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DPA’s Response to “Advisor for Disabled People’s Association quits, slams lack of passion and slow pace of change in sector”.

You may or may not have seen the article in TODAY about Mr Nicholas Aw, former President of the Disabled People’s Association Singapore (DPA). In the very personal and frank interview Mr Aw stated his reasons for withdrawing from being an advocate in the disability sector, and no longer being actively involved in DPA’s activities. Although Mr Aw had stepped down from being President in 2017 he remained as an advisor to help with the transition to the new leadership.
 
The main reasons he cited for leaving the disability sector were his health, his frustrations with the slow pace of change in disability policies, and with some managers in the sector. After the article was published Mr Aw clarified that there were things he said that were not included in the article:
 
This is a chapter of my life which is filled with challenging but fond and wonderful memories which I will always cherish. I have learnt so much about the disability sector and made so many friends, especially the ones who are different.
On this article, I had said a lot more but it could not be published because of the need for brevity and what not.
I would like to therefore take this, my last ever post on this issue, to clarify some points.
My comments on the sun ray program is not a generalization but a reference to the lack of heart in some of the sun rayians. For some, it’s about being seen as doing good, looking good in the media, titles and doing what needs to be done to get them a PBM and the like.
It’s simply a job to them and a real pity the good ones don’t stay long enough to make a difference in the organization, for one reason or another.
The Purple Parade is about celebrating abilities and its not here to change the lives of PWDs. It’s meant for the non-disabled to learn what it is like to be ‘differently abled’, to recognize those abilities.
What I like to see is for all of us to do our part by living the Purple Parade in our daily lives. How can you do that ? Perhaps start by being a friend to someone who is different.
Finally, a point which I had raised but was not mentioned in the article, and that is my hope for all stakeholders in the sector to work together towards a common objective.”
 
On Mr Aw resigning as advisor, DPA is grateful for the contribution Mr Aw made to the disability advocacy movement in Singapore. Under his leadership he re-energised DPA and started many important conversations about disability-led inclusion. DPA owes a lot to him and his passionate support for putting advocacy into action.
 
On this occasion Mr Aw made it clear that the TODAY article was his personal parting view on the disability sector. As a platform for the diverse and rich voices of persons with disabilities in Singapore, DPA is sharing Mr Aw’s opinions, published and unpublished, in full.
 
Despite growing awareness about the need for inclusion and new policies to support persons with disabilities, DPA believes that change has indeed been slow. The circumstances of persons with disabilities remain difficult and there is still work to be done by all of us to ensure that no one gets left behind. DPA shares Mr Aw’s hope that stakeholders continue to work together towards a common objective, building a fairer society where everyone can participate in all aspects of life from education, to employment, and access to social integration. As part of DPA’s ongoing advocacy approach and our aim to bring both awareness of the need for inclusion and acceptance of persons with disabilities; we continue to support The Purple Parade and its contributors.
 
DPA also looks forward to continued partnerships with government agencies, statutory boards, and other social service organisations involved in the disability sector. Despite barriers, progress has been made in some areas and policies have evolved, and this would not have been possible without the efforts of all stakeholders.
 
To read the article please click here.
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Supporting people with disabilities in living independently

Although Disabled People’s Association (DPA) appreciates the well-meaning sentiments behind Mr Dino Trakakis’ letter ‘Build special flats for those with autism’, DPA thinks his suggestions oversimplify the need for independent living options for persons with disabilities and the role the community plays in supporting that living arrangement.

While living independently is an important milestone for any adult, and adults with autism should be no exception, having support from the community is important in ensuring that adults with autism do not end up being isolated. In addition, just like non-autistic people, autistic persons each have different personalities and needs. Soundproofing units only addresses one small area of concern (mostly on the side of potential neighbours and/or the autistic person who may have extreme noise sensitivity) and not all autistic people have difficulty living with others under the same roof, in fact, many autistic persons enjoy living with others and benefit greatly from living within a supportive community. There must be much more done to address the integration needs of autistic people moving out of family homes or institutional care. Indeed, this is important for all persons with disabilities.

