Complement fines with education

Straits Times Forum, 20 January 2016 (print edition)

The Disabled People’s Association (DPA) welcomes the stronger penalties for drivers caught misusing handicap parking spaces (“Fines up for disabled parking misuse“; Monday).

This is a timely effort, considering the recent spate of events involving the misuse of these parking spaces (“Cab leaves no room for wheelchair user“; Jan 5). But imposing higher fines may not be enough to deter offenders and would-be offenders.

More public education needs to be carried out to explain why access to handicap parking spaces is strictly restricted to people with disabilities.

In busy areas such as shopping malls, where parking spaces are limited, some drivers may think it is acceptable to park in a handicap parking space, and they will continue to believe that, unless some effort is made to explain the need for such restrictions.

The fines should continue to be complemented with public education to help address the need to change behaviour over time.

In particular, the DPA urges private carparks, such as those in shopping centres, to educate the public and their own staff about the proper use of facilities for disabled people and the need to properly implement any penalties the management has for the misuse of those spaces.

The parking space for people with disabilities at Cluny Court is repeatedly used by people without the appropriate parking label. The carpark staff even tell drivers to park there when there are no other parking spaces available.

Such cases are not isolated to this shopping centre, but it does illustrate how poor commitment to implementing the proper use of the handicap parking spaces undercuts the point of having those spaces in the first place.

Stronger penalties help spread public awareness that such conduct is not just socially unacceptable, but is also against the law.

Yet, without proper implementation, people will continue to believe that the misuse of parking spaces for people with disabilities is something that they can easily get away with.

These reserved parking spaces are not about giving special privileges to a group of people. People with disabilities have no other choice but to park in these designated spaces, as the wider spaces are needed for them to get in and out of their cars.

This parking issue has a wider significance in Singapore’s journey towards an inclusive society.

I urge members of the public to report the misuse of these spaces to the management of carparks and follow up with them in properly penalising the misuse.

Marissa Lee Medjeral-Mills (Dr)
Executive Director
Disabled People’s Association


Note: DPA does not think that the term “handicap parking spaces” is appropriate terminology. (Please refer to DPA’s glossary for more information: http://www.dpa.org.sg/…/10/DPA-Disability-Glossary-FINAL.pdf) The Forum editor edited DPA’s letter and changed the terms “parking lot for persons with disabilities” and “disabled parking spaces” to “handicap parking spaces”.

Inclusion: what does it really mean for people with disabilities?

By Jorain Ng

In Singapore, the term “inclusion” gets thrown around a lot when we talk about how people with disabilities should be treated in our society. You can see this term almost everywhere, from ministerial speeches, campaign slogans to companies motto. But what does “inclusion” really mean?

Most would paint a general idea of inclusion and say something along the lines of “including people with disabilities equally and fairly in society”. But this begs the question. We all have divergent, even contesting, views on what constitute “fairness” and “equality”.

Not too long ago, I attended a focus group session for persons with disabilities to share their views and experiences on social inclusion. Our facilitator asked us to define what inclusion means in employment. We gave generic replies such as fair hiring practices and equal opportunities for career progression. “Equal pay, equal work,” I answered at one point. I wanted to drive home the point that a person with disability should be treated equitably as their colleagues in compensation, professional development and accountability.

The facilitator then brought up a hypothetical case study to provoke further discussion on this notion of “equal pay, equal work.” He asked: If an employee with a disability who comes from a lower income household is unable to meet his KPI (Key Performance Indicator), how should his employer remunerate him? Should the employer offer him a salary based on his productivity level, or the same salary given to his colleagues who are doing the same line of work but with higher productivity levels?

Much to my surprise, the other respondents supported the latter practice. They even quipped that the company could hire the man to be a “poster boy” for their Corporate Social Responsibility events.

I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at their response. Didn’t they know that such employment practices only reinforced the negative stereotypes of persons with disabilities as objects of charity? How could it be an acceptable practice of inclusion?

But I wasn’t there to judge. We live a free country; everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. And mine was starkly different. “I still stand by what I said previously. Equal pay, equal work. The man should be paid according to his productivity level.”

To gain respect from a society that prides itself on being a meritocracy, it is important that persons with disabilities are treated as equals, not beneficiaries of a company’s generosity. Anything more would be an insult to his dignity, an act of tokenism which we all know to be a sad excuse for inaction, and a counterproductive measure that reinforces the charity model of disability. If a man’s salary is insufficient in supporting his livelihood, he should seek financial help from the Ministry of Social and Family Development. It is the Government’s responsibility to look after the welfare of their citizens, after all.

