| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The main purpose of the Friendly Built Environment Portal is to provide Information to the general public on Barrier-free Accessibility and Universal Design in the built environment.
The strategies are as follows:
Numerous users in mind
Firstly, to provide a service to members of public by creating a platform for them to check if the building is barrier-free or with UD features before going to the building. The public would also help to create a demand for accessibility and UD in the buildings once they see the benefits of having such features accessible buildings.
Secondly, to raise awareness among building owners and building professionals and encourage them to embrace UD in their building design and management.
Thirdly, to assist building owners see the business case in upgrading their existing buildings to be barrier-free.
Nurturing of the Young
As it is a time consuming process in auditing so many buildings, tertiary education students were being deployed. This portal provides a useful platform for nurturing the young on the concept of UD. To date, 77 interns had been trained on Accessibility and UD. They also benefitted from the practical experience by participating in the audit and plotting the access route map for the buildings.
Collaboration with VWOs/building owners
For building owners, it makes business sense for them to be featured at our portal. BCA was recently informed by some developers that they were approached by Volunteer Welfare Organisations (VWOs), insisting they get their buildings upgraded to become barrier-free. They were glad that the Accessibility Information on their buildings was already available in our portal.
• Helps to promote Silver Industry
It helps in the development of Accessible Tourism and Medical Tourism. Local tour guides can use the information on the buildings to plan itinerary for older tourists or persons with disabilities without having to do a physical check. Foreign visitors with concern on accessibility could also check on the places/building before planning a visit and book a hotel.
BCA has also received requests from VWOs and other portals owners, for a list of barrier-free accessible buildings available in Singapore. We often refer them to our friendly built environment portal and requested they hyperlink to our portal, for a centralised information resource.
• Outreach Programmes
BCA started its outreach UD Roving Exhibitions to Community Centres since 2008. It will be rolling out a UD Roving Roadshow to schools in July 2013.
Time Frame Key Development and Implementation
1990 Implementation of the Barrier Free Accessibility (BFA) Code
2005 Formulation and Implementation of BFA Masterplan
2006 Government taking the lead in upgrading of public sector buildings
Apr 2006 Inter-agency co-ordinating committee formed to resolve interconnectivity for areas that cross into jurisdictions of different government agencies.
2007 Inaugural BCA Universal Design Award
2008 Roving exhibitions at the community to raise awareness on accessibility
Incorporate BFA as an integral part of the upgrading of private estates.
October 2008 Launch of the On-line Accessibility Rating System and Friendly Building Portal.
2012 Friendly Buildings Portal provides links to other online micro-site such as the BCA’s “Unify to UDify” campaign to step up UD education to general public and young children.
November 2014 Launch of “Find Your Friendly Building” smartphone application at Singapore UD Week.
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The Friendly Built Environment on-line portal and Accessibility Rating System were initiated by BCA and developed through collaboration with the 3Ps sectors (Public, Private and People Sector. They include :
1) Public Agencies
• Ministry of Social & Family Development (previously known as Ministry of Community, Youth & Sports)
• Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth (previously known as Ministry of Community, Youth & Sports)
• Ministry of Education (for schools)
• Ministry of Health (for hospitals and polyclinics)
• Housing and Development Board (HDB) – (for Singapore’s Public Housing)
• Land Transport Authority (LTA) – (for MRT Stations)
• National Parks Board (NParks) - (for Parks and Playgrounds)
• National Environment Agency (NEA) - (for Markets and Food Centres)
• National Library Board (NLB) - (for Libraries)
• People’s Association (PA) – (for Community Centres and Clubs)
2) Volunteer Welfare Organisations
• Council for Third Age
• Handicap Welfare Association
• Society for the Physically Handicapped
3) Institutes of Higher Learning; and
As it is a time consuming process in auditing so many buildings, tertiary education students were being deployed. This portal has therefore provided a useful platform for nurturing the young on the concept of UD. They also benefitted from the practical experience by participating in the audit and plotting the access route map for the buildings.
4) Building owners
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The Friendly Built Environment Portal and the Accessibility Rating System (ARS) are developed and maintained in-house by BCA’s Universal Design Department (UDD) involving about 9 officers and with support from other departments in BCA (e.g. Information Technology Department (ITD)). The officers in UDD are mainly trained in architectural, engineering or building designs. Students from tertiary institutions are also enlisted to audit buildings and build up the database for the ARS.
