New fleet of specially retrofitted vehicles for the disabled goes on the road

SINGAPORE - More people with disabilities can now benefit from kerb-to-kerb transport from their homes to their workplaces or special education schools. A new fleet of 11 specially retrofitted vans was launched by the Handicaps Welfare Association (HWA) on Saturday.

These have hydraulic lifts, which can raise wheelchair users aboard the van, and systems that put a brake on wheelchairs when vehicles are on the move. They also have high roofs to fit wheelchairs with high backs.

The 10 Toyota Hiace models and one Toyota Coaster add to HWA's current fleet of 23 vehicles, and expand its special needs transport service which started in 1980.

The purchase and retrofitting of the new vehicles was funded by the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Care and Share Movement, led by Community Chest, in which eligible donations are matched dollar for dollar by the Government.

About $140 million of government grants for some 180 welfare organisations have been approved. Of this, about $1 million was used to defray the costs of the new fleet. It costs about $140,000 to buy and retrofit each vehicle.

HWA president Edmund Wan said: "The donation of these specially adapted vehicles is very timely to meet the increasing needs of people with disabilities... as public transport is not equipped to support their needs."

HWA executive director Subrata Banerjee said the current fleet is used mainly to take old people to hospital and rehabilitation visits, while the new one allows HWA to help more young people go to work or school.

goyshiyi@sph.com.sg