First Wheelchair Race Modeled After TV Reality Show Helps Students Learn Challenges Faced By The Disabled

Singapore, 3 September 2006 – First wheelchair race modeled after TV reality show helps students learn challenges faced by the disabled

Brothers Andy and Eugene Peh are setting aside their engineering books on 3 September and taking their learning to the streets of Singapore. They are aiming to understand how wheelchair users get around and caregivers help, and will be experiencing firsthand the user-friendliness of physical environments for physically disabled people here.

They are one of close to 150 tertiary students involved in The Amazing Wheelchair Race held on 3 September. The Amazing Wheelchair Race is jointly organised by the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD), and students from Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE).

The Amazing Wheelchair Race sees 36 pairs of non-disabled students play the roles of wheelchair-user and caregiver, as they manoeuvre around the island in a race against time.

During the race, participants have to complete different tasks at five pit-stops. These tasks are everyday activities such as grocery shopping and borrowing books from a public library. In addition to these tasks, a scavenger hunt, a location-identification game and an assistive technology challenge are thrown in to spice up the race. NTU student volunteers are attached to each pair to ensure safety and fair play.

The Amazing Wheelchair Race is organised to enable participants to gain a better understanding of the challenges disabled people face and have to overcome.

Says Miss Lim Hui Zhen, project leader and third-year NTU student, “This project is a fun yet meaningful way to raise the awareness of the challenges faced by wheelchair-users as they go about their daily lives. We hope this project will encourage greater understanding of and integration with people with physical disabilities as they, like us, are members of our society.”

To 24-year-old Jan Lee, diagnosed with transverse myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord), the event helps to bridge understanding between non-disabled people for people with physical disabilities. “Many people do not realise the difficulties that disabled people face the moment they step out of their houses. This event is meaningful in that they get to literally step into the shoes of disabled people and live a bit of their lives. In that way they get to understand us and know the challenges we face everyday,” said Mr Lee, an Accountancy student from NTU’s Nanyang Business School and an Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation-SPD Scholar.

Andy Peh and Eugene Peh are also winners of The Amazing Wheelchair Race. “Through this race, we got to experience what wheelchair users experienced daily. I felt the challenges were very meaningful. The harder challenges were borrowing books at the library, which required a lot of orientating of the wheelchair, said Andy Peh.

To ensure a successful and smooth-running event, the organisers worked closely with various authorities and organisations like CapitaLand, SBS Transit Ltd, SMRT Corporation Ltd, National Library Board of Singapore and Giant Hypermarket.

“SBS Transit is a strong proponent of providing safe and affordable transport for all commuters – able or disabled. By using wheelchairs to get around our rail network, participants of the race will be able to better appreciate how the disabled get around and hopefully, be more accommodating of their needs,” said Ms Tammy Tan, SBS Transit Ltd’s Director, Corporate Communications.