Bus driver called SBS Transit to check if autistic boy needed to wear mask, but family chose to alight

The New Paper
Jan 11, 2023

An SBS Transit driver allegedly refused to let a boy with autism board the bus without wearing a mask recently.

Eventually, the boy, who was accompanied by his parents, felt compelled to alight the bus as they didn’t want to hold up the other passengers.  

The boy’s mother posted details of the incident on Complaint Singapore’s Facebook page on Jan 7.

She wrote that on the day of the incident, she boarded Bus service 76 with her 12-year-old son and husband near Ang Mo Kio Central.

Her son, she pointed out, has autism and is non-verbal.

Upon boarding, she showed the driver her son’s special needs card and explained that as he was autistic, he did not need to wear a mask while on public transport.

However, the driver allegedly refused to start his vehicle, insisting he put on a mask.

She then pointed out that every bus thus far has allowed them to board while her son was without a mask. But the driver maintained that he was simply following procedure and would have to call SBS Transit’s headquarters to check.

“I also told him that I would (send) feedback on this issue, and he challenged me to go ahead,” she said.

While waiting, a middle-aged man offered her a mask, to which she declined, stating that she already had masks in her bag, and that her son would have a meltdown if forced to wear one.

“The guy seemed pissed and walked away,” she said. “I (was) quite pressured with glares from the passengers as the bus driver refused to start the bus.”

Ultimately, the call took too long, and she chose to alight the vehicle with her husband and son.

“This is the first time such an unfortunate incident has happened as we have met some really awesome drivers previously,” she wrote. 

She urged for more awareness from the general public on those with special needs. “It is not easy to be a caregiver of special needs. We hope to be treated fairly with due respect too.”

According to the Ministry of Health guidelines, authorities should exercise flexibility in enforcing mask-wearing for some groups, including children with special needs.

In response to queries from MS News, Mrs Grace Wu, SBS Transit’s vice-president (special grade) of customer experience and communications, explained that as mask-wearing on public transport is mandatory, the bus captain wanted to be sure and sought clarification from SBS Transit’s Operations Control Centre (OCC) before continuing with the journey.

Unfortunately, the OP and her family alighted from the bus before OCC could respond affirmatively.

“We will remind our bus captain of the guidelines so that he can better manage such situations in the future,” she added.

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