The Disabled People’s Association (DPA) welcomes the announcement of transport concessions for persons with disabilities.
According to news reports, the concessions consists of a 25% discount off adult fares, fare capping for distances travelled beyond 7.2km, and a $60-per-month concession pass with unlimited bus and train rides. This is a positive and much-awaited move which finally fulfils the disability community’s long-standing request for public transport concessions, as per the practice in many other countries.
Are all persons with disability included?
It is pertinent to note that the Public Transport Council and media reports have stated that about 50,000 persons with disabilities are expected to benefit from the concessions. However, the population of Singapore’s disability community is estimated to be almost double that at about 97,200, of whom about 77,200 are aged 18 and over (source: Enabling Masterplan 2012-2016).
According to the Ministry of Transport and SG Enable, certain disability groups – those with visual impairment, hearing impairment, autism, physical disabilities and intellectual disabilities – are automatically eligible for the concessions as long as they were from special education schools or are members of their respective disability VWOs, and that they will be informed via letter.
Regarding this point, DPA wishes to reiterate our stance: We strongly feel that all persons with recognised disabilities – whether physical, sensory, intellectual, neurological or mental – should be eligible for subsidised fares.
For those who are not 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.
Concessions for taxi fares
On a related note, DPA would like to raise the issue of transport concessions for people with physical disabilities – usually those with more severe forms of disability – who require the use of wheelchair-accessible taxis to travel around, as taking the bus or train poses safety and logistical challenges for them.
There are currently two programmes – LTA Cares Fund (run by SG Enable) and Handicare Cab Scheme (run by Handicaps Welfare Association) – which provide concessions for those with mobility challenges who need to take taxis. But the criteria of these schemes, at $1,500 and $700 per capita household income respectively, are so strict that many persons with disabilities do not qualify for any subsidy at all. Furthermore, the Handicare Cab Scheme only subsidises the taxi booking fee and is limited to CityCab taxis.
Clearly, the two schemes are too limited in scope – they exclude a large proportion of those who need taxis to get around, but are unable to afford the taxi fares (which are much higher than for buses and trains). As such, DPA would like to urge for a more comprehensive and generous transport concession – similar to that for buses and trains – for this specific group which needs to hire taxis to travel around for work or to attend school.
Taking the holistic view
Lastly, DPA would like to highlight that affordable transport fares is merely one factor, albeit an important one, in determining whether persons with physical disabilities can truly access public transportation and enjoy independent travel.
We have had feedback from wheelchair users of bus captains refusing to stop for them, of being squeezed out of lifts by non-disabled commuters at MRT stations, and also of the insufficient number of wheelchair-accessible taxis and ensuing difficulty in hiring them.
Hence we urge transport providers to take steps to ensure there are enough wheelchair-accessible taxis to meet the needs of the disability community, and that drivers and staff are aware of and trained to cater to their needs when using taxis, buses and trains.
Once again, we applaud the newly announced transport concessions. We also look forward to further measures to plug the existing gaps in our national transport system and make it a truly inclusive one.
DPA welcomes suggestions and comments from persons with disabilities and their caregivers on this issue. Please email your feedback to email@example.com.