It is important to note that even in land-scarce Singapore, independent living options are not just about affordability and the accessibility of a housing unit. “Independence” for an adult with any disability is about providing the space to make decisions about their own lives. These decisions can empower adults and act as the foundation for people with disabilities to have independence in other aspects of their lives.

For example, in Australia, there are homes built with flat mate arrangements where adults with disabilities can benefit from companionship while also exercising control over their own lives. And in the United Kingdom, in addition to purpose-built homes, personal assistants provided by housing charities visit adults with disabilities at regular intervals to assist and provide support where required. A little closer to home, in Japan there are independent living centres built as community-based group homes that also focus on advocacy. These additional initiatives encourage adults with disabilities to participate in the policy-making processes on disability-related issues.

In Singapore we can come up with policies that support independent living arrangements that are appropriate to our unique cultural and socio-economic situation as long as we engage all the stakeholders, including persons with disabilities, the policy makers and members of the public who will be the future neighbours of the persons with disabilities. If we co-create policies as a community then we can avoid the ‘not in my backyard’ mentality that sometimes rears its ugly head when discussing supported living housing arrangements.

These are solutions that better address concerns that parents have for their children with disabilities, and that adults with disabilities can enjoy whether they have “unhappy and dysfunctional relationships with their families” or not.

Whatever solution is proposed, it should not lead to further isolation of adults with disabilities by further stigmatizing their disabilities within the wider community.

 

 

Mr Richard Kuppusamy

President

Disabled People’s Association

Tel: 67911134

Address: 1 Jurong West Central 2, #04-01 Jurong Point Shopping Centre, Singapore 648886

Guest Post: 6 Benefits of Volunteering on Our Mental Health, by Cassandra Chiu

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of volunteering at the Disabled Peoples Association Annual Reunion Dinner as MC for the evening with co-host Anand Vikash.

The theme was “disco fever”, hence my very glam glittery head gear… Not sure it suits me, it’s not my usual style, but it’s all in the spirit of the event! It was such fun and is always a privilege to give back to the community. Here are some photos from the evening.

Besides doing something we are passionate about, wanting to see the world be a better place and feeling good about it, there are also many benefits of volunteering to our mental health. By using our energy, skills, time and resources meaningfully to help others, we can not only reap the rewards of working together to make this world better, we will also benefit our mental well-being. Research shows that volunteering for as little as 2-3 hours weekly or 100 hours annually, benefits our mental health the most, as long as it’s rewarding to us and not another addition to our ever-growing to-do list.

Here is a list of 7 benefits according to this counsellor.

1. Sense of Meaning and Purpose
At whatever stage of life, volunteering can give us meaning, purpose and fulfillment in ways different than what we do or have done for work or school. No matter the cause, the willingness to do what’s needed in the moment, no matter how humbling the task, can put things in perspective and help grow compassion for others while expanding our
minds and world view.

2. Sparks Passion

Volunteering is a fun way to explore new things and people who may be experts in their fields. Just by pure osmosis alone we can absorb the passions of masters. It is also an energizing escape from your daily routine, especially if you sit in front of a computer all day and long to be more active.

3. Increases Confidence

When volunteering we can be called to learn new skills or try new activities, that stimulate us in ways we may not experience otherwise. In growing our skillset to make a difference for others, we can gain a sense of pride and identity, which can lead to having a more positive view of our self.

4. Keeps Depression Away

Volunteering increases motivation by providing a sense of accomplishment. It can also keep our thoughts diverted from destructive thinking habits like rumination, negative thinking, and being overly critical of oneself, which leads to Depression.

5. Lessening Stress

Whether we are working on animals, children or the marginalized, when our focus is on something we find meaningful, and our attention is on something or someone else, our own worries melts away. The more purpose we can find in our volunteering, the more
satisfaction we gain in the giving of our time and  efforts, which improves our mood and reduces stress.

