What is Universal Design (UD) and why is it different from Barrier-Free Accessibility (BFA)?
Universal Design (UD) means "design for all". It aims to create an environment which will address the needs of as many people as possible, regardless of their abilities and age. Consequently UD takes into consideration the physical, social and psychological needs of all possible users. On the other hand, BFA evaluates the physical accessibility of the built environment and adopts measures to reduce physical barriers for these people. BFA is hence a "sub-set" of UD.
Some examples of BFA features are ramps and handicapped toilets. But UD goes beyond BFA and includes such features like the provision of nursing rooms, smaller sized toilet facilities for children, ergonomic features such as rounded edges, etc. UD hence caters to the needs of a wider spectrum of users.
Will Universal Design be made mandatory?
Currently, we are focusing on improving the accessibility of our built environment. The more immediate task is to provide barrier-free accessibility for existing buildings and districts. As UD is still a relatively new design approach, we are working with the industry and key stakeholders to raise awareness and encourage wider acceptance of this concept. The government will continue to monitor the progress and assess whether it is appropriate to incorporate more UD guidelines in future revisions of the Code on Accessibility in the Built Environment.
Are there any incentives, such as exemption of GFA, for providing UD Facilities?
The Universal Design Mark Award accords recognition to building owners who adopts UD in their building design. This, in itself, is an incentive. With a backdrop of our aging population and the promotion on procreation, there will be increased demands for universally designed buildings. This gives greater selling power.
The Accessibility Fund is a capital incentive aims to encourage building owners to upgrade and improve the accessibility of their buildings. The Funding also includes building owners who wish to provide UD feature in their buildings to enhance its user-friendliness.
What is the Universal Design Mark Award?
To achieve an inclusive and friendly built environment, we need to encourage all categories of buildings to adopt UD. We understand that there are more constraints in existing buildings as compared to new developments in the incorporation of UD facilities. Hence, we have introduced a bonus score to encourage building owners who had made voluntary refurbishments and enhancement to transform an existing and not so friendly building into one that welcomes wheelchair users, the elderly and family with children.
What has BCA done, to improve the accessibility of buildings and to promote Universal Design?
To improve the accessibility of buildings, BCA works closely with building owners, developers, government agencies and consultants, on assessing their buildings and in the adoption of UD features.
We are constantly exploring more opportunities to promote UD.