Wheelchair-bound student says S'pore great for disabled access

Wheelchair-bound student says S'pore great for disabled access

SINGAPORE - Why did Mumbai-born Reema Vakil choose to study in Singapore?

The answer is not just that there are plenty of job opportunities here. A major reason for the 25-year-old choosing Singapore is its wheelchair accessibility and disabled-friendly public transport.

Ms Reema was born with meningomyelocele, a spinal cord condition which caused her to be paralysed from the waist down.

After a lot of research and checking on some universities in Singapore, Ms Reema enrolled for a business management diploma course at the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) in 2008.

She then moved on to an advanced diploma course and now she has completed her degree programme.

One of her reasons for choosing MDIS at Stirling Road was that the campus is wheelchair-friendly with ramps and lifts at every storey.

"The wheelchair facilities in the campus are very good. The library, computer rooms and auditoriums are all wheelchair accessible," she said.

Ms Reema first arrived in Singapore accompanied by her mother.


They lived in a flat in Woodlands and for the first few months, her mother accompanied her on the 45-minute journey by train to school and back.

On some days, Mrs Minaxi Vakil, a housewife, would even stay in the school from 8.30am to 3.30pm to read newspapers or check e-mails as she waited for her daughter's classes to end.

When she became more independent, Ms Reema travelled to campus on her own.

When her mother returned to India, her father came to Singapore to stay with her and they now live in a flat near Jalan Besar.

Ms Reema, currently a business administrator with travel and transport provider Agape Connecting People, has plans to study for a master's degree in Singapore soon.

"Singapore is one country where I feel I can live confidently and independently without any assistance," she said.

Ms Reema's father, Mr Manish Vakil, has been living in Singapore with his daughter for 4½ years.

He is a business owner and has a son with a master's degree in finance from Britain.

The 57-year-old wanted to give both his children the best education he could afford.

"Staying in our country, I don't think that she would be given the opportunity to be independent. And she's more confident now," he said.

What is meningomyelocele?

Meningomyelocele is a form of birth defect in which the spinal canal and backbone do not close before birth.

This causes parts of the nerves and spinal cord to protrude through the open part of the spine, resulting in nerve damage and partial or complete paralysis of the lower limbs.

A child with this condition is usually operated on within two to three days of birth to save the spinal cord from more damage.

The damage to the spinal cord and spinal nerves would cause problems that would require lifelong treatment for the child.

Most people afflicted with the condition have to use a wheelchair.

Prenatal screening can help detect this condition.

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