6. Prevents Isolation

Another hallmark of Depression is isolation. Volunteering provides a safe space for us to step out of isolation whilst helping us feel accomplished. It can also expend our social and professional network and help in making new friends who share our worldview and values. It’s possible to create long lasting friendships even after the volunteering ends.

If you find it meaningful to foster a more inclusive society for the disabled, why not check out volunteering with the Disabled Peoples Association.

The Disabled People’s Association (DPA) is the only cross-disability organisation in Singapore dedicated to advocacy,policy and research work. DPA aims to do this by influencing decision-makers to implement policies and programmes aimed at promoting social integration of persons with disabilities. They also aim to raise public awareness of and share experiences concerning disability and seek solutions through round-table discussions, government consultations, position papers, and commentaries and letters to the media.

Happy volunteering! And here’s to your great mental well-being and the world being a better place with more meaning and purpose.

 

Till next time,

C

A Rough Experience with SilkAir

So previously we blogged about Jetstar Asia’s appalling customer service with a passenger with a disability. However, it seems like poor customer service, isn’t relegated only to the budget airline world.

Today, we share with you the experience of Mr Dennis Rumley (a frequent flier) who flew with Singapore Airlines with his wife Hilary, who is a paraplegic and wheelchair user.

Despite the top-notch service that they usually receive with the airline, their trip to Penang proved to be the exception. Here’s the experience that Mr Rumley shared with us:

I have been a Singapore Airlines frequent flyer for more than 40 years and have always preferred SIA [and especially Business Class SIA] wherever possible. Almost always, the flights, the service, the food, the crew and the ground staff have been first-rate.

However, my wife, Hilary [a paraplegic and wheelchair user unable to walk] and I
recently visited Penang on SIA and had a repeated and extremely disappointing and distressing experience, especially, but not solely, with the quite incompetent ability of the airline ground staff to enable my wife to get into and out of her aircraft seat into and out of Singapore and Penang. This is despite our making it very clear before we travelled that we needed appropriate assistance. This level of incompetence [a result we strongly believe is as a result of little or very poor SIA training and unsuitable equipment to deal with disabled airline travellers] also resulted in my sustaining a back injury even before our holiday [covering Christmas, our wedding anniversary and New Year] at the E & O in Penang had actually begun. My back injury is now being treated by my doctor in Perth and will take some time to fully recover. Furthermore, as we discovered on our return to Perth, the Penang and Singapore ‘seat transfers’ resulted in a potentially serious injury to my wife’s lower back causing the skin to be broken and a potential infection to occur. She is also currently being treated for this in Perth.

The first section of our Business Class flight, however, was fine. All of the ground staff in Perth were excellent. They were well mannered and appeared to be well trained and aware of all relevant wheelchair-user-flyer issues.

The connection to Penang was fairly tight [but was subsequently delayed], but the staff member meeting us was excellent and very helpful. The first problem, however, that we had was when my wife was being assisted by the ground staff into her SilkAir aircraft seat. One of the ground staff called out that Hilary was slipping from his grasp and I instinctively moved forward quickly to help her and in the process very badly strained my back. Hilary’s back was also slightly grazed by the seat during this process. Several aircrew and passengers were witness to this overall incident.

Having alerted the aircrew to the condition of my back before landing in Penang, they very methodically ensured that Hilary’s seat transfer was quite satisfactory. However, having paid more than AUD$7000 for our flights and with the prospect of another 2 weeks at the E & O for an addition of more than AUD$4000, my back and general demeanour in a long-planned celebration holiday were very seriously impaired. I thought [incorrectly at the time] that back rub and taking it easy for 2 weeks might help the back slowly come good, but I was mistaken. I thus sought treatment for it with my Perth doctor yesterday. It will take some time to fully recover.

