“One segment of commuters which has sought concessionary travel is the disabled community. Mr. Ee acknowledged that their needs have to be addressed over time” (All-Day Concessionary Travel, Lower Fares For Senior Citizens, Mr. Leong Wee Keat).
Against the background of a speedily ageing population, the introduction of all-day concessionary travel on public transportation and reduced ride fares for senior citizens is definitely a move in the right direction. Nevertheless, as astutely and rightly pointed out by Public Transport Council (PTC) chairman Mr. Gerard Ee – in the report “All-Day Concessionary Travel, Lower Fares For Senior Citizens” (August 6, 2011) by Mr. Leong Wee Keat – more has to be done to gradually provide the necessary financial assistance and relevant infrastructural assistance for the disabled community. The fact is that while our transportation mechanism has made day-to-day journeys relatively affordable – notwithstanding the recent one percent hike – and accessible for Singaporeans in general, measures targeted at the disabled have been considerably lamentable.
As a starting point, Mr. Ee’s proposition for the ministries and corresponding stakeholders to clearly define the population of the disabled community – psychological, physiological and other impairments – is well-intentioned. Not only would it be more convenient, after the study and definition, to implement respective strategies for different groups of disabled individuals, but also gather a critical mass for discourse, discussion.
The aforementioned can be done by gathering stakeholders from the disabled community, including but not limited to involved voluntary welfare organisations, government agencies, healthcare experts as well as representatives from the transport providers. Collectively, they would be able to identify the assorted areas for improvement, analyse case studies from overseas examples, and decide upon the appropriate concessionary plans to be undertaken. For instance, constructive inspiration can be drawn from our Japanese counterparts, who introduced medical disability passes and documents to ease the process for members to obtain concessionary passes from the transport operators. The benefits vary according to the disabilities, which have been carefully categorised.
Still, solving the conundrum of concessionary travel for the disabled community is but the tip of the iceberg; in terms of infrastructure, more concrete blueprints must be put in place to holistically enhance the travelling experience for these members, which may even benefit senior citizens. This can include specifically-designed train carriages for proper wheelchair or disability access, ergonomically-structured seats or areas designated upon buses, sound systems on buses to alert the visually-handicapped et cetera. Identifying problems and formulating solutions would be made more meaningful if feedback and comments are solicited from the disabled or elderly passengers themselves.
The impetus for change is upon us; and when given the opportunity, we must proactively do our utmost to help this segment of commuters, encouraging them to travel freely and be more active and increasingly productive in their daily lifestyles.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.