I’m not sure how others took to my reply, but I know it was definitely not met with overwhelming support. This is understandable. Our background and circumstances, combined with our physiological makeups, influence our perception and thought processes. What may seem like an acceptable practice to me may be unacceptable to others.

The question then is how can policymakers translate these multiple and competing views into a coherent set of inclusion policies, particularly one that seeks to protect, promote and support the rights of all persons with disabilities?

For a start, the disability community need to come together to reach a common understanding on what counts as “inclusion” in Singapore. For example, in the provision of education for students with disabilities, should special schools continue to exist?  If an employee is unable to fulfill his job responsibilities due to limitations arising from his disability, should the company pay him the same salary as offered to his co-workers? These are just some of the tough and debatable questions that need to be addressed. I’m not going to sugar-coat. It’s going to be a complicated, hair-pulling exercise, but it is something I think we all desperately need.


Future of Us

By Jan Evans

“Imagine what Singapore could be in the future”

So reads the front page headline of “The Future Express”, a newspaper distributed at The Future of Us exhibition, the capstone event to Singapore’s SG50 year of celebration.

I attended the Opening Day on 1 December and enjoyed the various multimedia presentations which suggest ways in which Singaporeans might live, work, play, care and learn in the future.

The exhibition was wheelchair accessible but I felt that an opportunity was missed to make it more accessible to persons with disabilities other than those relating to mobility:  Closed captioning in English, Sign Language interpreters in video stream, braille signage and more tactile exhibits would have helped include people with different disabilities.

It was the Theatre of Generations which made the most impact with me. In a film projected above us we met four people from the future (2030) – Yi Xin, Joseph, Faizal and Ravina – and learned of their dreams and aspirations as they drew inspiration from their grandparents in 1965.   It wasn’t the futuristic images that stayed in my mind nor the 360 degree projection screen overhead:  It was the simple image (often front and centre screen in group shots) of Yi Xin, a designer, who also happened to be a wheelchair user.  Noone drew attention to this fact, there was no fanfare, nor was there wide acclaim of the fact that she was a professional “in spite of her disability”. It was a simple visual statement.  And more effective for its simplicity.


Photo shows Yi Xin, a designer, who also happened to be a wheelchair user.

I have attended many Disability Awareness events and conferences over the past few months. They are usually attended by people who are already interested and involved in raising Disability Awareness in Singapore : “Preaching to the converted” was a phrase used in one conference.   Many people who want to “be the change” in Singapore comment that they rarely saw people with disabilities when they were growing up or going to school.

On the way to Gardens by the Bay (the location of the exhibition), my friend and I passed through the Shoppes at Marina Bay and, as we turned the corner, found ourselves in the middle of what appeared to be a Wheelchair Rally:  We had walked into the ASEAN Para Games Welcome Event at Marina Bay Sands.  My friend commented, “I have never seen so many wheelchairs!”  “Isn’t it great!” I said.


Photo shows Barney, a purple dinosaur, at the Purple Parade 2015.

After the Purple Parade (at the end of October) there was a photo posted on FaceBook featuring one character in the parade. The caption read, “Look at our cute purple dino at ‪#‎PurpleParadeSG” .  In fact, the subject of the photo was the title character from the well loved children’s American TV series, “Barney & Friends”, which aired from 1992–2009. The series featured Barney, a purple dinosaur, who comes to life in the imagination of children and conveys educational messages through songs and dance routines. Barney’s friends included a small group of children from different ethnic backgrounds.  One of Barney’s friends was a boy called David, a wheelchair user (played by Robert Hurtekant, a wheelchair user in real life). I don’t recall any special mention of his wheelchair, he was simply – well – included.

The Future of Us exhibition calls on Singaporeans “to share their hopes and dreams for themselves, their family and the nation.”

I dream that people with disabilities are so part of the everyday visual landscape, so able to move freely from place to place, so populating and productive in the workplace that the situation is totally unnoticeable and unworthy of comment.

“Imagine what Singapore could be in the future”?

I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that these dreams will become a reality in the very near future …

And that they do not only “come to life” – like Barney the Purple Dinosaur – merely in the imagination of the naive.

