Bus drivers get tips on helping disabled commuters

More than 400 Tower Transit bus drivers attended a disability awareness and sensitivity training session at Bulim Bus Depot yesterday. The talk was conducted by the Society for the Physically Disabled.
More than 400 Tower Transit bus drivers attended a disability awareness and sensitivity training session at Bulim Bus Depot yesterday. The talk was conducted by the Society for the Physically Disabled.ST PHOTO: PANG XUE QIANG

If you see a commuter with a golden retriever boarding a bus, look carefully before judging him for taking a pet on board. He may be visually impaired and aided by a guide dog, which is allowed on public transport.

Information on how to assist disabled people was presented to more than 400 Tower Transit bus drivers at a disability awareness and sensitivity training session at Bulim Bus Depot yesterday. The training, conducted by the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD), is compulsory for Tower Transit's 750 bus drivers.

Tower Transit, which won the first government bus tender in May last year, will operate about 26 services and a fleet of up to 500 buses progressively from May 29.

The session also showed bus drivers how to be sensitive to disabled passengers' needs. For instance, they were taught not to raise their voices at commuters who do not respond to their announcements as they may be hearing-impaired.

Ms Sharon Chuo, manager of advocacy and public education at the SPD, said it is a common misconception that disabilities are visible.

"On a bus, you may not know a person has a hearing impairment as hearing aids can be small or covered by a person's hair. It is important that a bus captain does not jump to the conclusion that a commuter is ignoring him by raising his voice. In this case, the bus captain can lightly tap his shoulder to get his attention instead."

Tower Transit managing director Andrew Bujtor said: "People who are less mobile and have disabilities should be able to freely board a bus without feeling like an inconvenience to others. That requires more than training in hard skills for our bus captains. It requires social awareness, and that's why the talk by SPD is so important."

Bus driver of 11 years Minitjacky Wong, 38, said: "I am more confident now if I have to approach a person with disabilities."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2016, with the headline 'Bus drivers get tips on helping disabled commuters'. Print Edition | Subscribe