The first part of our return journey [Penang-Singapore on SilkAir] was especially problematical in terms of Hilary’s transfer into the aircraft seat. The ground staff member in charge of the aircraft wheelchair was no less than
hysterically incompetent. He had no idea whatever of the use of the  aircraft wheelchair, its braking system or anything else but insisted in a repeatedly very shrill voice what needed to be done. My wife did her best to calm him down and to instruct him on what was required. Even then, it took some minutes before normality was reached and we exited the aircraft. A young female ground staff member (Shreener?) was especially helpful here.

The final leg of our SIA journey [Singapore-Perth] was no less eventful
regarding Hilary’s access to her seat. Yet again, another arrogant, ignorant male who
clearly had little or no training was determined to demonstrate his incompetence in a loud voice all the way to the aircraft door. He was then joined in an all-male shouting chorus by the aircraft steward who equally had no idea of what to do [As an aside, if passengers behave like this on aircraft they can be evicted, but not staff?]. Hilary and I managed to calm down both of these men and instructed them on what needed to be done by way of transfer from wheelchair to airline chair and then on to the aircraft seat. However, during both of these transfers, once again my wife’s lower back was scratched [she has no feeling in her lower back and thus would have felt no sensation]. As noted above, this [now multiple] injury is currently being treated by our Perth doctors.

On arrival in Perth, however, all was calm, competent and caring. The ground staff
were extremely good and professional and there was no problem exiting the aircraft.

The lessons from these very unfortunate incidents are quite clear:

  1. All SIA and SilkAir [ground and air] crew need to be properly trained in
    handling disabled passengers. We can help in this regard if you wish.
  2. All ground and air crew need to be trained to keep their tempers in a crisis
    situation that they have created due to their lack of competence. During my 40
    years+ as an SIA Frequent Flyer I have never been shouted at so much my
    ground and aircrew as during this current trip.
  3. Since the overall enjoyment of our holiday was severely jeopardised by
    Singapore Airlines, Hilary and I believe that we require appropriate
    compensation for both our injuries and for the way we were treated by the
    crews during our trip. We are considering taking legal advice on this matter
    but would much prefer to come to some appropriate, mutually-negotiable
    settlement. We are happy to discuss what this might entail. I can suggest an
    ‘ideal’ if pressed.
  4. If we are unable to achieve 3 above, then my long-term confidence in SIA will
    have been utterly destroyed, my sense of customer loyalty will have
    evaporated and we will have no choice but to seek legal advice.

Dennis Rumley

The Disabled People’s Association will be reaching out to Singapore Airlines to give them a right of reply for this particular experience.

Stay tuned for updates!

Jetstar Asia Nosedives On Accessibility

In April this year, we posted an article about Dr Rupa Chandrashekar’s experience as a Jetstar Asia customer with a disability.

Since then, the Disabled People’s Association (DPA) had reached out to Jetstar Asia to further understand their protocols when it came to assisting passengers with a disability. Here is Jetstar Asia’s response to DPA’s initial inquiry:

Jetstar Asia’s Official Statement

Dear Dr Medjeral-Mills,

Thank you for contacting Jetstar Asia on behalf of Dr Chandrashekar. I’m sincerely sorry for the delay in responding.

Jetstar Asia’s mobility and wheelchair practices

 Jetstar Asia provides point to point air travel at a very low cost. It is only able to offer low fares because of its operational arrangements including very short turnaround times (ie the time when aircraft are on the ground and not flying), staffing levels (ie limited crew members and same team crewing) and airport arrangements.

These operational arrangements mean that Jetstar Asia is able to provide limited assistance, including to passengers requiring wheelchair assistance.

You can find more details about the Mobility and wheelchair assistance Jetstar Asia provides on our website at: https://www.jetstar.com/sg/en/help/articles/mobility-assistance-and-torso-restraints.

Dr Chandrashekar’s experience

For privacy reasons we are not at liberty to disclose specific information regarding Dr Chandrashekar’s booking or the circumstances of this case. However, I can confirm that Jetstar Asia has been in contact with Dr Chandrashekar directly regarding her experience on 1 January 2018.

