Friday 11 November 2011

London cab operations to be extended

Channel News Asia, 11 Nov 2011

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has agreed to work with SMRT to extend the operation of its London cabs for another year.

Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), Mr Chan Chun Sing, announced this at the LivEnabled Conference 2011 on Thursday.

SMRT had previously decided to phase out its London cabs when its license expires next year.

The move had raised concerns from wheelchair-bound commuters especially those who use high-backed or motorised wheelchairs. They rely heavily on London cabs to travel around. 

Mr Chan said that the temporary extension will provide time for long-term solutions to be discussed with various stakeholders.

"The larger issue is how we provide affordable and accessible transportation services for a certain group of disabled people. Increasingly, this group isn't the people with the normal wheelchairs, they are the ones with the high-backed wheelchairs.

"Some of the previous cabs and vans may not be able to accommodate them. What we need to do going forward is to have a holistic look at both the numbers that are required and the kind of capacity for the various modes of transport as well.

"The Enabling Masterplan will look into this and hopefully within the next two to three months, we'll have a more holistic assessment of the needs in this sector and then we can plan for the longer term."

Mr Chan added that the temporary extension will allow them time to work through the solutions with various service providers, the wheelchair-bound commuters and other organisations who want to meet the needs of the social.

At the event, Mr Chan also announced more initiatives to help the elderly and the disabled.

These include opening three more Senior Service Centres by March next year, and making Day Care Centres which are funded by the Ministry to be more dementia friendly.

This comes after a positive response from the pilot project ECON Health and Wellness Centre which is located at the Golden Jasmine Studio Apartments, and a successful pilot project at three Day Care Centres.

Mr Chan also announced that subtitles will be made available on programmes of national significance, like the National Day Rally, as early as next year.

MCYS, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) and the Media Development Authority (MDA) came to the decision after repeated requests for subtitles by the hearing impaired community.

New vehicle for the wheelchair-bound
Modified Renault Kangoo has hydraulic ramp and can fit any wheelchair
By Maria Almenoar, The Straits Times, 19 Nov 2011

After her husband was seriously injured in a fall at their home three years ago, Madam Yeo Siok Peng searched for a vehicle to ferry him around.

She was fed up with having to rely on non-emergency ambulances for her husband's almost daily hospital visits. They were difficult to book, inconvenient and dirty, she said.

'We would pay for a two-way trip but sometimes when we needed the ride back, they wouldn't have a vehicle available. Once we waited almost two hours for them to pick us up from the hospital. It became unbearable for my husband,' said the 56-year-old former civil servant.

Her 58-year-old husband - whom she did not wish to identify by name - is a former business consultant, and the couple have two grown-up children.

He is 1.78m tall, or 1.4m when seated, and his injuries mean he has to be wheeled in a high-back wheelchair that does not fit in most vehicles.

Madam Yeo decided to sell both the family cars and buy one that could fit her husband. However, the numerous dealerships and parallel importers she approached said they could not help her.

She then contacted Wearnes Automotive, the exclusive dealer for Renault, after she remembered seeing a Renault Kangoo that looked like it had the dimensions to fit her husband in his wheelchair.

The Kangoo was sold here as a goods vehicle, but those modified for wheelchairs were available only in Europe.

After a year of talks with the company, a modified Kangoo was imported from France for Madam Yeo, who paid about $100,000. It can fit four able-bodied passengers and a wheelchair-bound commuter in any type of wheelchair.

The automatic transmission, 1.6-litre vehicle has a hydraulic ramp, and the back lowers to the ground so caregivers can push the wheelchair-bound passenger in. There are also five anchor points to keep the wheelchair securely fastened.

Madam Yeo was the first owner of a modified Kangoo here.

'If there's an emergency, I just bundle him into the car and speed off to the hospital. I don't have to worry about trying to call an ambulance,' she said, adding that there were also opportunities now to take her husband out for leisure activities.

Wearnes is now bringing in a handful of these cars every month. They cost $144,000 each, including the certificate of entitlement. It has sold three more since Madam Yeo bought the first one.

