MOST months, Miss Rethinasamy Rajasvari takes home $500 from her telemarketing job, but spends a quarter of that taking the bus and train to work.
That is not counting the days when it rains and the blind 50-year-old has to take a taxi from her home in Ang Mo Kio to Kim Seng Road.
For the past 10 years, she has been trying to get public transport operators here to subsidise public transport fares for disabled people.
But letters to the relevant parties from MPs she approached at Meet-the-People sessions have not yielded any results.
Concessionary fares on buses and trains now apply only to senior citizens, students and national servicemen.
‘I am one of the better-earning ones among the disabled. I know of people who earn $15 to $20 per month as buskers,’ said Miss Rethinasamy, who is completely blind.
Last month, she and five others came together to start a petition. Calling themselves Challengeds’ Alliance Network, they launched a campaign for transport subsidy.
They and some supporters – totalling about 40 – also turned up at the Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park last Saturday with placards in tow.
They have collected more than 300 signatures from the disabled community and will submit the petition to the Transport Ministry by next month. Most of those in the group work as masseurs, telemarketers or phone operators at call centres.
They welcomed the news in The Straits Times last Friday that bus operator SBS Transit is exploring offering concessionary fares to the disabled, but hope concessions will be extended to trains.
Since then, train operator SMRT has also told The Straits Times that it is considering doing the same. A spokesman said: ‘As all concessionary fares are effectively cross-subsidised by full-fare paying commuters, public transport operators will have to exercise prudence in doing so’.
The Transport Ministry said public transport fare concessions are decided by the operators based on their own business considerations.
‘If they choose to offer additional concession schemes, such as to the disabled, the ministry would welcome it,’ said a spokesman.
Dr Ow Chee Chung, executive director of the Society for the Physically Disabled, said public transportation is the cheapest way for the disabled to get around. The society has been advocating convenient and equal access to public transport for the disabled.
‘Specifically for people with physical disabilities, our main priority is to advocate a fully accessible public transport system. There are still many areas in the current one that can be improved for greater accessibility,’ he said.