Thank you again for contacting Jetstar Asia on behalf of Dr Chandrashekar.

Yours sincerely,

Joanne – Jetstar Specific Assistance Coordinator

Having brushed off any responsibility for the lack of customer service, here is DPA’s counter response to what we think about their official position:

DPA’s Response:

Dear Joanne,

Thank you for getting back to me. However, given that I first emailed Jetstar on 1 February 2018 it has taken a far too long to respond. I tried to contact Jetstar twice regarding this issue and in the meantime DPA has published a blog on the poor communication and customer service that Dr Chandrashekar received from Jetstar.

See: https://disabledpeoplesassociation.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/travelling-with-a-disability-on-jetstar-asia/

DPA aims to publish stories that incorporate both side of story, but seeing as Jetstar took so long to reply DPA was unable to include Jetstar reponses. We will now include your email response and update the blog post.

Having seen your email I am surprised that this is Jetstar’s official response to accommodating the needs of passengers needing wheelchair assistance. I am also aware that you have been in touch with Dr Chandrashekar as has been updating us on the whole incident. Your responses have neither taken responsibility for the lacking customer service she experienced on the day of the incident nor for the follow up communications.

The airline industry has problems in providing adequate service for the growing accessible tourism market and some are making great strides in working on those issues. In Jetstar’s case the first step would be acknowledging the gaps and at least trying to figure out what can be done, rather than just citing your existing mobility assistance policy.

Citing the fact that Jetstar is a low cost airline and has short turnaround times as an excuse for not being able to provide more than limited assistance to passengers with disabilities ignores the fact that other airlines, including low cost ones, have figured out how to provide assistance (not perfectly, but have at least tried and had some measure of success. Does Jetstar think that only persons with disabilities that are willing/able to pay for traditional airlines should have their choices accommodated?

There are no real security or operation reasons for denying someone’s request for their wheelchair to meet them when they disembark from a plane and not go to baggage claim. In fact,  Philippines Airlines was able to comply with her request. I am aware Philippines Airlines is not a low cost airline like Jetstar, but they were able to look into Dr Chandrashekar and find a way to make it happen, as opposed to shutting her down immediately and kicking her off the flight with no more assistance.

Thank you for sharing Jetstar’s position, it is very helpful for DPA to update our list of airlines we can recommend to tourists/travelers with disabilities and those that we do not recommend they use.

Thanks,

Dr Marissa Lee Medjeral-Mills

Executive Director

So there you go. Guess it’s time to reconsider if you really want to plan your travels based on Jetstar Asia’s “limited assistance…to passengers requiring wheelchair assistance”.

Self-Reporting Mechanisms, and Role of Allies in Cases of Abuse

The Disabled People’s Association (DPA) is both outraged and saddened to read a recent article highlighting a case of bullying by students: “Assumption Pathway School takes disciplinary action against girls seen bullying student in viral video”. While it is encouraging to read of the swift actions by the teacher Ms Norashsikin and the management of Assumption Pathway School, it is simply unacceptable for cases like this to be an occurrence in any school.

Bullying is a horrible thing for any child to experience, but to share the act on social media for others to view in effect victimises the student all over again. In this case there is more at play than bullying, from the comments on the original video it appears they targeted the student because she has an intellectual disability. If this is true, then this is a case of abuse fuelled by discrimination. Such cruel inhumane, and degrading treatment cannot be condoned. The consequences should be proportionate with the actions of these abusers.

This act was detected and reported because it was shared on Twitter, but how many other cases of discrimination motivated bullying go unnoticed because the perpetrators don’t post videos online?

DPA has urged authorities to simplify abuse reporting mechanisms so that they are more accessible to persons with cognitive impairments and intellectual disabilities. Sharing materials about reporting bullying and abuse in easy read format can help those with Intellectual disabilities. It is also important to understand the role of allies in standing up for their fellow students and community members with disabilities.

