Welcome, welcome, welcome to your Disabled Travelers blog! As we round the bend on our accessible Asian excursions today, we’ll be visiting the country of Singapore, a unique island city-state off the southern coast of Malaysia. After an interesting history, Singapore has asserted its independence and, with only about 5 million people and 274 square miles of territory, it is the smallest country in southeast Asia. But don’t be fooled; for the savvy handicapped traveler, there’s plenty of news to go around here. And it’s a perfect “bridge” to a post on Malaysia in the not-too-distant future!
It may surprise you to find out that Singapore is one of the most forward-looking countries in Asia when it comes to mobility impaired access. In 1990, only 25 years or so after its final declaration of independence, it released the “Code on Barrier-Free Accessibility in Buildings”, which mandates universal design standards for all buildings after that date. You can learn more about Singapore’s high accessibility standards from the Building and Construction Authority website. Naturally, it will take some time for this law to catch up with the situation “on the ground”, and there are some notable issues (notoriously, un-railed passenger bridges over major roads are a problem.) But progress is being made.
Thanks to Singapore’s long shared history with Britain, just about anything you need is available in English. This even includes “Access Singapore” – the book that serves as a sort of country-wide access guide. You can get free copies by contacting the National Council of Social Service. Though there is rumored to be an online version of this guide, I have not yet come across it; even so, copies of the printed version are free. And let’s not leave out the “all-purpose” Singapore tourism gateway while we’re at it, and this informative web guide from the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. Both sites offer an impressive breadth of info on culture and attractions.
The Disabled People’s Association of Singapore is the main handicapped organization that provides disabled issues education and assistive services throughout the country. It sponsors a large number of events catering to people of all abilities, and coordinates with like-minded groups throughout Singapore. These include the Association of the Visually Handicapped, Association for the Deaf, and over a dozen other very active advocacy groups.
AngloInfo, a great website with a kind of kooky name, once again has a great variety of information on Singapore for English speakers, including facts on accessible transportation, airports and airlines, and wheelchair access at popular attractions like Singapore Zoo and Bird Park. Also try out Asia Planet’s snapshots of Singapore attractions, which includes locations, approximate time you should schedule for a full visit, costs, and a capsule overview of the accessibility situation for wheelchair users. The country seems very proud of its Singapore Flyer, a giant observation wheel with wheelchair accessible facilities and handicapped-friendly service.
One fairly comprehensive guide I was delighted to snoop out is aimed at medical professionals, but is very useful for any and all handicapped travelers. The Medical Travelers Guide to Disabled Access for Facilities in Singapore is about as long on value as it is on title. It offers a category-by-category, place-by-place overview of accessibility at hospitals, hotels, concert halls, shopping centers, transportation services, and general “places of interest” throughout Singapore. Both useful and concise, it’s a free download and prints out in full color.
For a view “from the front”, peruse this Singapore and Australia article at Apparelyzed. These contributors had some trouble getting around, but, notably, this post is almost exactly ten years old, so take it in context and soak up a quick introduction to the “local flavor.” Disabilities & Accessibility in Singapore from Fodor’s Travel Guides is also useful here, though it takes a less favorable view of conditions for handicapped visitors. Unfortunately, I have not yet come across an accessible tour operator that works in Singapore just yet.
Singapore is one place that leaves me with the impression there’s more to discover. So as we move on to Malaysia and elsewhere, don’t be surprised if I sneak in a couple more Singapore resources. Next time, we’ll be returning to more familiar pastures for a little while as Disabled Travelers catches up with news and views around the States, with (perhaps) a mailbag or two thrown in for good measure.
Keep those questions and comments coming, and adventure on …