A modified Kangoo will be on show at the LivEnabled event organised by the Centre for Enabled Living. The event, which is being held today and tomorrow at the Singapore Expo, showcases products and services for those with special needs. Admission is free.

Wearnes will donate $1,000 to the Handicaps Welfare Association for every car sold at the event. It also has plans to set up a transport service for wheelchair-bound commuters using a fleet of modified Kangoos. This will be welcome news for wheelchair-bound commuters, who were recently concerned about plans by taxi operator SMRT to retire its fleet of London cabs by next March, when their licences were due to expire.

After numerous complaints, the Government agreed last week to extend the road life of these cabs for another year. 

Ways for Govt and operators to help disabled commuters
WE FIRMLY support the appeal by Madam Tan Gek Khee ('The disabled need more help'; Tuesday) for better enforcement by transport operators to ensure wheelchair users, or commuters using other travel-aid equipment, get to use the cabins reserved for them.

Commuters should also respect the need for priority seating in buses and trains by those for whom such spaces are designed to serve, such as the disabled, the elderly and expectant mothers.

We applaud the considered approach of transport correspondent Maria Almenoar ('Helping hand for disabled on the go'; Nov 3) who recognised the limitations of the existing provisions which the authorities repeatedly referred to.

We support the article's view that the Transport Ministry should be the lead agency in tackling the commuting challenge faced by the disabled.

Also, public transport operators have not responded positively to appeals for concessionary travel for disabled commuters beyond schemes for disabled children, students and seniors.

Other problems include insufficient space in accessible toilets, particularly for users on motorised wheelchairs and those who rely on caregivers to help in the transfer; lack of effective colour contrast of tactile guides at MRT stations and lack of tactile guides to lead the blind and partially sighted to bus stops.
Nicholas Aw
Disabled People's Association
ST Forum, 12 Nov 2011

London cab extension
'The reprieve is a relief to wheelchair commuters and drivers - the unsung heroes.'
MS JUNE HOO: 'I applaud Thursday's announcement by Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing that the London cab service will get an extension while government agencies and SMRT work out viable solutions for wheelchair commuters in the longer term ('London cabs get a one-year reprieve'; yesterday). The reprieve is a relief to wheelchair commuters and London cab drivers - the unsung heroes - who needed to know if they should look for another job or hold on. The one-year extension provides the opportunity for a considered review and solutions that will benefit all concerned parties. I thank The Straits Times and transport correspondent Maria Almenoar for hearing us out and reporting our plight.'
ST Forum, 12 Nov 2011

The disabled need more help
I AM 62 and use a handicap mobility scooter. MRT trains have a cabin designated for the disabled that I use. However, many able-bodied passengers join the queue to enter the cabin despite the availability of other cabins.

They often stand in front of me and other wheelchair-users, causing us unnecessary anxiety about entering the cabin before the door closes because they take their time to stroll in. The station ambassadors at SMRT- and SBS Transit-operated lines do not help solve our predicament.

Once inside, there is often very little space. I must park near the train doors as the space allocated for wheelchairs is often taken up by able-bodied passengers. Again, the train ambassadors are of little help as they stroll past us without addressing the issue.

The North-South Line is also not wheelchair-friendly. The gap between the platform doors and the train is too big for wheelchairs with small wheels to negotiate smoothly.

Buses are the worst. While there has been an increase in wheelchair-accessible buses, I often have to wait for close to an hour before one arrives.

When they do, the drivers are not trained for basic assistance such as positioning the platform near the bus stop. It typically takes them close to 20 minutes just to help me board.

Operators should enlarge the disabled-user sign at train platforms because some passengers are genuinely ignorant of cabins reserved for the disabled.

Train drivers and ambassadors must also help the disabled. And operators should reduce the gap between the platform doors and train, at least in the cabin for the disabled.

Finally, educate commuters to give way to the disabled.
Tan Gek Khee (Madam), ST Forum, 8 Nov 2011


No comments:

Post a Comment