In 2013, DPA had run its public education campaign (“Their greatest disability is our apathy”) that focused on how particular actions and choices can profoundly affect an individual with disabilities. Years on, this message is still very much relevant. Despite the uncomfortable actions being done to her, the student clearly lacked the empowerment to report this case. It is in this moment that we would like to know what schools are doing to encourage those within the school community, including teachers and students, to report and stop bullying and abusive behaviour.

With current options relying on caregivers and allies reporting cases of abuse on behalf of the person with disability, we are not doing enough to empower those being abused to ask for help.

DPA urges the management and staff of all schools, both mainstream and Special Education schools, to review their current abuse reporting processes to truly make learning and education a safe space.

After all, education will not be inclusive by merely enacting the Compulsory Education Act. It cannot be business as usual. Otherwise we run the risk of doing a huge disservice to the students who rely on these safe spaces in their formative years.

 

Mr Richard Kuppusamy, President

Disabled People’s Association

Tel: 67911134

Address: 1 Jurong West Central 2, #04-01 Jurong Point Shopping Centre, Singapore 648886

 

Travelling With A Disability on Jetstar Asia

Travel. A word that can either bring to mind delight or dread depending on whether you have a disability.

While many individuals eagerly look forward to vacationing, many airlines still have not done enough to ensure that persons with disabilities have a pleasant time travelling.

Although some tourists with disabilities have had good experiences, many do not. On 10 August 2017, the Guardian ran an article about ‘Disabled passengers forced to wait hours to disembark at Heathrow’[1] and in a Straits Time article from 12 November 2017 Mr Richard Kuppusamy, President of the Disabled People’s Association (DPA), shared about his wheelchair had been damaged in transit and that it took the airlines responsible six weeks to repair it.[2]

Jetstar Asia is an airline which had been recognised as one of the “Top 10 Airlines by Passenger Carriage” by Changi Airline Awards yet, one particular incident took a passenger’s experience to a new low.

Earlier in the year, DPA was approached by Dr Rupa Chandrashekar, a US citizen who recently visited Singapore. As an avid traveller who has travelled to over 75 countries, Dr Chandrashekar has seen her fair share of airline policies as a passenger who uses a wheelchair.

Ushering in her 2018 with Jetstar Asia however, left an indelible mark, and not for the best of reasons.

On January 1, Dr Chandrashekar was travelling from Singapore to Manila, Philippines. After checking in at Changi Airport, she informed the Jetstar agents about her needs regarding the wheelchair at the flight gate. This was in addition to having informed the airlines about her travel needs a month ahead of time. In her past experience, she would have given her wheelchair at the gate, boarded the airplane, and then received it again at the gate upon arrival.

This time however, she was informed that her wheelchair would be going into baggage claim. Even with the best of airlines, seasoned travellers would know that any wheelchair handled like baggage can be damaged. Dr Chandrashekar refused, stating that this was highly unusual and that her wheelchair was fragile. Only to be told by Jetstar Asia agents that her exchange was causing the flight to be delayed, although there was still 30 minutes left of boarding time, and she would need to wait till after all passengers had boarded.

After boarding the remaining passengers, Jetstar Asia agents informed her that they had decided to take her off the flight list for being “a disruptive passenger”. Jetstar Asia staff did not provide any assistance with finding an alternative flight for Dr Chandrashekar nor did she receive any assistance whilst going between various Changi Airport terminals trying to find another flight to the Philippines. After four hours, she managed to get a flight with Philippines Airlines at her own cost.

Dr Chandrashekar wrote in to Jetstar Asia to complain about how she was treated.

Here is Jetstar Asia’s response:

“If they feel that your behaviour is disruptive in any way, it is their responsibility to act. In the interest of flight and passenger safety, Jetstar Asia has a strict policy of denying boarding to any customer, or offloading any customer who makes inappropriate comments or behaves inappropriately inflight or on the ground. Our airport staff and/or crew will only allow a passenger on to a plane if they believe that his or her behaviour will not disturb or affect the safety or comfort of others.

