Disabilities & Accessibility
Disabilities & Accessibility
Singapore eclipses the rest of Southeast Asia in meeting the needs of visitors with disabilities, but this doesn't say much. The proliferation of grand stairways, steeply stepped, unramped pedestrian bridges over major roads, and similar descents into the MRT underground rail system, translate into a nightmare for people in wheelchairs. Nevertheless, most major hotels, office buildings, shopping complexes, and tourist attractions do have wheelchair access and grab bars in public toilets. Traffic lights (mostly within the city) make a chirping sound when the signal turns to "walk" and screens count down the seconds until the light changes. Be aware that Singaporeans still haven't integrated people with disabilities into mainstream society and may act awkward around them; they may hang back from helping out of embarrassment or not knowing what to do.
For more information, contact the Disabled People's Association of Singapore or the National Council of Social Services, which publishes guides on touring Singapore. Contact these organizations at least three weeks before you plan to visit Singapore. If the guides aren't available online, they'll happily send any printed materials to you via airmail.
Disabled People's Association of Singapore. #02-00 Day Care, 150A Pandan Gardens Centre, Singapore. 6899-1220. www.dpa.org.sg.
National Council of Social Services. 11 Penang Lane, Singapore. 6210-2500.
More than 20 (mostly upscale) hotels claim to have special services for travelers with disabilities. There isn't any watchdog organization, however, that verifies this information, so check with properties directly. Local hotels aren't used to accommodating travelers with disabilities.
Sights & Attractions
Tourist attractions friendly to visitors in wheelchairs include the Singapore Zoological Gardens, Night Safari, and Jurong Bird Park—all have good paths and ramps. With its undulating terrain and its attractions dispersed over a wide area, Sentosa Island isn't as accessible. Major shopping areas like Orchard Road have smooth modern mall surfaces, but older parts of town are characterized by arcaded sidewalks linked by ubiquitous steps, occasional open drains, and heavy car traffic, so street level sightseeing in such ethnic quarters as Chinatown or Little India can present serious challenges to those with disabilities.
The MRT underground railway is inaccessible to people in wheelchairs; entry to most stations begins with an extremely steep flight of descending stairs, following by escalators. The bus system is also unfriendly to passengers with disabilities—seats are hard to come by, the buses are often packed, and it's hard to maintain your balance with the way bus drivers hit their brakes. To board a local bus you must first hike a couple of steps set quite high up.
The Disabled People's Association of Singapore recommends CityCab to get around the island. The Handicaps Welfare Association also has vans fitted with hydraulic lifts—book in advance—and manual wheelchairs for rental.
The airport is well organized for travelers with disabilities, although arrivals should note that the ramp down to the baggage collection area is somewhat steep and Immigration counters are high. Both terminals have ground handling agents from Changi International Airport Services (CIAS) and Singapore Airport Terminal Services (SATS) who assist with clearing passengers in wheelchairs through Immigration and Customs checkpoints. Wheelchair rental is possible 24 hours, for S$10 plus a refundable deposit of S$20.
Raffles Medical Group (Airport Wheelchair Rental). 6543-1118. www.rafflesmedical.com.sg.
CityCab. 6553-1170. www.citycab.com.sg.
Handicaps Welfare Association. 16 Whampoa Dr., (behind Block 102), Singapore. 6254-3006. www.hwa.org.sg.
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