An auditorium specially designed for those with disabilities

The special auditorium at the Enabling Village in Lengkok Bahru, made possible with a donation from UOB, is equipped with technology to help those with hearing aids, and has portable ramps, spaces reserved for wheelchairs and steps fitted with LED li
The special auditorium at the Enabling Village in Lengkok Bahru, made possible with a donation from UOB, is equipped with technology to help those with hearing aids, and has portable ramps, spaces reserved for wheelchairs and steps fitted with LED lights to illuminate the surrounding area.PHOTO: UOB

Going to the movies or seeing a performance can be challenging for people with disabilities.

The hard of hearing struggle to decipher speech amid background noise and reverberation, while those who have difficulty seeing find it hard to find their seats in dimly lit halls.

A first-of-its kind auditorium in Singapore, specially designed for those with disabilities, was launched last month at the Enabling Village in Lengkok Bahru.

The project was realised with the help of a massive donation from the United Overseas Bank (UOB). It made a $20.17 million donation to local charities this year, in line with its 80th anniversary celebrations.

Out of the donation, $15.37 million went to the Community Chest to help those with disabilities and children with special needs through education, development and rehabilitative programmes.

UOB's contribution is the largest donation from a private sector organisation in a year, over the past three years, said a Community Chest spokesman.

More people have been donating to charity, and tax-deductible donations hit $1.1 billion last year - the highest in at least 16 years.

The new auditorium in the Enabling Village is equipped with hearing loop technology, which improves the clarity of sound for those with hearing problems. The technology cuts out background clutter and interference for those who wear hearing aids once they are within certain zones - similar to Wi-Fi hot spots found islandwide.

The deaf community here has, for years, been pushing for hearing loops to be installed in public places such as MRT stations and cinemas.

Hearing loops have been widely adopted in northern Europe. In Britain, they can be found in the back seats of London taxis and in most churches. New York has also placed hearing loops at about 500 of its subway fare booths.

The special auditorium, which can fit 200 people, has portable ramps, spaces reserved for wheelchairs and steps fitted with LED lights to illuminate the surrounding area. Seats can be retracted with the touch of a button to transform the place into a multi-purpose hall.

Janice Tai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 27, 2015, with the headline 'An auditorium specially designed for those with disabilities'. Print Edition | Subscribe