‘Am I hindering others?’: The fears and anxieties of taking the bus after becoming a wheelchair user
ANXIETY AROUND HOLDING UP THE QUEUE
Due to needing assistance with the ramp, holding up the line is also a constant anxiety for new wheelchair users.
When Mr Chong started using a wheelchair, he would join the regular bus queue, unaware that there was a priority queue. He’d also worry that he was holding up the line – something he was never self-conscious about before becoming a wheelchair user.
“From queuing together in the line with everyone else, right now if you’re a wheelchair user, you have to queue separately where there’s higher visibility for you to flag the bus down,” he said.
“And there’s the realisation that because of the process of having to board the wheelchair user first, you might think: ‘I’m holding up people’s time because everyone has to wait for me to board first, and the bus captain has to do an additional job to deploy the ramp and help me with boarding.’ … It’s something that pretty much everyone will experience if you have an acquired disability.”
But these feelings are something Mr Chong hopes to help wheelchair users move on from.
“The only way to overcome (these anxieties) is to have more practice, to get on board (a bus) more often, and then you realise that people don’t really care. They’re actually fine with it. The self-consciousness will set in, but it can also be overcome,” he said.
To build course participants’ confidence, Mr Chong also gives them other tips for a smoother journey, such as planning ahead, from knowing which stop to alight to finding out whether the buses are wheelchair accessible.
If commuters are already boarding the bus when the wheelchair user has reached the bus stop, Mr Chong shared that they can press the wheelchair push button at the side of the rear door. This alerts the driver that there’s a wheelchair user who wants to board the bus.
MORE CONFIDENCE, PEACE OF MIND
Participants told CNA that such information benefited them.
Even a more confident wheelchair user like 55-year-old Taufik Omar, who took public transport for the first time earlier this year, said the course helped him discover wheelchair-accessible features that he had not noticed before.
Ms Nooraini Manaf, who is Mr Wong’s wife and full-time caregiver, also attended the course with her husband. She expressed her husband’s concern that nobody would help him to board the bus.
“The course gives him the insight that the bus captains know how to help people with disabilities. He also gets the opportunity to try boarding a bus alone, whereas in real circumstances, he may have self-doubt. He doesn’t have the confidence,” she said.
But the course was also for Ms Nooraini, as it gave her “peace of mind” that someone would be looking out for her husband if he went out alone.
“(People with disabilities) are just like any other person. Despite what they have lost, they have a right to go and pursue whatever they want. With (courses) like this, it will give them a better quality of life,” she said.