Straits Times Forum, 20 January 2014 (print edition)
THE Disabled People’s Association (DPA) welcomes the announcement of transport concessions for people with disabilities (“Transport fare hike offset by slew of concessions”; last Friday).
This is a positive and much-awaited move which finally fulfils the disability community’s longstanding request for transport concessions, as per the practice in many other countries.
The Public Transport Council and media reports have stated that about 50,000 people with disabilities are expected to benefit from the concessions.
However, Singapore’s disability community is estimated to number almost double that, at about 97,200, of whom about 77,200 are aged 18 and above.
This disparity raises the question of which disability groups are not covered and why.
The DPA strongly urges that all people with recognised disabilities – physical, sensory, intellectual, neurological or mental – be made eligible for subsidised fares.
For those who are not deemed to be automatically eligible and need to apply for the concession, the verification of their status and processing of their applications should be accessible, convenient and timely.
There is also the issue of transport concessions for people with more severe physical disabilities who need to hire wheelchair-accessible taxis to travel to school or for work. This is because taking the bus or train poses safety and logistical challenges.
Currently, two programmes – the LTA Cares Fund and Handicare Cab Scheme (which subsidises only the taxi booking fee) – provide concessions for them.
But the criteria of net per capita household income of less than $1,500 and $700 respectively are so strict that a large proportion are unlikely to qualify for any subsidy. As a result, many struggle to afford taxi fares.
The DPA would like to see more comprehensive and generous transport concessions – similar to those for buses and trains – for this specific group.
Lastly, affordable transport fares are merely one factor, albeit an important one, in determining whether our national transport system is truly inclusive of people with physical disabilities.
We have had feedback from wheelchair users about bus drivers refusing to stop for them, of being squeezed out of lifts by non-disabled commuters at MRT stations, and of insufficient wheelchair-accessible taxis as well as booking difficulties.
The DPA urges the transport authorities and providers to review these issues and take further measures to plug the existing gaps.
Disabled People’s Association