MARUAH forum letter on disability

3 December 2013 is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. MARUAH submitted a letter to the Straits Times Forum, which was published yesterday.

Break barriers for the disabled
IN CONJUNCTION with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities tomorrow, we wish to draw attention to barriers in our bid to become an inclusive society.

We acknowledge the Government’s efforts in taking on a fairly active approach towards breaking barriers through the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s Enabling Masterplan.

We also note the efforts of the Building and Construction Authority, which has updated the Code on Accessibility for the Built Environment.

However, the Government needs to do more by making physical accessibility a priority in urban planning.

There is still a lack of a holistic approach to removing barriers to accessibility, even though individual components of the transport network, such as the MRT or certain bus routes, are now more disabled-friendly.

For instance, the Central Business District is one of the densest office- and people-centred locations in Singapore, yet there is no wheelchair access in the underground linkway from Raffles Place MRT station to One Raffles Quay, the Marina Bay Financial Centre or any of the office blocks around Robinson Road.

The same is true for the pedestrian underpass at the Orchard Road-Scotts Road junction, with its high pedestrian traffic.

Both locations have steps without ramps or wheelchair lifts. Similarly, the majority of government schools are not wheelchair-accessible, although efforts have been made to provide accessible schools in each cluster or region.

While there are provisions, there is still a gap in the quality of the structures, such as steep gradients for ramps and barricades (for example, chains or bins) placed at the entrances to ramps.

The theme for this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Break barriers, open doors: For an inclusive society and development for all”.

With the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we urge the Government to make it a priority that we achieve accessibility for all persons with disabilities, as it is their right.

Braema Mathi (Ms)

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