CHENNAI: From January 6 next year, new buildings and those undergoing major renovations in Singapore, are to ensure that they fulfill their new accessibility regulations, including accessible toilets on every floor that can accommodate motorised wheelchairs.
While the minimum size of the accessible toilets is to be 1.8 m by 2.1 m, the minimum size that was applicable previously was 1.75m by 1.75m. Buildings are to also have spacious changing rooms to cater for senior citizens or adults with disabilities and their caregivers.
However, for people with disabilities here in India, there is much to be desired, say activists and architects.”In most public buildings, there may be ramps but there is no connectivity. The floors are extremely slippery,” said Tirupur-based public interest litigant L Muruganantham.
There was a conference on disability held recently at the Anna centenary library where temporary provisions had to be made to cater for persons with disabilities, he added.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016, states that no establishment would be granted permission to build any structure if the building plan does not adhere to the rules formulated by the Central government. “I don’t see many private-owned buildings, including schools, having facilities for persons with disabilities,” he said.
“We have to find a way to be more creative with the retrofitting, without affecting the heritage value and aesthetics of the buildings. In the Egmore museum, for instance, the ramp that leads to the museum theatre, does not go well with the character of the building, although we are glad it exists,” said Vidhya Mohankumar, founder and principal, Urban Design Collective.
“In Ripon building, we had to tell them that the slope of the ramp was not right. There were a few changes that were eventually made but the ramp is still too steep for a person in a wheelchair, to use without assistance,” she added. The Metro Rail has done a good job overall, except that it is difficult to access the lift from the streets, Vidya said.
The Enabling Village
In 2016, Singapore completed its ‘Enabling Village’ project, an inclusive space for persons with disabilities and also for the able-bodied. The space, complete with a gym, cafe and lots of green spaces, is designed to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to move independently.
(This reporter had been taken on a Singapore International Foundation- sponsored trip to Singapore’s enabling village)