MP Gerald Giam

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for National Development with regard to HDB blocks which have undergone the Main Upgrading Programme but still have lifts which do not stop at every floor, whether HDB has any plans to retrofit the staircases of these blocks with foldable wheelchair lifts to assist residents with mobility issues.

Mr Desmond Lee: HDB has studied the feasibility of installing foldable wheelchair lifts at staircases of HDB blocks where some flats still do not have direct lift access. It was found to be unfeasible due to fire safety considerations. 

Staircases at HDB blocks serve as escape paths in the event of a fire, and a minimum clearance width of one metre needs to be maintained at such staircases in accordance with the Fire Code. Installing foldable wheelchair lifts at staircases would encroach into the escape path, impeding the safe evacuation of residents during a fire. Furthermore, the installation of wheelchair lifts would introduce electrical systems that may pose fire risks, counteracting the purpose of HDB staircases being fire escape paths.

HDB is currently exploring the use of powered stair climbers as an alternative. These devices can be attached to a wheelchair to enable it to traverse up and down staircases, with assistance from another person. HDB is pilot-testing different models of the device with a few volunteer HDB households, to assess if the device is feasible and cost-effective, and if it can be implemented on a wider scale.

Through HDB’s efforts, the vast majority of the 5,300 HDB blocks without full direct lift access have been able to benefit from the Lift Upgrading Programme (LUP). For the 150 or so remaining HDB blocks, which do not have direct lift access to every flat, HDB will continue to explore new methods to bring down lift upgrading costs as well as alternatives to improve accessibility for residents with mobility needs. Residents living in these blocks who are in urgent need of direct lift access due to medical or mobility issues can also apply for the Lift access Housing Grant (LHG) of up to $30,000 when they buy another flat with direct lift access. 

Ministry of National Development
11 January 2022

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