SINGAPORE: Boarding a bus and getting off at your destination comes as second nature to many Singaporeans - but not for those who are visually-impaired. Over 60 people found out first-hand on Saturday (Nov 19) as they blindfolded themselves and travelled around Punggol on public transport.
The group - which included Education Minister and Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng - had to to cross intersections; board buses; tap in at MRT stations and get on trains without their sense of sight.
The exercise was co-organised by the Guide Dogs Association of the Blind and Social Innovation Park. Feedback gathered will be used in future policymaking, town planning and system design.
Said visually-impaired National University of Singapore undergraduate Charmaine Tan: "Sometimes, it's really hard for me to find someone to tell me when to alight the bus. I can ask the drivers, but sometimes the drivers will forget.”
“So I've had a few experiences where the bus drivers forgot to tell me after many stops, and I have to get off, and wait for a passenger who is free to take me to another bus stop across the road to get back to where I started."
For many taking part in the blindfolded exercise, it was an eye-opening experience that helped them grasp the importance of offering help to a visually-impaired person.
"The toughest thing is, you really do not know where you are,” said participant Joseph Lim. “I was trying to cross the road, and I pressed the button. Yet I stood there for almost five minutes, and I don't know if it's a green or red man."
Participants also learnt the best ways to offer help to those who are visually-impaired. For example, you should offer your right elbow for them to grip, and keep one step ahead of them so they can better gauge your movements.
Organisers hope this exercise will encourage inclusivity and a better understanding of the community's needs.
"When we know some of these issues, my colleagues from LTA can better plan some of these infrastructure designs better to at least match all the different needs together,” said Mr Ng, who is also Member of Parliament for Pasir-Ris Punggol. “Not always possible, because there are competing demands. But how do we take care comprehensively, as best as we can, all the needs of diverse groups of people?"