In addition, BCA’s Senior Management (i.e. our CEO, Deputy CEO (Building Control) and Group Director (Building Plan and Management (BPM)) were also instrumental in providing leadership & guidance, as well as reach out to top management of private sector firms/other public agencies to obtain buy-in for our initiatives.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The Friendly Built Environment Portal was designed with a vision to be a virtual UD Hub where the public, the private and people sector comes together to advance the UD movement in Singapore
The promotion of UD and improvement of the built environment is important and it needs support from all sectors. In Singapore, there is always a negative perception by certain sector of the population that the government websites are meant to be a propaganda tool for some government agenda. Many a times, good intentions had been read with suspicion. With this in mind, the Portal was developed with deliberate intention to have a more “playful and friendly’ look. The accessibility to the site by persons with disability was also considered. To ensure continued interest of the Portal and participation, the design and contents need to be relevant at all times. The portal has since undergone its first revamp in 2011 and will be revamped again by end next 2014 to encourage greater participation and interaction.
As at April 2014, the Portal has reached 25,300 hits. It has proven to be relevant and useful as evident in the following:
The public can visit the website for information on the availability of user-friendly facilities within the buildings they intend to visit. Besides accessibility facilities information and the profiles of the ARS audited buildings, the portal also provides each building with a location map, a building profile map and an access route map, to show the nearest connectivity point to public transport nodes. The portal is able to assist the general public to plan their route the moment they step out of their homes.
• Design professionals often visit the portal to retrieve UD guidelines and information for their design use.
The Portal is useful in supporting Accessibility Tourism and Medical Tourism. It enables foreigners to check on the accessibility level of hotels and places of interest before booking hotel. It also helps local tour agents to plan the itinerary for tourists with mobility challenges. In 2012, BCA’s Friendly Built Environment Portal was endorsed by the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) (http://www.accessibletourism.org/) as a good practice which makes travel and tourism accessible to all.
The batches of interns that participated in our UD audits will be our long term supporters and ambassadors on UD in their future workplace.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
BCA has in-house staff who administer and manage the online portal. In the audit of buildings, BCA also deploys interns from tertiary institutions to assist in building audits. The audit information is checked and verified with the building owners before publish online. In doing so, the awareness on the importance of accessibility is spread not only to building owners, but also the young who will be our future leaders, building designers and managers.
To ensure information on buildings posted on the portal are up todate, BCA UD department regularly engages key building developers, including public agencies such as Housing and Development Board, People’s Associations, National Environmental Agency. They are regularly reminded to check on the information of their buildings. Had they carried out major retrofitting works, they could remind BCA to revise the rating from say “one sun flower” to “three sun flowers”.
In addition, BCA also regularly engages stakeholders such as VWOs and the tourism industry to understand how the portal can be improved to serve their needs.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The initial list of buildings to be featured was for those frequently accessed by members of the public. As this was a voluntary exercise, the initial response was not favourable.
To overcome this, BCA took the initiative to collaborate with many government agencies and private sector organisations to feature all the public buildings under their care. For example, our work with the Singapore Hotel Association saw a list of Hotels giving us permissions to list the UD information available in the hotel buildings. We also approached developers to seek their permission to audit and upload the accessibility information.
To develop a comprehensive portal, information must be readily available. The following obstacles encountered, indirectly led to the problems encountered:
Upgrading of Existing Private Sector Buildings
One of the key challenges is that many of the older existing buildings are constructed before the implementation of the Barrier Free Accessibility (BFA) Code in 1990. This has resulted in such buildings being inaccessible, unless major retrofitting works are carried out to implement BFA features.
To encourage the upgrading of these buildings with at least basic accessibility, there is the $40 million Accessibility Fund to co-pay the cost of upgrading of up to 80%. BCA has been working closely with building owners and managers to incorporate BFA features at the key leisure and business areas in Singapore eg. Orchard Road (major shopping area).
Lack of Public Awareness on Accessibility and UD
The lack of public awareness on accessibility and UD has resulted in weak demand for accessibility and UD features in buildings from the general public and building industry.
To raise Public & Technical Awareness and Capabilities of Industry, the Portal and the ARS are implemented to reach out to the general public using the internet. Courses and workshops on accessibility and UD are organised.