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Disabled parking: Concern over insufficient accessible lots

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Increasing pool of people entitled to park at spaces reserved for disabled prompts some to ask for more

Across Singapore, there are at least 6,000 government-run carpark spaces reserved for the disabled, but this is hardly keeping pace with rising needs as the country rapidly ages, says the community.

The number of new carpark label holders stood at 1,758 last year, up 38 per cent from 1,273 in 2012, according to Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) figures.

This means that an increasing pool of people are entitled to park at these spaces, which are 1½ times the width of normal spaces and are usually nearer to lifts or exits.

The issue came under the spotlight after the MSF last month tightened the eligibility criteria, prompting an outcry.

MSF said the new benchmark, which eliminates crutches and quadsticks as criteria, is "to ensure that those who require the use of accessible lots the most can be better assured that these lots will be available when they need them".

It later clarified it will consider the applicant's medical condition regardless of the mobility aid used.

The Ministry of National Development (MND) said there are 6,000 accessible spaces in the carparks managed by the Housing Board, Urban Redevelopment Authority and National Parks Board.

It said it was unable to determine if this number has increased over the years.

It was also unable to give the total number of accessible carpark spaces, including those privately run.

But it told The Straits Times that the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is reviewing the requirements for accessible spaces in carparks, as part of an ongoing review of its Code on Accessibility 2013.

The Code states that in every carpark, there must be one accessible lot in the first 50 lots, one more for the next 50 lots and then one accessible lot for every subsequent 200 lots or any part thereof.

But getting there is still a work in progress.

Property manager AsiaMalls said that three out of four of its malls follow current BCA regulations.

In Tiong Bahru Plaza, there are four accessible lots out of a total of 337 lots.

But at Hougang Mall, which was built before 2013, there is just one such lot out of 153. The situation is being reviewed.

Sometimes, public carparks fall short too.

Last year, Ms Shee Shu Xin, 35, a volunteer with SPD, formerly known as the Society for the Physically Disabled, wrote to HDB when she found that the open-air carpark near her block in Sin Ming did not have an accessible lot.

Now, the carpark has two or three accessible lots.

Beyond the current guidelines, some feel that the rules should be changed to provide for more.

Ms Judy Wee, 56, vice-president of the Disabled People's Association, felt that the BCA's code should require one accessible lot in every 50 regardless of the total number of lots.

Mr Richard Kuppusamy, 40, a committee member of the Handicaps Welfare Association, said one in every 50 is still too few.

"In Britain, it is one in every 20 lots," he said.

"Yes, there is land scarcity in Singapore, but in multi-storey carparks, the footprint is the same. There could be so many more accessible lots built."