Snaps from Beijing, Sydney & a bit of Britannia (Part 1)

by Alvan Yap

At first, I wanted to title this post “Doing the Touristy Thingies in Beijing and Sydney”, but most readers would have reacted like I would: “Another tedious happy-snappy blog post with an endless scroll of holiday selfies? Lemmeoutofhere!”

Nevertheless, I confess I could barely restrain myself from doing exactly that. (Who doesn’t want to look at my pretty pictures?) But you’ll be glad to know I found the willpower to.

On overseas trips late last year, I spotted some unusual, interesting or noteworthy accessible facilities which I’m glad to share with you. DPA President Nicholas Aw also contributed one, all the way from Britain.

Here comes the photos and the commentary.

Going Places Down Under!
We have certain notions of Australia. Or at least I have. The people there are supposed to be the warm and friendly and easygoing and helpful sort who say things like “G’day, mate!” to all and sundry. And the stereotypes, this time, are largely true. (Maybe I’ll edge a bit on the ‘easygoing’ part – my salted eggs were confiscated at the Sydney airport customs.)

But I’m sure it won’t be a surprise to anyone if I say Australia is some way ahead of Singapore when it comes to disability rights and accessibility. Examples abound.

Besides the obvious and ‘standard’ ramps and lifts, let’s look at some which are different from (better than?) Singapore’s, or which are not available here.

ET at the movies
First up, there’s this ET-like contraption you can request for at the cineplex. It consists of a roundish base which is screwed into the cup holder and a flexible neck ending in a rectangular screen. Wirelessly synced to the screen are the subtitles/captions of the movie – and you guessed it, this is for deaf and hard-of-hearing movie goers. Find out more about CaptiView here.

A group of four people holding the CaptiView device at the cineplex

My friends and I with the CaptiView devices. (One of them is not deaf. Guess who?)

Fold up, give way
Like our buses – well, most of them – Sydney buses are wheelchair friendly. The design is quite nifty though. When there is no wheelchair on board, the space is taken up by seats which can be folded down.

Photo of two bus seats which can be folded up to accommodate a wheelchair. One is not folded and one is partially folded.

These bus seats can be folded up to accommodate a wheelchair.

Wide open to all
The wider fare gates at the subway stations are meant for.. deep breath.. wheelchair users, people with walking sticks/canes, guide dogs, those lugging bulky lugguage, families with young kids, prams/strollers, pregnant women and bicycles. (Eh, I assume it means fold-up bikes.)

How do we know? The sticker says so!

As in the text

A sticker for details, or should that be stickler?

Loops here and there
Induction loops which work with hearing aids to deliver speech/sounds directly to the hearing aids (instead of through the air) can be found at the subway stations and trains, and in other public places. (While in Singapore, I’ve never come across any.)

A row of signs and notices, one of which indicates availability of loop system for hearing aid users on a wall panel

That, at the extreme left, is the universal symbol for those with deafness or hearing loss. The “T” indicates T-coil loop system is available.

Braille for emergency intercom
Braille information is located right above an intercom for emergency calls.

Photos shows Braille sign above an emergency intercom system

Especially for the blind. The Braille, that is, not the intercom (which is for everyone)

Meeting the luminous Dawn
And of course, last but not least, I got to meet Ms Dawn-Joy Leong in Sydney. Dawn, a Singaporean who is doing her PhD in a university there, has autism and a service dog Lucy – the very first one in the university. She is also an artist and a disability advocate. You can read more about her here.

Photo of five people standing in front of a cafe, including Dawn the lady who is in the centre

A pleasure to meet Dawn (in bright pink) and her service dog, Lucy (not in photo)

Read Part 2 “Buying into the 中国梦 (China Dream)” here!

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