Disabled, but more are driven to drive
THE number of disabled people in Singapore who are getting themselves certified as "fit to drive" has more than doubled over the last few years.
Tan Tock Seng Hospital's (TTSH's) Driving Assessment and Rehabilitation Programme - the only programme here which helps them learn, or return to, driving - saw 618 participants last year.
In 2009, it saw only 294.
The increase is due to greater awareness about the programme, as well as an ageing population, said TTSH senior occupational therapist Ernest Thia.
It is open to patients who are driving-licence holders and non-holders, who have congenital illnesses such as cerebral palsy, and cognitive and physical impairments such as an amputation, stroke or a spinal injury. Those with visual impairments are excluded.
Under the programme, patients take part in a series of tests to gauge their driving ability, and to see if a vehicle needs to be modified to suit their needs. There is also a practical assessment.
"The scheme gives patients independence so they can get on with their daily work," said Mr Thia.
"(When taking) public transport, if you're a bit slower, there is some difficulty in getting on (buses or trains)."
According to the Traffic Police, those with medical conditions that may render them unfit on the roads need to undergo a medical examination to certify their ability to drive or ride.
About 95 per cent of the TTSH programme's participants opt for driving. The remaining 5 per cent choose motorcycles.
Doctors from other hospitals can also issue similar certification.
Real-estate agent Kelvin Leong, who suffered a stroke two years ago and lost partial use of the left side of his body, joined the programme then.
He was certified to be fit to drive within four months, and now zips around in a Nissan Latio Sport. The only modification: A spinner knob attached to his steering wheel so that he can turn it easily with one hand.
He said: "Initially, I was nervous. I try not to travel during peak hours and at night. But it's empowering and I'm definitely happy to be back on the road."