The Future of Us Exhibition is on until 8 March 2016.  Tickets are available for various time slots and are free – see http://www.thefutureofus.sg/

Jan Evans is a volunteer at the Disabled People’s Association. She joined the team last year 2014 and has contributed to DPA’s research and publications. 

Disability in Mad Max: Fury Road

By Jorain Ng

When I first saw the movie poster for Mad Max: Fury Road in May, I didn’t have high hopes for the show. I thought it was just going to be another stereotypical movie about a disabled superhero saving the day. I could not be more wrong. Fury Road is one of the best action movies I’ve ever seen!

There are many characters with disabilities in this movie including the female protagonist, the main antagonist, the antagonist’s sons, just to name a few.

Imperator Furiosa holding a shotgun.

Imperator Furiosa holding a shotgun. [ Image taken from http://bulletsareextinct.tumblr.com ]

But my favorite character is the female protagonist called Imperator Furiosa. Furiosa has a physical disability, a left arm defect to be more precise. She wears a steampunk-looking prosthetic (one that actually looks realistic and usable by amputees) to help her perform her daily tasks.

Yet you barely notice her disability. Whether she’s driving a huge truck, reloading her gun or shooting enemies, her prosthetic arm is presented as a natural extension of her body. It’s there, we can see it. And it’s no big deal.

Her disability is also never a plot device. There is no tragic backstory regarding her disability, and her character is not used to inspire or motivate audience. In fact, her disability is never explained. We do not even know how or when she acquired her disability. The movie doesn’t want us to focus on her disability. They treat her disability as just another kind of difference – something I find really refreshing.

There is one particular scene that epitomises everything I love about the movie and the effortless manner it portrays disability. I have shared the movie clip from youtube below.

In this scene, Furiosa and her ally, Max, are fighting off their enemies who are attacking their ride. Furiosa reloads her shotgun and shoots at her enemies. When their ride catches fire, Furiosa quickly lowers the plow at the front of the truck which digs up sand, extinguishing the flames. When Furiosa noticed that more enemies are pursuing them, she opens the flap at the top of the truck and positions herself there to have a better shooting range. Max reloads her shotgun and passes it back to Furiosa who then proceeds to attack her enemies again.

These film sequences are done beautifully and realistically. Her prosthetic arm does not transform into a weapon – as you would expect from a disabled hero in action movies. It is simply portrayed as an assistive device that enables her to do things. And her allies like Max do not see her as a liability or feel sorry for her physical disability. They treat her as an equal.

I have watched many great action movies but this one takes the cake. I doubt the filmmakers ever read the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or even know about the social model of disability. But they’ve inadvertently done a great job in showing others how to have a more accurate representation of persons with disabilities.

A ballot paper marked with a red X is dropped into a transparent ballot box.

Inclusion, the Elections and Disability

by Dr Marissa Medjeral-Mills

The concept of inclusion is not a new one in Singapore. Many of us live and work alongside people of different races, cultures and religions. What is less familiar is the idea that inclusion should involve persons with disabilities.

Historically, persons with disabilities were hidden away from the public. Growing up in Singapore in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, it was rarely the case that I would see persons with disabilities in public or hear them spoken about in the media. Even if persons with disabilities were mentioned, they were often portrayed as objects of sympathy or charity. Persons with disabilities were believed to be suffering from an ailment and as such were not normal and seen as the ‘other’. I was lucky enough to attend a school that had a class for people with special needs and as such was able to form impressions of disability that were not solely based on the media and cultural biases. Even so, I will be honest and say that I was not completely comfortable with the concept of disability. I continued to make assumptions about the experience of being a disabled person that I now know to be wrong.

In recent years, the Government has made great efforts to try and support people with disabilities and more importantly, in my opinion, to change people’s beliefs about being disabled. The most significant step towards this change was the signing of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in November 2013 and implementing the Enabling Masterplan 2012-2016, which is the national policy to realise the goals of the CRPD. By doing this, the Government embraced the social model of disability, which views disability as the interaction between a person with some form of impairment and barriers in their surrounding environment. This is a change from previous models of disability because it does not locate the disability solely within the person. Additionally, this model puts the onus on society to identify and remove barriers. This model recognises the value that a person with a disability can add to society given the right support, which is different from viewing persons with disabilities as objects of charity who need lifelong care.

