A weekend jaunt to Pulau Ubin is always a great way to experience the rustic side of Singapore and immerse in the outdoors, with sights such as Check Jawa. For many, the most inconvenient thing would probably be travelling to Changi Village and hopping on a bum boat. But for those with physical handicaps, the challenge begins with getting out of the house.
But a coming event called Wheels At Ubin is hoping to highlight issues of accessible travel by taking 100 wheelchair users to the island on June 26.
Those who aren’t physically handicapped take a lot of things for granted, said Wheels At Ubin co-founder Dennis Quek. “In 2010, I met a guy in a wheelchair who asked for help finding a washroom in Bukit Merah. That incident, helping him with the most private yet basic thing, was such an eye-opening experience,” said Quek. It eventually led to him and his friends coming up with the idea for the Pulau Ubin trip in April, when the island’s fate was a hot topic during the Budget debates.
Coming up with the idea was one thing, planning for it was another. “The most important issue was getting the wheelchair users across safely. We asked the ferry operators who all turned us down because of the risk,” recalled Fiona Phua, an event committee member and director of events management firm Imagine+.
Enter the Singapore Navy, which agreed to commit six fast craft utility (FCU) units to the cause. In addition, 30 navy personnel will also be onsite to assist. In addition, other organisations have also stepped in.
The event is supported by the SG50 Celebration Fund; SMRT Taxis, which volunteered 100 taxis to fetch wheelchair-bound participants to and from their homes; the Changi Sailing Club, which opened its premises for wheelchair users to board the FCUs more conveniently; National Parks Board, which will provide planks for easy disembarkation on the beachfront of Pulau Ubin; Republic Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic students, who will be staging performances at Ubin; and six nurses from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital and two doctors, who have also volunteered their services.
A total of 500 volunteers will also be present to assist the participants, who are from the Asian Women’s Welfare Association (AWWA), Hand-Cycling Association of Singapore (HAS) and Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD), Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC). The youngest participant is nine years old and the oldest is 77.
Wheels At Ubin has reached its maximum capacity, but Quek said it has a waiting list and will get in touch with individual wheelchair users if there are slots available. And while there have been requests to open the event up to the visually impaired, limited resources meant sticking to the original plan. “Planning a tour for the visually impaired would require an added dimension, a more sensory experience,” he explained.
But Phua also pointed out that these issues are precisely what an event like Wheels At Ubin hopes to highlight. “There are so many forms of disabilities and we’re just touching the surface. We hope to encourage more advocacy,” she said, adding that the Pulau Ubin trip is also a “symbolic” one that can get building designers, companies and government organisations thinking about issues of accessibility.
“Accessibility is not just about physical accessibility for wheelchair users. It’s also about able-bodied people being accessible to them, whether it’s to lend a helping hand or just to be there to talk to them in everyday life.”
Source: Today Online