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(Editor’s Note: After this article was published in December 2022, Roszana’s Give.Asia campaign was approved in May 2023. Find out how you can donate to her new motorised wheelchair here.)
Her personal mobility aid (PMA) is not just a way of getting around. It’s also how she makes a living.
Roszana Ali, 29, has been working as a food delivery rider for almost five years. However, unlike other riders, she doesn’t get around on a bike or car. Instead, she does her food deliveries on her PMA.
That’s because Roszana has cerebral palsy.
There are no official numbers of persons with cerebral palsy in Singapore although Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore has set up a registry with KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) and National University Hospital (NUH).
Cerebral palsy is a developmental condition that affects an individual’s movement and co-ordination. It is non-contagious, but it is a non-curable lifelong condition.
At age two, Roszana began losing her ability to walk and has since relied on a wheelchair (now a PMA) to move around.
Roszana works five hours a day, three to four days a week, completing about 12 orders on a good day.
However, Roszana has been completing fewer orders recently because her PMA was damaged in mid-November.
“I was working when suddenly I heard a loud crack from my PMA, I had a feeling it was going to break so I decided to just go home early,” says Roszana.
When she got home, she discovered that her suspicions were right – the crossbar located under her seat is broken – When The Pride asked what the damage to the two-year-old PMA was, Roszana said she wasn’t sure.
“I think it could be because the roads I travel on are bumpy and have curbs,” says Roszana.
She also suspects it could be because the PMA that she is using is an older out-of-date model and that she has clocked up a lot of mileage on it.
Her dad did a temporary fix, explains Roszana, but the crossbar under her seat is still very wobbly. This means she has to be extra careful because her PMA could give way anytime.
“I have to ride very slowly now because I am afraid of breaking it. If it breaks when I’m out on a job, I could fall and hurt myself,” Roszana adds.
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This has directly affected her income – Roszana has had to reduce the number of orders she takes in a day.
“I also reduced my working days because I am scared that the more, I use it, the higher chance it will break. If it breaks, I totally can’t leave my house,” she explains.
Last week, she started a GIVE.Asia fundraising campaign to raise funds for a new PMA. The campaign application is still being evaluated by the platform, says Roszana, but she is hopeful that it will get approved soon.
Second time asking for help
This isn’t the first time that Roszana has asked for help for her PMA, though.
In April 2020, at the height of the circuit breaker, she was out on a job when she was knocked over by a motorcyclist who ran a red light.
“One moment I was delivering food, the next moment I was knocked to the ground,” Roszana recalls.
Thankfully, Roszana did not suffer any major injuries and only spent a day in hospital. However, the accident damaged her PMA beyond repair.
The motorcyclist was arrested at the scene, but Roszana was unable to claim money on her insurance because he was not Singaporean.
Someone helped set up a fundraising campaign for her and managed to raise $2,000 to get a new PMA.
Even then, it took her four months to return to work.
It was August 2020 before she started delivering food again.
This was because she had frequent backaches and worse, the incident left her frightened of vehicles on the road.
“It took me awhile to leave the house with my PMA again because I was still in shock from the incident, I had to slowly go out the shopping malls first to overcome my fear,” Roszana explains.
She adds that even now, two years later, she is still wary of vehicles: “I need to make sure the vehicle completely stops before I cross the road even if it is a green light for pedestrians.”
Being a food delivery rider (Roszana has been working for Grab for the past five years) was a big step for Roszana.
She recounts how she was unemployed for seven years before working for Grab.
Due to her condition, she was constantly rejected by other companies.
“I lost count the number of times I was told that they could not employ me because of my condition,” she says.
Roszana could only stay home and watch her brothers leave for work daily while she could only dream of being able to make her own money.
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Even though Roszana receives full assistance, including meals and medical bills, from Comcare at her local social service office, she still wants to earn a living for herself.
“Other people have jobs to make money to do and buy the things they love, but I also have my own interests. That’s why I want to earn money,” says Roszana.
Things changed when a friend, Juni Syafiqah Jumat, 28, told her about her job in food delivery.
Like her, Syafiqah also lives with cerebral palsy but found a job despite her condition, so she wanted to share the opportunity with Roszana.
“At first, I kept saying ‘no’ because I was shy. I was scared I didn’t know how to use Global Positioning System (GPS) and my pronunciation isn’t clear,” Roszana says with a laugh.
She was a homebody because she was constantly afraid that people would stare at for being a person with disabilities.
But Syafiqah was relentless. And Roszana says that she never regretted eventually saying yes to her.
“After joining Grab as a rider, I really became braver and feel much more comfortable being in public even though I have a disability,” Roszana adds.
Kindness (and not) from strangers
Roszana shares that her customers have so far been very understanding (the Grab app indicates when the delivery rider is using a PMA).
“I haven’t gotten scolded by customers before.”
However, there are moments on the street when she would experience unkindness from others.
Sometimes, pedestrians would get upset with her as she trundles past them on the streets.
“They would shout at me, ‘eh, you cannot see me ah?’ as I go past them.”
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When asked about her challenges, Roszana replies with a smile: “I don’t think there are big challenges that bother me when I work, because if we see everything as a challenge, life will be very tough.
Though Roszana has a positive outlook on life and doesn’t let her condition stop her from being independent, she admits that her current problem with her faulty PMA is hampering her lifestyle.
“I still feel very touched from the last time when people helped me buy a new wheelchair, I will be super thankful if I can receive help again,” says Roszana.