SINGAPORE - Elderly residents living in older Housing Board flats with multi-step entrances can soon get highly subsidised ramps, which will let them enter and exit their homes more easily.
From Wednesday (Dec 5), the HDB will offer two types of ramps - portable or customised ones - under its Enhancement for Active Seniors (Ease) programme.
There are about 170,000 HDB flats with such multi-step entrances, a feature from some slab blocks built in the 1970s and 1980s to offer privacy from passers-by.
In a statement on Monday (Dec 3), the HDB said the two new ramps are suitable for the majority of flats with multi-step entrances.
The portable ramps are suitable for flats with sufficient space at their entrance, such as units located at the end of a corridor. They can be dismantled when not in use.
The customised ramps, on the other hand, are fabricated according to a unit's entrance and available space, and are an option for flats located along the corridor.
Under Ease, the Government pays up to 95 per cent of the cost of the improvement items, depending on the flat type. Flat owners pay only for the items they choose.
With the inclusion of the ramps under Ease, the maximum amount owners need to pay ranges from $147 to $367.50 for the full package with a portable ramp, and from $192 to $480 for the full package with a customised ramp.
Residents whose flats are undergoing the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) can opt for the items under Ease as well. Those whose flats are not undergoing HIP can apply directly to the HDB.
To be eligible, the flat owner must be a Singaporean, with at least one household member who is aged 65 years old and above and a wheelchair-user, or is aged between 60 and 64 years old and requires help for daily activities such as bathing or feeding.
The HDB said that there would be some flats where ramps cannot be installed due to site constraints like the block layout or a lack of available corridor space.
To address such situations, the agency has co-designed a lightweight and compact mechanical wheelchair lifter suitable for use in HDB estates.
Compared to ramps, it is more expensive and will require regular maintenance.
The HDB said it will offer the lifter in cases where ramps are not feasible under a separate pilot that is not part of the Ease programme.
It costs $3,920, and the Government will subsidise half the cost for Singaporean households. There is also an annual servicing fee of about $80, subject to change, payable by the flat owner from the second year onwards.
Despite the new solutions, there will still be some flats which cannot use them, the HDB said, adding that these are generally ground-level flats with five to seven steps leading up to the unit.
Wheelchair-bound seniors living in such flats may approach HDB to explore alternative solutions, the HDB said.