I read with great amazement that a growing number of people in the island of Singapore with medical conditions, are not letting their disability get in the way of driving a car. It is reported that Singapore has a hospital rehabilitation scheme to help disabled people to be mobile. As such, disabled people will no longer have to depend on others if they wish to move around. Disabled people in Singapore, will be more self reliable in the future.
The above programme which was initiated by the Singapore authorities is considered as a good move. As such, the government of Malaysia, especially the Road Transport Department or the Jabatan Pengangkutan Jalan (JPJ), should likewise ape Singapore’s good moves regarding the rehabilitation of disabled people.
Permit me to explain to readers what in reality is “disabled” people. Disabled folks differ from the “handicap” or Orang Kurang Upaya (OKU) category. Disabled people, as a matter of fact, are people who have lost the use of their arms and legs. In short, the use of their limbs. Through diseases and ailments, even accidents, some people unfortunately lose their faculties.
Diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels, have been said to have caused many people to lose their ability to drive a vehicle.
What I am trying to suggest is that Malaysia should ape Singapore’s move as far as rehabilitation of disabled people are concerned. After all, when Tengku Abdul Rahman was our Prime Minister, the “Tunku” followed a foreign policy of “pro democracy”, aping England and the United States of America.
Under our Prime Minister, Dr, Mahathir Mohammed, Malaysia adopted a foreign policy of “Looking East”. We then were trying to follow the footsteps of North and South Korea, and especially of Japan.
I’m sure Malaysians find nothing wrong with the above foreign policies advocated by both Tengku Abdul Rahman and Dr. Mahathir Mohammed.
There is a popular saying, “imitiation is the highest form of flattery”. That was what my English teacher, Mr. James Pandian used to say. As such, the Malaysian authorities, should study Singapore’s rehabilitation programmes regarding disabled drivers and introduce them for the good and benefit of
Malaysian drivers, who have unfortunately lost their ability to drive. We should not forget that these disabled people were once upon a time, people who were able to drive. They, in reality, possessed valid car and motorcycle licenses prior to their becoming disabled.
Talking about “imitating” people, we, Malaysians should not forget where our Demerit System or system Kejara is derived from. In case, you have forgotten, the above two systems are from Australia. As a matter of fact, the present driving institutes’ syllabus and programmes closely follow that of our close neighbor, Australia!
Now, let’s now revert back to the rehabilitation schemes which are said to be available in Singapore. “Help” it to said, is available in a scheme at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH). The TTSH has a “Driving Assessment and Rehabilitation Programme” or D.A.R.P. it has been reported, this programme has benefitted some 435 people since last year (2011). The previous figure being 281 in 2008.
What actually is D.A.R.P?
D.A.R.P. was started in 2001. It was initiated by a group of occupational therapists at the Tan Tock Seng hospital. The above scheme assists people with medical conditions to “learn” or “return” to driving. It is said, the D.A.R.P. programmes are able to provide patients on better quality of life.
What does the programme D.A.R.P. incorporate?
1. An assessment which tests on off the road physical, cognitive and visual abilities concerning driving.
2. An on the road test by a certified driving instructor and a TTSH occupational therapist who will evaluate a disabled person’s capability to drive a “modified” vehicle.
Only those who get through the above 2 tests will then be allowed to drive. It is only after passing the above 2 tests can a learner “relearn” driving under a qualified driving instructor.
In the D.A.R.P. scheme, some disabled patients are given the opportunity to use the left foot to accelerate and also to step on the brakes.
There are obviously many more steps and measures regarding the Driving Assessment and Rehabilitation Programme. I will not divulge all of it here. Suffice only to state that the Centre for Enabled Living has issued some 458 car park labels for disabled people, up from 176 in 2007.
Finally, in Singapore, disabled folks who feel they need a special modified vehicle can contact the Handicaps Welfare Association or HWA for practical lessons.
Has the D.A.R.P programme benefitted the disabled community in Sinagpore?
It should be reiterated that it has indeed increased the mobility and independence for those with disabilities.
Well, Malaysian authorities and especially the JPJ, what about it? Can we or can’t we emulate our neighbor with regards to the D.A.R.P. programme? I’m of the opinion that if it is something good, it should be followed.
To end this special article on ways and manners to rehabilitate our own disabled people, allow me to relate to you a real life story. A few days ago, a potential driving student of mine, a Puan Phospam, 38, from Klang, had wanted me to meet her husband, a Mr. Rajan, also 38. Upon meeting with the above husband, I was surprised to learn that Mr. Rajan has lost 2 of his legs. He was a diabetic patient.
Rajan had ignored his doctor’s advice. He had refused to take his medications faithfully. This resulted in his legs being amputated at waist level. The above person holds a valid driving license, he is currently being treated by the Cheras Rehabilitation Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
The above department has promised to give Mr. Rajan 2 prosthetic limbs and also provide him with therapy classes. But Rajan will need to do a retest to secure his driving license again. A D.A.R.P. rehabilitation centre, I’m certain, will go a long way to assist disabled people like Rajan! We should therefore think seriously regarding the setting up of a D.A.R.P. centre here.