Special Feature - Perspective of a Young Volunteer: Wheelchair Accessible Singapore. How true is that?
Most cities are unfriendly towards people who are wheelchair service users or have physical impairments. That being said, Singapore has been touted as one of the most wheelchair accessible cities in Asia. But, how true is that?
With increasing efforts to brand herself as an inclusive society, Singapore has seen major alterations being made to her urban cosmopolitan environment. These alterations include ramps, slopes to connect sheltered pavements, and also lifts in most overhead bridges and buildings.
Seeing all of these improvements, we are definitely moving in the right direction as our rapidly ageing population only point to the ever increasing cruciality of these features. It is projected that the elderly population, aged 65 and above, would take up more than 47% by 2050. Moreover, the bigger issue with aging lies with the fact that the elderly’s functional abilities tend to deteriorate over the later years. This means that neighbourhoods have to be constantly adapted to ensure resources in the community remain accessible.
Sure, there may be other resources such as vocational training, job placement and rehabilitation services available for these wheelchair service users. It seems as though they are more active in the public and social sphere.
But, is this truly the case?
Many wheelchair service users face multiple obstacles in completing routine tasks like getting to work or grocery shopping. For the former, commuting during peak hours is especially challenging with the rushing crowds. Furthermore, our public infrastructure is not helping. Gaps found along train platforms can become safety hazards, with already many incidences of users falling prey to these little nuances.
“That is not the worst part. It is when people look at us because we are delaying their time, makes me feel guilty for being like this,” mentioned a wheelchair service user.
Judgmental looks from crowds can also result in these users having less confidence in manoeuvring around community and social spaces. This may in turn see them isolating themselves from the community, posing even greater threats to their physical and mental health.
If you thought that sounded miserable, senior wheelchair service users may face double the challenges, with less finances to cope and much less their physical capacity to independently travel out of their homes.
“If I have the chance to join them [my friends] to go for the activities, I would go. But the bus catered does not allow me to join them, and it is expensive for them to bring me along,” said a senior wheelchair service user.
Despite legacy-building and active aging being preached often in the public arena, many of them still lack the opportunity to be engaged due to limitations in their physical abilities as well as issues with transportation. As most of them require special transportation, it only increases the cost of activities, making it a challenge for people in the community who support these seniors.
People always feel that one man’s action is worth nothing. As cliche as it is, simple actions go a long way. Now that you know more about the challenges faced by wheelchair service users, you can do something more than just knowing.
See a bump on the road and a wheelchair user behind you? Doesn’t hurt to say a small ‘careful!’ does it?
Greeted with a ramp and a flight of stairs, why not take the latter? Help create less congestion on ramps so wheelchair users have an easier time on them.
In the lift and you see a wheelchair service user trying his best to manoeuvre his wheelchair in. Instead of giving the ‘look’, smile and hold the lift, or say ‘don’t worry uncle, take your time’, I’m sure he’ll feel a lot better.
Remember, it’s all these small actions that can make the lives of these wheelchair service users a whole lot better. As Mother Teresa most notably said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Great love, great love for everyone around us. These wheelchair service users are no different from us, they don’t deserve to be judged. Really, not at all. For Singapore to truly label herself an inclusive society, we can’t possibly always rely on top down approaches. You and I, the common man, can and must do something.
On another note, if you find yourself with free time, why not look for volunteering opportunities? Offering your services, such as being a befriender, can ease the workload of those who plan activities for these wheelchair service users, making the experience more enjoyable for everyone. Even donating as little as $40 would help to bring a senior out to be engaged with their peers.
If you would like to support seniors with mobility issues, click HERE!