In collaboration with Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs), the Government has created a number of programmes to improve the education of persons with disabilities, increase employment opportunities, make public transport more affordable and accessible and offer more affordable healthcare. As someone who runs a VWO, the Disabled People’s Association, which advocates for the integration of persons with disabilities into society, I have welcomed the concerted effort to better the circumstances of those with a disability in Singapore. Although there is still work to be done in expanding the view of disability to include invisible disabilities such as chronic mental health conditions and those with developmental delay and intellectual disabilities, on the whole I am happy with what has been achieved in such a short space of time.

Yet, given the current preparations for the general elections in Singapore, I cannot help but wonder why not much has been said about persons with disabilities in the media, at political rallies and in party manifestos. Even more disconcerting is the lack of campaigning directed towards persons with disabilities. Due to the fact that voting is compulsory for all Singaporeans, persons with disabilities should have their votes courted by political parties. It is estimated that at least 97,200 Singaporeans have a disability and a significant number of them should be eligible to vote.

Even though persons with disabilities are a minority group in Singapore, members of this diverse community are citizens who deserve the right to have their needs and concerns addressed by those who would run the Government. It could be argued that not all persons with disabilities have the mental capacity to vote or to have an informed opinion about who to vote for. Yet, this misses the point. Treating persons with disabilities as a group of voters worthy of being campaigned to, regardless of their mental and/or physical capacity, is an important part of wholeheartedly including them in society.

One might say that campaigning to persons with disabilities as a group reinforces the idea that they are different from other Singaporeans, thus undermining their inclusion into society. However, to gloss over the fact that the disability community have unique needs would be to ignore the elephant in the room. Admittedly, it is a balancing act to treat persons with disabilities on an equal basis as any other Singaporean and at the same time address disability-specific concerns such as special needs education. Yet, this is not an issue that is unique to the disability community. It is possible to balance speaking to the needs of women in the workplace whilst not making women feel segregated from the rest of society. Much in the same way, persons with disabilities have a range of concerns ranging from disability specific ones to ones that affect the wider population. Recognising this is how voters with disabilities can be treated as any other citizen who should have their political support fought for.

Moving forward I hope to see the progress towards including persons with disabilities become more robust in nature. Inclusion is a journey of progressive realisation, where as a society we should constantly re-evaluate how far we have come and how much more can be done to integrate marginalised groups. I would love to see Singapore move from addressing the day to day needs of persons with disabilities to seeing how they can become more involved in the political process, both as voters and,  in the future, as election candidates.

Dr Marissa Medjeral-Mills is the Executive Director of the Disabled People’s Association.

Lesser-known facts about community-based rehabilitation

By Jorain Ng

Let’s have a show of hands – who has heard of the term ‘community based rehabilitation’?

If this is your first time coming across the term, do not fret – I was in your shoes. Before I participated in the regional workshop on community based rehabilitation, I have never heard of this term. And this is not surprising because CBR is not included in Singapore’s policies and programmes for persons with disabilities, and CBR was never discussed or even mentioned in the conferences, workshops and talks on disability I have attended.

When the time came for me to interact with other delegates and distinguished speakers who have had immense experience in CBR, I felt like a fish out of water. Not only did I learn that CBR is a well-known concept and is included in the national policies of some ASEAN member countries, I also learned that CBR is recognised to be the most appropriate strategy for inclusion for ASEAN countries. I had to do a double take. Hold on – isn’t CBR just about rehabilitation? Why is it so important to these ASEAN countries?

Here are some lesser-known facts about CBR:

CBR is not just about rehabilitation.


Persons with disabilities making handbags and pouches at a sheltered workshop in Bangkok. (Photo taken by DPA with permission from the organisers).

Don’t be fooled by the name. CBR is not just about rehabilitation. In fact rehabilitation is just a small part of what CBR does now. According to the World Health Organisation’s guidelines, CBR consists of five main components, namely, health (therapy, rehabilitation etc), education (early childhood intervention services, higher education etc), livelihood (waged employment etc), social (marriage and family, culture and arts etc) and empowerment. At its most basic, CBR is about meeting the basic needs of persons with disabilities.

CBR is all about empowerment.

The empowerment of persons with disabilities, their families and communities is at the center of CBR. A good CBR programme is not implemented from the top-down; it actively involves persons with disabilities and their family members in the decision-making process, and is tailored to the needs of persons with disabilities.

CBR as a concept varies across and within countries.

In some ASEAN countries, the CBR programmes only focus on health such as rehabilitation, disability prevention and assistive devices. While others focus on all aspects of life such as health, education, social and livelihood. There are also varying perspectives on the role of the Government in CBR. Some countries have argued for greater Government intervention.

