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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Disabled want more help getting around

SINGAPORE - Squeezing into a packed train and getting off at the right bus stop may be routine for many.
The Straits Times - September 23, 2013
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Disabled want more help getting around

But it becomes a trial for wheelchair users and those who are blind. And those are just two of the many reasons why public transport is often cited by disabled persons as their biggest bugbear. Wheelchair users whom The Straits Times spoke to said that it is especially hard for them to get onto trains during peak periods.

And while many buses are wheelchair-friendly, passengers who are blind face other difficulties, such as not knowing which is the next stop as there is no announcement like the ones in trains.

Ms Kuah Chai Yoke, who is partially blind, said: "I've alighted at the wrong stop before at night as I can't see when it is dark. It will be better if stops are announced."

The 28-year-old, who is unemployed, takes buses from her home in the Duxton area to the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) in Tiong Bahru, where she undergoes vocational training daily. The deaf have their own challenges, like not being aware of what is going on during train delays because of the lack of visual information on board.

Disabled People's Association (DPA) president Nicholas Aw said the reason most disabled people point to public transport as their biggest gripe is because "most of them rely on it to get around" but it can be "challenging".

Freelance videographer Tan Keng Ying, 48, who is deaf, said that she felt "anxious and frustrated" when one of the platforms at the train station was closed temporarily due to an accident. She had no clue where to take her train as she could not see any signs telling her where to go and she could not find someone to help her.

Public transport operators SBS Transit and SMRT said that staff are trained to help the disabled, while announcements during train delays and disruptions are sent out through text on electronic signboards. An SMRT spokesman said that it updates its Twitter feed.

Still, Singapore Association for the Deaf president Low Wong Kein believes better communication and clearer display of information in public places are needed. Some with disabilities have been proactive in giving feedback to the authorities and businesses to improve the situation.

Mr Patrick Ang, who works as a telephone operator for a taxi company, said he regularly contacts SMRT to update the operator on how it is like on the ground for wheelchair users like himself.

The 39-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, said: "There is a marked improvement in the number of wheelchair-accessible bus services. Singaporeans' attitudes towards us have changed, but I hope the public can be more understanding and give way more."

Last Monday, DPA launched a six-week public campaign to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by the disabled, who make up 3 per cent of the population here, in getting around.

Said an SPD spokesman: "Singaporeans today are generally more understanding and accepting of people with disabilities, but more can be done... When in doubt, ask the person with disability if he needs help and how he wants to be assisted."

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