SINGAPORE: Junaidah Ramli is visually impaired, so she often asks for help to be led to the right bus boarding berth.
The public would usually oblige, but there have been occasions when she would get abandoned before reaching her berth.
“Sometimes, they hold the arm I carry my cane in and drag me instead of me holding (on to) them,” recalled the 46-year-old.
Mdm Junaidah hopes a new programme by SMRT will go a long way in equipping bus captains and MRT station staff with the right skills to assist commuters with special needs.
The Inclusive Service Delivery Programme, announced on Thursday (Jan 25) by SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek, has been attended by 350 staff since it was rolled out in October last year. SMRT aims to have 1,400 frontline staff trained by July 2018.
Once staff have undergone training, SMRT said they will have better practical skills and confidence to assist "priority passengers", including those who are visually or hearing impaired, parents with children in prams and elderly commuters with dementia.
The full-day training programme is on top of a two-day Service Excellence programme all staff are required to attend.
HELPING 'PRIORITY PASSENGERS'
SMRT said where the Service Excellence programme provides staff with basic service skills, the latest training session is more focused towards equipping staff with skills to address the needs and challenges faced by its priority passengers.
The training involves classroom and hands-on sessions “highly contextualised” to SMRT buses and trains. Mr Kuek said he believes the organisation can do more to "help everyone on their travel journeys" and make the transport network more inclusive.
“This particular training which we are doing with NTUC Learning Hub helps them (staff) to better identify and support those with special needs, so that they can be a lot more attentive and sensitive to those who might need that extra boost in their daily mobility needs,” he said.
SMRT has also partnered with the Lien Foundation, which provided resources and information on how to assist elderly commuters with dementia. This was done through the Foundation’s "Forget Us Not" movement.
“We do know of more cases of elderly commuters with dementia; they get lost in the public transport system. At this juncture, they need help of staff of public transport operators,” the movement’s administrator, Ivan Loh, said.
“If you see someone displaying signs of dementia, that is a red flag to say this commuter may need more help. The second stage is to check with them where they are going. If they are confused, to bring them to a quiet place to sit them down, perhaps the staff can slowly find out more information from them, such as if they can remember the contact number of family members of if they can recall where they are going.”
Mr Loh said the dementia-related training under the programme also emphasises on exercising patience by frontline staff.
One of those who attended the training in October last year was station manager Nicolas Kong. The 50-year-old said he once helped an elderly lady who wanted to go to a particular location. But when he took her to the station platform to get on a train, she gave him another location.
Mr Kong said the training has also taught him how to better communicate with the visually impaired.
“Previously, when it came to a visually handicapped person, I would ask them to hold on to us and walk,” he said.
“Now, besides leading them, I will also communicate with them constantly while on the move, like telling them, ‘there’s an obstacle about 2m ahead, can we move about half a metre towards the left’ or ‘there are steps coming up’.”
The announcement comes on the back of recommendations by the Public Transport Council to make bus and train journeys smoother for commuters with special needs.
Mr Kuek said the programme was not a response to the recommendations as it has been in the works for some time. He added that SMRT has always been supporting the council in its efforts.