Do more to support commuters with mobility issues

The Disabled People's Association (DPA) appreciates the well-meaning sentiments behind Ms Rachel Tan Wee Cho's letter (Set aside special area for wheelchairs to enter trains; Oct 16).

The DPA is especially happy to hear that members of the public supported the man who encountered difficulties when trying to board the train. This is not always the case.

Although Singapore has one of the most wheelchair-accessible train systems in the world, technical issues that affect persons with disabilities continue to occur.

Gaps between the trains and platforms, and lift breakdowns cause obstacles and delays to commuters who use wheelchairs.

The gaps between trains and platforms particularly affect motorised wheelchair users, whose wheelchairs tend to have smaller wheels than manual wheelchairs.

The DPA hopes that SMRT notes the issue at MRT stations, and comes up with a way to better align the platform with the trains.

If that is not possible, SMRT should implement a safe process for assisting wheelchair users or any other persons who might have difficulty with the alignment issue.

Although SMRT has stewards to assist those with mobility needs to board trains at interchange stations during peak hours, this does not deal with the challenges faced by those commuters during the rest of the day and throughout their journey.

Whatever solution is proposed, it should not lead to "priority or special assistance cabins", as these will segregate those who have mobility needs from the rest of the commuters. In addition, such a move might create overcrowding in those cabins.

Much work has been done to encourage an inclusive mindset, where we give way to those who have mobility needs and support them if they ask for assistance.

Priority seating in trains and signage asking people to give way are ways to encourage civic-mindedness, but these are often ignored.

There is still work to be done to have a truly inclusive society, and speaking up and stepping in to help when we see a person with a disability who has a problem is a move in the right direction.

Marissa Lee Medjeral-Mills (Dr)

Executive Director

Disabled People's Association

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2017, with the headline Do more to support commuters with mobility issues. Subscribe