Ruo En, eight, has cerebral palsy. Twice a week she visits Tech Able, an assistive technology centre run jointly by SG Enable and SPD, to learn how to communicate using the iPad.
But that’s not all she’s learning these days. Since February, she’s also been learning how to drive.
Her choice of ride is a toy jeep that’s been modified so that it can be steered with button switches rather than a wheel.
The car is sponsored and modified by Hope Technik, the local company behind the Red Rhino and other SCDF vehicles. The engineers applied their large vehicles know-how and created a button-switch-based steering box that Ruo En can operate safely with her hands’ limited movements.
“No one said cars can only be controlled by steering wheels and gears. Sometimes you can use buttons. Or even your fingers,” said Ong Yong Chuan, the lead engineer for this project. The steering box can be adapted for other ride-on toy car projects.
Besides the modified steering, the jeep has customised harnesses to provide Ruo En with adequate support. It also has a remote control for use by a supervising adult.
The modified jeep project was first proposed to Hope Technik by Engineering Good, a Tech Able partner. Engineering Good is working on a separate project to create four adapted cars for Thye Hua Kwan EIPIC Centres.
Ruo En’s therapists at Tech Able hope that the jeep, which was presented to her last Christmas, will help her learn the mechanics of operating a motorised vehicle. Ruo En’s mother, Wendy, said, “It is a beginning to get her ready for her motorised wheelchair when she gets older. With a motorised wheelchair, she can do things on her own.”