Bus rides an ordeal for mother of boy with cerebral palsy

Madam Angullia taking her three-year-old son Arshad (above) to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore on bus service 518. On arrival, the bus driver (left) lowers the ramp for her to push her son out on his paediatric wheelchair.
Madam Angullia taking her three-year-old son Arshad to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore on bus service 518. On arrival, the bus driver (above) lowers the ramp for her to push her son out on his paediatric wheelchair.ST PHOTOS: MARCUS TAN
Madam Angullia taking her three-year-old son Arshad (above) to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore on bus service 518. On arrival, the bus driver (left) lowers the ramp for her to push her son out on his paediatric wheelchair.
Madam Angullia taking her three-year-old son Arshad (above) to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore on bus service 518. On arrival, the bus driver lowers the ramp for her to push her son out on his paediatric wheelchair.ST PHOTOS: MARCUS TAN

Taking the bus is no simple matter for housewife Mutmainnabibi Angullia whenever she travels with her three-year-old son Arshad.

For the boy has cerebral palsy, a condition in which brain injury causes impairment of motor functions, and needs to sit in a pram.

The 37-year-old takes her son from their Tampines home to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore (CPAS) four times a week for an early intervention programme.

"Sometimes, when I wait for the bus, my heart is pounding. What type of driver would I get? Would I have to argue with him to let my son remain in the pram when we board the bus?" she said.

She estimated that for half of the bus rides she has taken with her son, the drivers had not let him board while staying in the pram, citing safety reasons.

She told The Sunday Times: "Once, I showed the driver my son's DDR (Developmental Disability Registry) card and he still did not allow us to board." This card is administered by the National Council of Social Service and indicates that the cardholder has a disability.

"I decided to just carry the pram, with my son in it, up the bus, even though the ramp had not been lowered. But the driver refused to continue the journey. I just sat in the bus angrily and he eventually took off," she said.

"When we alighted, I cried. Why is it so hard to go to school?"

She said it is unsafe, and hardly possible, for her to carry a folded pram in one hand and her son - who weighs 13kg and whose muscles can go stiff - in the other.

Frustrated, she wrote to SBS Transit in March. She also ordered a paediatric wheelchair in May, hoping that more drivers would let her son board "since it is a wheelchair and not a pram".

In July, SBS Transit e-mailed her, saying that arrangements had been made to let special needs children remain in prams on buses. She now has that e-mail printout when she takes the bus and has had to show it to drivers sometimes.

As more drivers get briefed on the arrangement, she said there have been no problems in recent weeks, at least with drivers of bus service 518 which she takes to CPAS.

Bus operator Go-Ahead took over the service last month but she has not had any problems.

However, she is hesitant about taking other bus services with her son to go to other places.

She said: "I'll take bus 518 with him several more times. If there're no problems, I'd be more confident and perhaps I'd try taking him to other places in the pram.

"I want him to go out more, not just to school. I want to let him feel the wind, hear noises from cars and have fun."

Priscilla Goy

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 02, 2016, with the headline 'Bus rides an ordeal for mother of boy with cerebral palsy'. Print Edition | Subscribe