Children with cerebral palsy, one of the most common congenital disorders, are often confined to a wheelchair, although they will initially start out in a stroller.
With the tilt in its backrest, the stroller is often more comfortable for the child, who, because of the weakness in his trunk muscles, has difficulty sitting independently in an upright position. The stroller also tends to be lighter and less unwieldy than a wheelchair.
However, bus regulations require that all strollers be folded when placed on board public buses. Understandably, this is for safety considerations, such as when a bus brakes suddenly.
Nevertheless, this requirement poses a substantial difficulty for the caregiver, as he or she has to carefully remove the child and then adroitly fold and place the stroller in a secure position.
In the meantime, other passengers will have to wait, sometimes impatiently, for their journey to continue as the bus captain will not drive off until the stroller is folded away.
During disembarkation, the entire process will be reversed.
Given these day-to-day challenges, could a harness be provided to help secure the open stroller? Or could the bus driver assist by helping the child in and out of the stroller?
Perhaps the driver could also be instructed to drive more defensively when persons with disabilities are on board.
Given the crippling nature of cerebral palsy and the tremendous effort needed to help these children integrate into society, one would be tempted to just give up.
Yet, encouragingly, there are parents and caregivers who willingly embrace the challenge, and are trying their best to take their children out rather than confine them within the home.
I hope that both SBS Transit and SMRT can support their efforts by coming up with ways to help these children and their families.
Daniel Ng Peng Keat (Dr)