No barrier-free access to ION? Forget it then!

Channel NewsAsia has reported that the pedestrian crossing between the new ION Orchard and Wheelock Place will be closed from today. This means shoppers will have to use the underground link. Able-bodied shoppers that is.

People on wheelchairs or babies in prams will have to use another road crossing 150 metres away. But wait, sorry only prams can. Wheelchair users will find the ramp too steep to use. Too bad for them.

Frankly I find it very frustrating that the “premier” new shopping centre in Orchard Road also doesn’t have barrier free access for wheelchairs and prams. It says a lot about mall developers, the Building and Construction Agency’s building codes and our society’s lack of empathy for the less able-bodied among us.

I must admit I never noticed all these problems until I started wheeling my baby around in a pram. Of all the shopping malls I visit with my family, I find that the Orchard Road malls are probably the most inaccessible of them all. Orchard ION is not the only one. Even Wisma Atria appears to have no ramp to enter the building. One has to go up an escalator to get in.

What happened to building codes that require barrier-free access? Does that not apply to the route from the street into the building? Why not?

I’m sure there will be a lot of blame shifting going on after this CNA report. The mall developers will point to LTA (Land Transport Authority) and LTA will tell Singaporeans that there is barrier-free access if you’re not too lazy to take a huge detour.

I really don’t care who is responsible, just get it flattened out.

As far as I’m concerned as a pram-pushing parent and a shopper, if I find a certain mall is too inaccessible, I’m boycotting it and spending my money and time somewhere else. I would encourage fellow parents, folks with disabilities and even able-bodied folks to do the same, to send a message to the inconsiderate mall developers and the authorities. Let’s vote with our wheels.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

8 thoughts on “No barrier-free access to ION? Forget it then!”

  1. Gerald,

    You’re absolutely right.

    Having said that, I wouldn’t go to ION with or without a kid or pram or the lack of any functioning limbs. Shopping in Singapore, GSS or not, is a rip-off. Expensive car park, poor selection, sulky (and often-times snooty) service, and if you can imagine, a lot of what you’re paying goes to rent. I get all my stuff online these days.

  2. Well I just visited the ION today and I can’t help by but agree that its building structure gives much inconvenience even to regular shoppers.

    The placement of elevator paths is intently done so that shoppers are forced to venture through more parts of the shopping center so that shoppers may get influence to shop more as if we are “lost”.

  3. things about the Code of barrier-free Accessbility that most should understand

    1. it is only implemented in 1990, so most buildings (including the malls in Orchard) built before 1990 have no regulations on barrier-free features.

    2. BCA encourages building managements (of those buildings built before 1990s) to build the barrier-free features but it is up to the managements who decide whether to build it or not.

    Cost and land space are the issues that do not allow all areas to be barrier-free but the authorities are trying to improve these areas whenever it is possible.

    Remember the efforts done by the authorities to improve lives of the physically-challenged rather than shooting them down. They are also humans and there will always be limitations as to what they are able to do.

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