There remains about 150 HDB blocks without direct lift access for residents where it is still not possible to implement the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP) due to prohibitive costs or existing technical constraints, such as limited space to build new lift shafts.
This was written in response to Non-constituency Member of Parliament, Hazel Poa’s parliamentary question of how many wheelchair-bound HDB residents currently live on floors without lift access.
Minister of National Development, Desmond Lee in his written response on 5 April, noted that the LUP was introduced in 2001 to provide direct lift access to flats and enhance convenience for residents, especially the elderly and less mobile and there were more than 5,300 HDB blocks without full direct lift access at the start of the programme.
HDB recognizes that some residents may urgently require direct lift access due to medical or mobility issues and introduced the Lift access Housing Grant (LHG) of up to $30,000 in March last year, to help those with medical or mobility issues buy a new or resale HDB flat with direct lift access.
As at Feb 2021, HDB has approved 22 applications for the LHG and is evaluating another 4 applications.
HDB also enhanced its Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme in December 2018 to include two new improvement items – a portable ramp and a customised ramp – to help residents living in HDB flats with multi-step entrances move in and out of their homes with greater ease.
Since Dec 2018, more than 1,900 ramps have been successfully installed. Where ramp solutions are not feasible, a wheelchair lifter is offered as an option in a pilot programme launched in Dec 2018. As of end Feb 2021, a total of 10 wheelchair lifters had been installed.
The NCMP from Progress Singapore Party also asked about how many cases of complaints have been received annually from wheelchair-bound HDB residents over accessibility problems within HDB blocks and estates in the last three years.
In response, it is said that HDB received 27 cases of feedback on wheelchair accessibility within HDB blocks and estates over the past year.
As to Ms Poa’s other questions of the average annual number of cases of obstruction along HDB corridors and average time frame for such cases to be successfully resolved.
Mr Lee wrote that there is an average of one obstruction case per block is found along the corridors of HDB blocks each year — based on the site inspections conducted by HDB.
A case is considered an “obstruction” when the clear passage width at the corridor is less than 1.2 metres, as stipulated by SCDF. Placement of items such as clothing racks are also not allowed, unless they can be easily folded or removed in times of emergency so that they do not obstruct the escape route.
It is said that the common areas, including corridors, in HDB estates are under the management and maintenance of the Town Councils.
Town Councils are responsible for resolving cases of obstruction along HDB corridors and HDB does not track the average time taken by the Town Councils to resolve such cases. However, based on anecdotal feedback from some Town Councils, the average time taken to resolve each case could range from a few days to several months depending on the complexity of the case.
Woman in wheelchair highlights daily struggles living on non lift access level in HDB flat with narrow corridors
“HDB does not track the number of wheelchair bound residents in our flats. But I can assure the Member that HDB will attend to every case of a resident requesting help with mobility issues, and do its best to assist such residents.” wrote Mr Lee in regards to Ms Poa’s question on matters of lift access.
A woman in a wheelchair recently posted a video on Facebook showing what it is like from her perspective living on a non lift access level in a HDB flat with narrow corridors.
In a four-minute-long video uploaded on 8 March, Facebook user Cocoanna Christian showcases her daily struggles in navigating around her place of residence in Block 906, located along Jurong West Street 91.
Ms Cocoanna lives at level 7 where there is no lift access.
The video she shared clearly depicts the haunting reality of her ordeal, as she carefully rolls her wheelchair through the narrow corridors while trying her best to stay clear of the obstacles – plants, footwears, and clothing rack – that are in her way.
According to Ms Cocoanna, the plight of having to go through her very own ‘HDB-obstacles-course’ prevented her from going out much in the last six years since she had gotten sick.
However, she stated that she now has to travel out on alternate days for her blood dialysis treatment.
When asked by concerned netizens if there was any attempt in reaching out to the neighbours and local authorities, Ms Cocoanna noted that some of her neighbours are nice and accommodating, while some of them just don’t care.
She also said that she wrote to her Member of Parliament (MP) – People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Ang Wei Neng – a few weeks back, and visited him on 15 Mar to speak about her situation. She added that the Housing & Development Board (HDB) replied via her MP saying that there is no plan for lift upgrading at her floor.
As for the local town council, Ms Cocoanna mentioned that they did visit the units that had objects unbefittingly placed along the common corridors at her place of residence. She was told that the tenants agreed to make the necessary changes to comply with the standard rulings.
The latest update is that the corridors have been cleared after Ms Cocoanna story was exposed on social media and that HDB has approved LUP for the block to be carried out after some time later.