, 76 precincts including 4 in Tampines, have been made barrier-free.
Review of Code on Barrier-free Accessibility in Buildings
8· Our efforts in enhancing the built environment for the elderly and the disabled should not be limited to just HDB estates. Let me take this opportunity to update you on the review of the Building & Construction Authority’s (BCA) Barrier-Free Accessibility Code.
9· The Barrier-Free Accessibility Code, last revised in 2002, is currently undergoing review. BCA had engaged various groups of stakeholders extensively for this review. They include the building industry, the relevant public sector agencies and voluntary welfare organisations such as SPD.
10· The review aims to make the built environment more conducive to persons with disabilities, the elderly, and families with young children. Besides strengthening the accessibility within buildings, we will pay particular attention to improving the connectivity between buildings and from buildings to nearby facilities such as transport nodes and parks. These are important steps towards better meeting the needs of the disabled community. To reflect this enhancement, one proposal is to rename the Barrier-Free Accessibility Code as the “”Code on Accessibility in the Built Environment””.
11· Over and above the discussions with key players in the private and people sectors, BCA will be conducting a public consultation on the draft Code revision so that there will be a greater representation of views. I would like to invite members of the public to provide comments on the draft revised Code via the BCA website (www.bca.gov.sg) starting tomorrow on 1 July.
Upgrading of Existing Buildings
12· To further promote public awareness and drive efforts to enable barrier-free buildings, BCA will continue to promote barrier-free and Universal Design through courses and training at the BCA Academy. I understand that a specially tailored course on accessibility and Universal Design is currently being run for Town Council managers.
13· For the benefit of the public, BCA has also compiled and published a database of accessible buildings on its website. 550 accessible buildings are currently listed, organized in 15 categories such as shopping centres, hospitals, libraries, and institutional buildings. This database has helped to raise the awareness of accessible buildings, and encouraged other buildings owners to similarly improve their buildings’ accessibility.
14· I would like to encourage more private sector building owners to improve the accessibility of their existing buildings and surroundings. To help the private sector building owners, BCA has set up a $40m Barrier-Free Accessibility Fund to co-fund the provision of basic accessibility features in their buildings. I urge all building owners to tap into this fund, so that we can provide a well-connected built environment to benefit all sectors of the society.
15· Let me take this opportunity to congratulate SPD on the official opening of your first satellite centre here in Tampines. Kudos also to those who have just completed the gruelling 30 km overnight walk from Tiong Bahru to Tampines. I understand that Mr See Cher, SPD’s President and Dr Ow Chee Chung, the Executive Director, took up the challenge of walking the entire route. Well done!
16· I also thank the various corporate partners for their generous contributions towards the setting up of SPD@Tampines so that Tampines residents can enjoy a comprehensive range of rehabilitative services.
17· On behalf of the MPs of the Tampines GRC, we look forward to working with SPD to help improve the lives of people with disabilities in our community.
18· It now gives me great pleasure to declare the SPD@Tampines open.