The Workers’ Party commemorates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is a day to reflect on the achievements of the community in overcoming barriers. It is also a day to remind ourselves of the incredible spirit of the families, caregivers and VWOs who have worked tirelessly for the community.
The Workers’ Party has, in the past, made several recommendations in Parliament on improving mobility, public transport safety and accessibility for persons with disabilities. There remain several areas where further improvements can be made to make Singapore more inclusive for Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs.
Employment is a pressing problem faced by Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs. The Public Service should take the lead.
Schools could hire Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs for roles that match their abilities. This provides an added benefit of allowing students to understand the needs of the community and to interact respectfully and meaningfully with them. We have a long way to go in equalizing employment opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs. But if we allow our students to develop respect and empathy from a young age, they will carry these attitudes with them when they enter the workforce in future.
VWOs serving Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs that do not have their own in-house transport face challenges to get transport operators to take part in their tenders. The government should include a condition under the Bus Contracting Model for public transport operators to provide transport services to schools with early intervention programmes and special education, day activity centres and sheltered workshops operated by VWOs.
Flexible and more generous grants for Assistive Devices
The government should enhance the Assistive Technology Fund so as to ease the financial burden for Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs who are buying and replacing assistive devices. The qualification criteria should be reviewed regularly to include new and innovative devices. A person who is diagnosed with special needs or disabilities from a young age will use up the grant much faster than a person who is diagnosed later in life, as will a person whose disability may require more expensive assistive devices. The purpose of the Fund will be better served if it can be made more flexible and comprehensive.
Degree programmes for educators
Another area of concern is the lack of manpower faced by organizations serving Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs, specifically qualified educators and allied health professionals. There is currently no undergraduate degree in special needs education, and potential educators who want to pursue this track will need to further their studies overseas. The government should look into expanding the range of degree programmes for potential special needs educators, with associated career tracks provided for in the education, healthcare and people sectors.
Building a truly inclusive society
There has been significant progress in providing opportunities for PWDs and PSNs. However there are still gaps in the current policy landscape and room for improvement. Moreover, all Singaporeans still have a part to play in adopting inclusive mind-sets and behaviours in the workplace, in schools and in everyday life.
We believe that Singapore should strive to be a world leader in building a truly inclusive society where Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs are fully integrated into the mainstream. Not only is this the right thing to do, it will also enable Singapore to harness all available talent for our economy and for fields like sports. The Workers’ Party will continue to pursue these and other suggestions to help build a truly inclusive Singapore.
Chair, Media Team
3 December 2016