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Vanity counter for wheelchair user

The depth of the vanity counter should be kept to a minimum so that the controls and faucets are easily within the reach of a wheelchair user.

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Interview with Mr Liak Teng Lit, KTPH

Reported on:
28 March 2012

It is not often that we come across a public hospital embodying the principles of universal design (UD) in a built environment like ours.

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) is the first hospital to win the BCA Universal Design Gold Award in 2011 for its exemplary application of universal designs. This was definitely not easy feat for a hospital that serves the healthcare needs to more than 700,000 people who live and work in the north of Singapore. Opened in 2010, it has also garnered several other awards for its design and environment-friendly features.

So what it is the secret to its success?

We spoke to the hospital's Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Liak Teng Lit, who is a strong believer that simple ideas can make way for breakthrough solutions.

"Universal Design is about recreating the 'kampung spirit' ..."

said Mr Liak. He went on to explain that the concept of Universal Design is about creating an environment that fosters the spirit of caring for the person in your ‘village’. It’s about cultivating the thoughtfulness for the town square’s “ah pek” (colloquial term used to describe elderly males) whom you see every day as you walk to the market. It’s about creating informal ‘community spaces’ for people to interact with one another.

Mr Liak’s explanation brought back memories of our kampung days where members in the village knew everyone well and treated one another like a family. Then, there was a strong sense of community spirit. In some ways, Mr Liak’s explanation resonates with the typical definition of UD, which is “design for everyone". In practice, this translates into different groups of people such as the young, the elderly, and persons with limited mobility being able to enjoy the amenities in their living environment with their families and friends.

"A patient-centric environment"

Through KTPH, Mr Liak demonstrated that UD in building designs are more than just innovative designs and architectural skills. It is about creating an environment for the users, in this case, a patient-centric one for KTPH. Mr Liak’s vision and inspiration to create the ‘kampung’ formed the basis for creating an environment that is accessible, comforting, healing through considerate design.

"So exactly how UD-friendly is KTPH?"

  • Despite the scale of the building, KTPH uses colour cues to enable easy way- finding. Patient greeters are also on hand to help patients and visitors with any questions they may have.
  • Braille markings, rest areas with ample seating and child friendly provisions throughout the hospital caters to the needs of every visitor and patient to the hospital. Attention to details such as providing blankets and apples at the A&E, handphone charging stations and reading glasses enhances the patient experience.
  • Roof top gardens and lush greenery create a healingambience in the hospital, providing a conducive space for rest recuperation. Taking cues from 5-star hotels such as the Shangri-La Singapore, KTPH is both a hospital in a garden, and a garden in a hospital. To cater to the needs of patients in need of rehabilitation and elder care,, KTPH has also set up a one-stop concept shop, the ABLE Studio. It is a unique retail-cum-solution centre where caregivers can purchase products and gather information needed to enable independent living. It is also a test-bed for the creation and exchange of new ideas; a place where patients and caregivers can share their personal experiences and inspire others.

"Universal design –An expression of the “community thinking"

The short chat with Mr. Liak was inspiring and challenged us to rethink the significance of UD in our lives. UD is beyond the creation of clever designs. It is about the designer’s ability to see the importance of community ownership and translate it into his or her designs to promote human interaction. It’s about drawing design inspirations from compassion, consideration and mutual respect for the people and community.

The U.D. Pen

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