Parliamentary replies

Common areas must have barrier-free access

Barriers in common areas such as void decks and walkways must not obstruct the elderly and people with disabilities, and may be removed if they do.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee told Parliament yesterday that town councils must comply with rules to provide barrier-free access when putting up barriers in common areas.

Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh had asked if there are guidelines on the installations of barriers, which may affect accessibility for the elderly, people with disabilities and community activities.

His question follows recent debate sparked by the erection of barriers in common spaces at some housing estates to stop various activities.

Mr Lee said town councils, which manage common property in public housing estates, must comply with the Building and Construction Authority's (BCA) Code on Accessibility in the Built Environment.

When installing barriers in void decks, walkways and other common areas, they must abide by the Building Control Act, which stipulates that any barrier-free access must not be obstructed, removed, altered or made unusable.

The Commissioner of Building Control may require town councils to remove barriers that obstruct walkways intended as an accessible route, he added.

Mr Lee also said that the public can approach their town councils or the BCA if they have any complaints about such barriers.

In February, the installation of metal railings at a Mei Ling Street block in Queenstown garnered flak for stifling the void deck space.

Tanjong Pagar Town Council, in charge of the area, said the railings were put up to stop football games, and can be removed when social functions are held at the space.

Photosposted online in March of concrete kerbs at a ramp in Bedok North and railings at a footpath in Marsiling also drew criticism from netizens who said the structures could hamper wheelchair users.

The town councils overseeing the areas had said the barriers were built to keep out reckless cyclists and motorcyclists who threatened pedestrians' safety.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2016, with the headline 'Common areas must have barrier-free access'. Print Edition | Subscribe