India on Wheels Part 1: Stopover in accessible Singapore

 

Before going to Singapore, lots of people told me that it was a beautiful, clean, green and friendly city – the perfect spot for an Asian getaway. Not only were they entirely correct on all those fronts, the city-state seems to be innovating the way towards an environmentally sustainable and fully accessible city.

This proved to be true before we even landed for our 3-day stopover. As well as a super friendly and understanding crew, Singapore Airlines is the only airline I have ever flown that has their safety video fully translated into sign language on the corner of the screen.

Our first adventures through Singapore were through the older parts of the city – Arab Street and Little India. Of course. It wasn’t entirely accessible and neither are the older parts of most New Zealand cities. Some footpaths didn’t have kerb cuts and shop owners displayed their goods outside to attract customers. As soon as they saw me wheeling towards them, they paved the way for me with a big smile and without any hesitation.

little india colonial style apartments with shops downstairs
Exploring Little India

This was my first example during my trip that accessibility is just as much about attitudes as it is about the built environment. Kindness is contagious.

shops and palm trees with mosque at end of street
Masjid Sultan on Arab Street

The next day we walked through downtown, where all surfaces were completely flat. In one building, the lifts not only had buttons in braille, but explanations about which stores were on which levels were also in braille. Train platforms were incredibly simple to navigate, flat and safe. Navigating the whole of Singapore by public transport is cheap, easy and entirely accessible by wheelchair.

corporate building with mini forest on rooftop
Green rooftops

Almost all high-rise buildings either had green rooftops or solar panels on the roofs to keep the air and atmosphere clean.

I left Singapore after attending my first Jummah (Friday prayer) in four years. Masjid Jamae is in Chinatown, two doors down from a Hindu mandir (temple). A Tamil auntie, who spoke no English, helped me put my hijab on before pouring me a cup of tea from her own thermos – all without saying a word. The khutbah (sermon) was spoken in English, Tamil and Malay, so everyone could understand. It was about the love between Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H) and his wife Khadijah (R.A). They shared the responsibilities of the home, supported one another unconditionally and only communicated with pure respect.

 

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