Saire Adnan zips around the Clementi area bringing meals to hungry customers. Unlike other food deliverymen, however, he does not drive a car nor does he ride a motorcycle or bicycle.
Instead, the 34-year-old makes his trips with a pair of crutches strapped tightly to his back and a neon green e-scooter decorated with his essentials: a smartphone plus an extra battery, a brightly-coloured helmet and an insulated food bag.
Saire was badly injured when he was hit by a container truck at the age of eight. The accident left him hospitalised for seven months along with a badly damaged right leg and a permanent limp.
He later had that same leg amputated in December 2013 due to a bacterial infection.
Feeling depressed and insecure about his situation, the once active Saire – who at one time had held two jobs – stayed cooped up at home for more than three years, keeping himself busy with housework.
In February this year, thanks to encouragement from a friend, Saire decided to take on an office-bound telemarketing job that paid him more than $500 per month. The gig ended abruptly as his employer was afraid that he might have a fall due to his disability.
A second chance
Shortly after losing his office job, a chance encounter with an Uber Eats deliveryman led him to explore a job opportunity closer to home. The man, who was left paralysed in one arm following a motorcycle accident, told Saire about his positive experiences on the job.
Saire decided to give the food delivery gig a shot so he bought a $300 e-scooter with the money from his telemarketing job and in July signed up to become an Uber Eats delivery partner.
“I was worried about not getting the job, as it is difficult for me to find one. If I stay at home, I have nothing to do and have no money,” said Saire, who lives with his mother and two siblings in a two-room flat in Clementi.
He currently earns around $5.50 per delivery trip and works from 9am to 9pm up to six-and-a-half days a week, making a maximum of eight trips per day.
His deliveries take him around Clementi as well as to areas such as Bukit Timah and Ghim Moh.
Saire, who attended school up to Primary 5, earns more than $500 per month and gives close to half of that amount to his mother. Customers occasionally give him tips, with $50 being the highest amount he has received so far.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development also provides Saire with an additional $300 each month.
The flexible nature of the job also allows Saire to base himself in the vicinity of Clementi Mall, near his flat. This makes it convenient for him to commute back home to recharge his e-scooter’s battery.
The job, however, also has its challenges.
While Saire takes an average of 30 minutes to complete an order, he once fell into a river while rushing a delivery for a customer who had asked him to “go faster”.
On another occasion, a customer had refused to meet him at the ground floor of a building with no lifts. Instead, Saire had to climb up to the fourth floor using his crutches.
Despite the physical hurdles, Saire remains upbeat and has yet to cancel or decline an order.
“Even if my e-scooter battery dies during the delivery, I will not cancel the order. I will just take the bus,” he explained. “I never give up on myself.”
Just last month, a picture of Saire taken by a passer-by made its rounds on social media – with many commending him for his perseverance.
Earlier this year, fellow Uber Eats delivery partner and para-athlete Kamas Mohd also caught the attention of netizens following a customer’s Facebook post complimenting him for his on-time delivery in spite of his disability.
Thanks to the unintended publicity, Saire said he now gets approached by strangers regularly.
“One even asked me about my welfare and asked me to be careful to be on the scooter. He said, ‘You are very strong. Some people have two legs, but would rather not work and stay home. You only have one leg, and yet you are still working’,” Saire added.
He hopes the exposure will encourage others with disabilities to take the same leap of faith.
“Other disabled people can also work, just like me. If I can do it, they can also do it… I hope to see more people like me (working),” he added.
When contacted by Yahoo News Singapore, Uber Eats, Deliveroo and foodpanda declined to reveal how many delivery partners with disabilities they had working with them.
“We do not actively track the disabilities of our rider fleet, as we see anyone that works with us as equally capable of doing the job well,” said a Deliveroo spokesperson.
A foodpanda spokesperson said that the company would continue to grow its fleet of 2,500 freelance riders of “varying ages and backgrounds” and would “welcome applications from disabled riders”.
Similarly, Saire and Kamas are registered as cyclist delivery partners with Uber Eats as the delivery food service “does not discriminate” and “do not track delivery partners with disabilities”.
In the meantime, Saire knows what he wants to do once he receives his prosthetic leg – paid for by Tan Tock Seng Hospital – next year.
“I will take on a full-time job and also be a part-time food deliveryman,” he said.
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