Monday, October 22, 2012

Experiencing a wheelchair-accessible lifestyle.

No, I'm not pulling a Kim Kardashian and comparing my having a child in a stroller, to knowing what it's like to live day-to-day in a wheelchair. However, my car-less lifestyle in Singapore, is quickly making me realize how difficult daily life can be for people in wheelchairs, and I empathize with them.

In Minnesota, I have a vehicle, but in Singapore I have my two feet, a 14-month-old, and a stroller. Therefore, we need to follow the wheelchair-accessible signs everywhere we go (a stroller isn't going to walk itself up a flight of stairs). Linna and I walk (she "strolls") everywhere, and when we need to go a distance, we take the SMRT or a taxi. I have yet to get on a bus, as you need to fold up your stroller when you board, and I'm not sure how I'd do that by myself. It's unbelievable how many buses don't have lifts for people in wheelchairs, how many public places don't have wheelchair-accessible signs clearly marked, and how far "out of the way" people have to go using these wheelchair accessible routes. According to the SBS Transit website (they own 75% of the scheduled bus market share in Singapore, with 3,000 buses), to date they "run 130 wheelchair accessible bus services". SBT Transit says that by the end of 2012, they would have 2,050 wheelchair accessible buses, and all will be wheelchair accessible by 2023.
When I am on my own with Linna, we can't use escalators, so we have to look for elevators (they call them "lifts" in Singapore). AJ and I have taken Linna on an escalator when she's strapped into the stroller in "urgent" circumstances, but people in wheelchairs don't have this luxury. When I say "forced" to use the escalators, I mean that there were too many able-bodied people using the elevators. I never really noticed it in Minnesota, but people in Singapore literally push their way in front of other people waiting for elevators... even in front of those people waiting in wheelchairs. I wonder if people realize that the people they are "pushing" in front of don't have the luxury of using the escalator, or if those people are just plain rude!

"Parents of the Year" taking our 14-month-old on
the escalator, as there were too many "able-bodied"
people waiting in line for the elevator/lift. So dangerous!


The other day, Linna and I were waiting to get off a train behind an older woman in a wheelchair. When the doors opened for us exit, the people waiting to get on the train literally pushed their way onto the train, before passengers could safely exit. I was SHOCKED! They almost trampled over the woman in the wheelchair, to ensure that they got a spot on the train. The train wasn't even crowded, so the people outside the train could have CLEARLY waited the extra five seconds to let this woman (and everyone else) off the train, and I guarantee they would have all gotten a comfortable spot on the train. Linna and I then walked to the elevator, and as we were waiting, the woman in the wheelchair from the train, came and waited in line along with us. I gestured for her to come in front of us to wait for the elevator. As we were waiting, two able-bodied people (a man and a woman) who weren't carrying anything heavy, didn't look ill, pregnant, etc., walked right in front of the woman in the wheelchair. At this point I had enough and looked at them both and said, "EXCUSE ME", and made it clear that this woman and myself were getting on the elevator before them. We had been in line LONG before they had been.

While discussing these situations with some of my "mom friends" at the pool today, one mentioned the Kiasu attitude of many Singaporeans. Kiasu means "fear of losing", and this attitude/lifestyle was actually encouraged by the Singaporean Government through the early 1970's. The Government said that they would make a success of Singapore through hard work, and that if you wanted to get ahead, it was up to you. Today, this is still the attitude of many Singaporeans. On numerous occasions I've found that some people will actually keep walking straight toward you on a narrow sidewalk, expecting YOU to get out of THEIR way. In one way I look at this as "I am a visitor in their country, and I should adhere to their ways". But on the other hand, there is such thing as common courtesy, and this lifestyle is just plain RUDE! It's not the "Minnesota Nice" that I'm used to, and in my opinion, "Minnesota Nice" goes a long way.

I'm sure that in the past, I have been one of "those people", and I really regret if I was ever "that person" in one of these situations. It's hard to empathize with people until you've walked a mile in their shoes. Living in Singapore has fortunately opened my eyes to what people in wheelchairs go through day-to-day. Even though this was only a glimpse, it's enough for me to change my ways. Not everyone has two working legs, or able to get around as easily as I can.

Just something to think about.

7 comments:

  1. Welcome to Spore - land of contradictions. I blog abt this http://gintai.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/barriers-to-obstruct-the-handicapped/

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  2. Nice post. Good read:) Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Most of the Singaporeans I know are well-mannered. Keep in mind that about 50% of the population aren't Singaporeans or Permanent Residents.

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  4. Absolutely! I have meet SO many wonderful, well-mannered Singaporeans, which makes me love living here! In any country you'll have those "pushy" people, and it's those people who make it FRUSTRATING to get around.

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  5. Hi, of course this post is genuinely fastidious and I have learned lot of things from it about blogging. thanks.
    Disabled access

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  6. Wheelchairs really help the disabled move around a bit better. In fact, some even use wheelchairs as part of a sport! Anyway, people who use this testament to ingenuity helped them to continue on with their lives with more purpose. In addition to that, a disabled person can actually file for social security disability insurance to make his life even better.

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