“You’re kind of relying on just chance, whether you get a good taxi driver that is aware or a taxi driver that just doesn’t know what to do at all.”
That’s how Marisa Lee Medjeral-Mills, Executive Director of the Disabled Peoples’ Association (DPA) said people with disabilities view taxi services in Singapore.
To address this issue, Uber announced a new app feature called UberASSIST on 29 Oct. The feature is designed for disabled riders and others groups with access needs, such as the elderly – 50 drivers have been trained to help those who need assistance while travelling from point to point.
Fares for cars hired through this service are the same as regular Uber cars.
UberASSIST is not the first transport service in Singapore to caters specially for people with disabilities. Specialised transport services are also provided by organisations like Silvery, but are more expensive than taxi services and often require a booking at least one day in advance.
Such transport providers charge between $70 to $90 for a two-way journey, excluding additional surcharges.
Theresa Goh, a Para-athlete representing Singapore in the 8th ASEAN Para Games told Yahoo Singapore of some of the challenges of taking taxis in Singapore. She said, “Those drivers that stay in their seat while I am trying to fold my chair, if he doesn’t get up, I’m fine, I’ll just stick my own wheels out and put it next to me… But it’s not always an option that all people with disabilities have. Some people cannot use their arms or maybe their core is not so good. Different disabilities don’t have the luxury of saying ‘Okay, if you don’t help me I’ll help myself’.”
Medjeral-Mills stressed that while there are many physical barriers for persons of disability in the transport system, such as the lack of accessibility in older MRT stations, a bigger challenge is the lack of understanding among transport service providers. “A lot of the problem with these transport service providers is that they’re afraid of doing anything wrong, so they just avoid the issue,” she said.
She added that the launch of UberASSIST was a step towards “mainstreaming” transport for the disabled. “Because as a person of disability, you shouldn’t have to go to a specialised transport provider, you should be able to go to any provider.”
According to the National Council of Social Service, there are around 110,000 Singaporean persons of disability. And according to the Disabled Peoples’ Association, 10,000 of them hold ‘Person with Disabilities’ concession passes.