A 64-year-old wheelchair user died after falling down a small flight of steps outside his flat.
He was using a stair climber called the Stair Aid, which was used to bring him down a flight of steps together with his wheelchair outside his 1st-storey flat in Hougang Avenue 7.
Unfortunately, on December 20, 2016, his wheelchair became detached from the stair climber, and he tumbled down the steps. He injured his head in the fall and passed away the following day.
A coroner's inquiry revealed that this could have been caused by the wheelchair not being properly secured to the Stair Aid.
This is a very unfortunate and tragic accident. But it also brings a neglected issue into focus: the HDB lift upgrading program has helped many thousands of elderly and handicapped wheelchair users living on upper floors that were not originally equipped with lifts. But what about those staying on the ground floor?
These are typically more than 5 steps high - too high for portable wheelchair ramps to be practical. The safest option is to build permanent ramps, but there's a lot of hassle to go through as HDB is required for all fixtures in the common corridor. That's why families like Mr Tan's resort to devices such as the Stair Aid to get their wheelchair-bound family members out of the house.
Are our flats truly barrier free? Perhaps it is time for HDB to look into this with more urgency?