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MSF clarifies changes to parking scheme for disabled

SINGAPORE — As unhappiness grows over recently announced changes pertaining to a parking label for drivers with physical disabilities, the authorities clarified on Thursday (Aug 3) that the revised criteria does not hinge on the type of mobility aids they use.

MSF clarifies changes to parking scheme for disabled

Para powerlifter Kalai Vanen, 58, who uses a pair of elbow crutches went on Facebook on Wednesday night to complain about supposedly having to switch to a walking frame in order to retain his special vehicle parking label. Photos: Facebook/Kalai Vanen

SINGAPORE — As unhappiness grows over recently announced changes pertaining to a parking label for drivers with physical disabilities, the authorities clarified on Thursday (Aug 3) that the revised criteria does not hinge on the type of mobility aids they use.

As long as they are certified by a doctor as needing to use bulky mobility aids due to their medical condition, they would qualify for the label — whether they use a bulky aid or not is up to the individual.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) referred TODAY to the special label’s application form (dated November 2016) on the website of SG Enable, an agency that helps people with disabilities. It states that people with the following conditions are listed as eligible: Cerebral palsy, loss or deformity of lower limbs, muscular dystrophy, paraplegia, poliomyelitis, spina bifida, and tetraplegia.

Those with these medical conditions “would be considered for eligibility for car park labels based on their condition and needs beyond just the type of mobility aids used”, the MSF said on Thursday in a Facebook post.

As for existing label holders using crutches and quad-sticks who are wondering if they will get to keep their special vehicle labels after Nov 1, when changes to the scheme are to kick in, they get to hold on to the labels till the expiry dates. After that, they would be reassessed for eligibility, the ministry spokesperson said.

“MSF is also prepared to consider any deserving cases who may require the Class 1 label given their condition, even if they do not fully meet the default eligibility criteria,” the spokesperson added.

Under the parking scheme, those with disabilities who drive get a Class 1 label, and they can park their vehicles in specially reserved lots for any duration.

Changes were announced July 27, with the MSF saying that those using less “bulky” mobility aids such as crutches and quad-sticks will no longer qualify for the Class 1 label.

Reacting to the news, powerlifter Kalai Vanen, 58, who lost his left leg to cancer and uses a pair of elbow crutches, went on Facebook on Wednesday night to say that he supposedly has to switch to using a walking frame in order to retain his special parking label, since the MSF has listed “bulky mobility aids” as a wheelchair, walking frame or lower-limb prosthesis. His post has been shared more than 1,400 times.

Separately, Mr Nicholas Aw, president of the Disabled People’s Association (DPA), told TODAY that about six of their members have voiced unhappiness over the rule change.

Both parties later said that MSF officers had clarified the changes to them.

However, despite the clarifications, there are still objections from the community on the issue.

Mr Vanen, who drives every day, told TODAY: “It’s not about me qualifying (for a label). It’s about the broad categorisation on who qualify and who doesn’t … (When I first read up on changes to the label scheme,) I was thoroughly upset because they were trying to curtail the abuse of the lots by just implementing a blanket rule.”

Former DPA president Leo Chen Ian, 43, who sits on the advocacy and research panel of the National Council of Social Service, said that the criteria assessing who qualifies as a Class 1 label-holder should have remained unchanged, as they are independent drivers with inconveniences.

“We want to address the issue of helping those who can’t walk far distances… Everybody needs a shorter distance to walk to where they are,” Mr Leo said.

When demand for the special parking lots outweigh supply, he said, policymakers should cut down the time for Class 2 labels (issued to vehicles ferrying passengers with physical disabilities) that give access to the reserved lots, or introduce other designated drop-off points.

Mr Richard Kuppusamy, 40, who is born with spina bifida — a congenital spinal cord defect which leaves him paralysed from the waist down — pointed out that the building regulation here requires there to be one lot for the handicapped in 50 lots, versus one in 20 in the United Kingdom where he had worked for 16 years.

The digital technology manager at property firm Lendlease, who is a Class 1 label-holder, said: “Parking (for us) is not a privilege but a necessity… Fundamentally, the handicapped parking system is broken, where the disabled have to contend against one another over who is more deserving.”

There are about 6,000 reserved lots for special label holders across car parks managed by the authorities here.

The MSF spokesperson reiterated that there is a “limit to how many more accessible lots we can have” given Singapore’s physical constraints, adding that existing Class 1 and 2 label-holders were consulted as part of the review.

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