On the date in question, our staff formed the view that your behaviour was unacceptable and subsequently decided to offload you from the flight. While I understand that this was disappointing for you, I’m afraid you agreed to these conditions when you made your booking. 

I’m sorry to hear your feedback about the way our staff dealt with this situation. Please be assured that your comments will be forwarded to the team involved to assist with training and performance management.”

It is highly unbecoming when an airline, a service provider, does not take responsibility for the poor customer service received by a passenger, failing to address that wheelchairs can be brought to the aircraft door, and instead places the blame in its entirety on the passenger.

We urge Jetstar Asia to look at its processes to be an airline that caters to everyone’s needs, not just for passengers without disabilities.

In stark contrast to how Dr Chandrashekar was treated by Jetstar Asia staff, the counter staff at Philippines Airlines listened to Dr Chandrashekar’s requests and knew about wheelchair handling procedures. At the boarding gate, Dr Chandrashekar again requested that her wheelchair be at the gate in Manila and the Philippines airlines staff sent a message to their counterparts at Manila airport. When arriving in Manila, the inflight crew again informed the ground staff about Dr Chandrashekar’s request and her wheelchair was waiting for her at the gate.

Dr Chandrashekar is understandably upset about this incident and reflecting on it she says:

 “As I think about this incident, it angers me that Jetstar Asia would treat me in such a way for having a voice and advocating for myself and about my disability. If voicing my concerns is “disruptive behaviour” then, that’s a shame. I cannot believe that Jetstar Asia would treat people with disabilities in such a way.”

DPA reached out to Jetstar Asia customer service a couple of times to discuss what happened with Dr Chandrashekar, but did not receive any response.

A Good Day Out : Tote Board’s 30th Anniversary

Tote Board commemorated 30 Years of Giving with “A Good Day Out” on 10 February 2018! As one of the partners, Disabled People’s Association spent the day at this all-inclusive carnival held at Gardens by the Bay. This milestone event which brought together more than 15,000 beneficiaries and members of the public was graced by Guest of Honor Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and dedicated to the beneficiaries and social service organizations who partnered with Tote Board to give hope and improve the lives of all in Singapore.

Our Inclusion Ambassadors and volunteers arrived bright and early to set up our E-DATS (Experiential Disability Awareness) booth showcasing three different types of disabilities – General Awareness & Sensory, Autism, and Psycho-social. Aiming to raise awareness and encourage better understanding between persons with and without disabilities, our disability-specific booths offered interactive and experiential activities such as wheelchair challenge, lip reading, signing and experiential goggles. All who came by our booth engaged in a fun time of learning through problem solving exercises led by our Inclusion Ambassadors, and supported by our volunteers. Inclusion Ambassadors are DPA members with disabilities who are trained to engage with various target groups and raise awareness on disability.

We also had the honor of having Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong personally visit our booth, to meet and understand the work of our Inclusion Ambassadors, and try out our various experiential activities that conveyed the important message that disability is only one characteristic of a person and does not comprise one’s sole self-identity. People with disabilities do not require other’s pity or sympathy. Instead, they need support, acceptance, inclusion, and recognition that they have equal rights as anyone else.

DPA had many meaningful conversations and interactions with members of the public through this event, and we look forward to creating a more inclusive Singapore together!

Watch this video to find out more about the advocacy work that our Inclusion Ambassadors do!

Project Smile by Temasek Secondary School

We’re always thrilled to welcome student groups interested in volunteering and collaborating with us at DPA. So when 9 students from Temasek Secondary School recently approached us to run Project Smile, we were more than delighted to say yes!

Project Smile is a project with the simple aim of bringing smiles to the faces of persons with disabilities, while promoting inclusion and giving back to society.

