Improved Vehicles Make Safer Travelling for People with Physical Disabilities

Singapore, 28 May 2004 – Since being diagnosed with cervical ependynoma (spinal tumour) in January 2001, traveling has been a problem for Mr Razali Bin Supari. As a wheelchair user, he is unable to use public transport. His options are limited to taxis or specially-adapted vehicles, both to him costly modes of transport.

This is a problem faced by many people with physical disabilities, in particular wheelchair users and those who have difficulty keeping stable when mobile. The inaccessibility of public buses as well as its propensity to sudden jerks render this option unsuitable as a mode of transport for them.

The Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) has worked in partnership with Cycle & Carriage Industries to develop a specially-adapted vehicle with improved features, to ferry its beneficiaries to and from its premises.

The features include an automatic hydraulic lift that can be operated remotely as well as by the user, giving the user greater independence. Instead of the parallel tracks traditionally used in specially-adapted vehicles, a floor-anchored safety device was recommended for wheelchairs. This tie-down feature has previously only been used in vehicles carrying loose cargo. Aside from affording greater capacity,

this feature gives greater comfort by allowing flexibility in the positioning of wheelchairs. Wheelchairs secured on parallel tracks can only face forwards or backwards. Individual foldable seats with arm rest help to save space as well as offer greater stability for passengers.

Both organizations put their heads together and deliberated over the details of the buses for three months before settling on the features. It took a further three weeks for the retrofitting before the vehicles finally rolled out of the workshop.

The Society acquired two 13-seater buses from Cycle & Carriage incorporating the improved features on 28 May 2004 in an official presentation ceremony. The buses were replacements for the Society’s old vehicles and were made possible through a donation by the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, as well as the funds raised through a climbing expedition by avid mountain climbers Mr David Lim and Mr Wong Ting Sern. Both mountaineers are physically disabled. Four schools – CHLJ Kellock, Henry Park Primary School, Marsiling Secondary School and Seng Kang Secondary School – supported the Expedition by raising funds for the purchase of one vehicle.

Each vehicle costs $75,920 and can take up to 13 mobile passengers (non-wheelchair users), or six wheelchair users with five mobile passengers. One of the vehicles will be used to provide transport for people with physical disabilities who need therapy services at the Society’s Rehabilitation Centre. The other is slated to be used to ferry those beneficiaries who come to the SPD Ability Centre daily for its Day Activity Centre and sheltered workshops.

Over 200 people with physical disabilities visit the SPD Ability Centre daily. To adequately serve those unable to take public transport, an average of more than 1,300 trips a month are made by the Society’s fleet of eight specially adapted vehicles and seven contracted buses.

“The new vehicle is more spacious and comfortable. I feel more secure when I’m in the vehicle,” said Mr Razali the first time he got on the bus.

“Our 40 years of working with people with physical disabilities has been vital in helping us to understand their needs. Transport is an important aspect and thanks to our sponsors and supporters, we are able to further improve in our service provision for people with physical disabilities in this area,” said Mr Koh Nai Teck, President of SPD.

“When we heard of the SPD’s intentions, we were very eager to produce a vehicle to help people with physical disabilities. We are very glad to be able to do our part in the community,” said Mr Patrick Tan, Manager – Fleet/Tender of Cycle & Carriage Industries Pte Limited.