The objective of the Project Smile Team was to develop a deeper understanding of the needs and concerns of persons with disabilities, with the hope of eventually promoting inclusion and gaining an increased confidence to effectively interact with persons with disabilities. Hence, their first step was to schedule a site recce and consultation at the DPA office to better understand and explore how we can collaborate together to make this happen.

Prior to the actual event, the team members of Project Smile attended a Disability Awareness Talk Series (DATS) conducted by our Training Consultant, Ms Asha, to learn how to disable the disability and embrace inclusion.

Armed with knowledge, the Project Smile team met with some of our Inclusion Ambassadors to take their project a step towards reality.

On the afternoon of 2 August 2017, 3 of our Inclusion Ambassadors – Joseph, Margaret and Sakina – who are wheelchair users, participated in Project Smile. After a quick round of ice-breakers and self-introduction, the Project Smile team led our Inclusion Ambassadors in a session of origami and a game of bingo. Vibrant laughter and chatter filled the room as time flew by! A short song performance by the team quickly evolved into a sing-along session together with our Inclusion Ambassadors. As the session came to a close, the friendship built between the team and our Inclusion Ambassadors was undeniable. The team left with their hearts full and were tremendously inspired, while our Inclusion Ambassadors wore smiles on their faces the whole time – a clear evidence of the joy and warmth flowing from within them.

The Project Smile Team also raised a total of $360.50 in donations which was then presented to DPA. Raising the amount solely by selling bubble tea to their schoolmates, it was heartening to hear them share the funny stories and challenges they faced in the process of their fundraising activity.

DPA would like to extend a big thank you to the Project Smile Team – Nurfareha, YuXuan, Jonathan, Jia Xuan, Elena, Zeta, Mus’ab, Damien and Sandro – together with their teacher, Mrs Verma, and parent helper, Mdm Noorjan for being such a blessing to the community!

Design For Humanity, Makerthon 2017

On 26 July 2017, DPA conducted a disability awareness talk and some experiential activities for participants of Design for Humanity – Makerthon 2017. Our Inclusion Ambassadors Margaret, Rosie and Timothy shared the barriers they faced in their daily lives and motivated the participants to come up with assistive devices that will increase their functional independence.

Design for Humanity is a collaboration between Engineering Good Student Chapter (EGSC), the Innovation and Design Centric Programme Student Club (iDCP SC), as well as the Institute of Engineers Singapore NUS Student Chapter (IES-NUS). DPA works with them to raise awareness and help participants to better understand the needs of persons with disabilities.

The theme of the Makerthon 2017 was ‘breaking barriers in the workplace – making workplaces more Inclusive for persons with disabilities through design’ and it aimed to expose more students to humanitarian engineering, empowering them to apply their technical skills for social good.  The Makerthon 2017 was a three day event (26 – 28 July 2017). Participants were given the opportunity to identify a specific area to work on. They generated new ideas, learned relevant technical skills and came up with various exciting prototypes.

The finals were held at National University of Singapore on 28 July 2017. Six teams participated in this Makerthon. Their ideas were presented before a panel of judges to receive feedback. The judges were Dr Dawn-Joy Leong (Board member, Disabled People’s Association), Associate Professor Loh Ai Poh (Director of the Innovation & Design-Centric Programme), Associate Professor Tay Seng Chuan and Associate Professor Mehul Motani.

The winning team combined affordable technology with an innovative social model and developed a button that persons with disabilities would be able to use to call for assistance. The prototype was a simple button that lit up when they needed help. Those who are willing to help can approach the person with disability to offer assistance. The winning team consisted of five students from National University of Singapore (NUS), three students from the Faculty of Engineering and two students from the Faculty of Science.

Assistive devices enable persons with disabilities to function effectively, overcoming the limitations that they may face in their life. DPA encourages students to generate innovative ideas for affordable, accessible and effective technology that can help make workplaces more inclusive for persons with disabilities.

DPA congratulates all the participants and organisers of this Makerthon and welcomes brilliant brains to take up these type of future challenges to create prototypes that can be turned to real solutions promoting inclusion of persons with disabilities.