Malaysia is the leading country in CBR.

Among the ASEAN member states, Malaysia is the leading country in CBR. Not only do they have a concrete national CBR policy, Malaysia has a CBR network that provides training for CBR personnel. CBR staff is also a recognised profession in the country.

CBR is more appropriate for developing countries.

CBR is designed mostly for developing countries where there are limited access to disability-related services and programmes, especially in rural areas. Governments in these countries lack the necessary resources to provide services and programmes for all persons with disabilities in both urban and rural areas. CBR help fill this service gap by mobilising resources in local communities in terms of manpower, material and money.

Singapore’s small geographical size and relatively high level of development mean that most disability services and programmes are located close to people’s homes and are available at local community centres. Moreover, the Government provides extensive funding for voluntary welfare organisations providing disability services. Hence CBR is not the most relevant initiative for Singapore.

Even so, there are lessons Singapore can learn from the CBR initiative. In these developing countries, CBR serves as a guiding principle or framework for the formulation and implementation of disability policies and programmes. Singapore can take a leaf out of this CBR initiative, and be clear about the philosophies or guiding principles underpinning the many disability policies and programmes. And by that I mean having a clear understanding of the concept of disability and the social model of disability. (Hang on – what is the social model of disability again? Please read DPA’s booklet on inclusion.)

CBR is a strategy for inclusion.

CBR guidelines adopted the same principles listed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The goal of CBR is to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal rights and access to the services they require to attain and maintain maximum independence, and achieve full and equal participation in all aspects of life. As such, most ASEAN countries view it as the way forward and the most appropriate strategy for inclusion.

Singapore’s alternative to CBR and method of realising the objectives of the CRPD is an action plan called the Enabling Masterplan. It is essentially a list of concrete and comprehensive recommendations to improve the lives of persons with disabilities in Singapore. The Singapore government also translated CRPD obligations into locally-appropriate policies and programmes. (For more information, please read DPA’s booklet, Singapore and the UN CRPD).

Introduction to the Deafblind

by Jan Evans

“The best thing is that I’m alive”

So said Satoshi Fukushima in a fascinating and moving 28 minute video shown at SADeaf’s excellent “Introduction to the Deafblind” Workshop on Saturday, 13 June 2015.  Satoshi lost his hearing at 9 yrs old and his sight at 18 yrs.  At that latter point in his life, he admits he “hit rock bottom” then came to realise that there was purpose in his hardship and suffering and “climbed out of the pit”. Now a leading advocate of the Deafblind in Japan, Dr Fukushima is currently Professor at Tokyo University Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology. His research specialities include social and psychological aspects of deafblind people.

It almost goes without saying that I was introduced to a new world last Saturday. The workshop was run by Lisa Loh, an energetic 20-something who is deaf and has Retinitis Pigmentosa: She is able to see less and less in her peripheral vision and knows that in time the rest of her sight will follow. Lisa explained the different causes and levels of deafblindness and the different types of communication. The Deafblind communicate through touch (Braille, Tactile Signing or Finger Braille).  I was awestruck to hear that Satoshi’s mother, Reiko, developed Finger Braille “because there was no Braille typewriter in the kitchen” and amused to hear her casual aside to him “You could have been more enthusiastic”!

The workshop included a simulation of deafblindness.  We paired off, one person being the deafblind person (donning a triple layered eyemask and very thick headphones/ear defenders), the other was the Interpreter Guide (IG – who communicates with and leads the deafblind person). Then we swapped roles. One guided route took us up and down stairways and along winding corridors; the other had us sampling (by touch) various objects.  Your comfort level very much depended on the trust you had in your IG. The experience was telling and I am sure you can imagine the feelings of isolation and helplessness. The role of IG proved more demanding especially when I was teamed up with someone who was deaf/hard of hearing where any meaningful communication was by fingerspelling Roman letters on the palm (note to self – it doesn’t work sideways) or tactile sign writing (no – I don’t know how to do that properly either). I thank my deaf/HOH partners for their grace and forbearance – and good humour.

Satoshi_Fukushima2I was interested to learn that Dr Fukushima has spearheaded quite an influential deafblind movement in Japan. Lisa has met a number of deafblind IGs there: 50% of them had experience as Sign Language Interpreters, just less than 50% as Blind Guides and the remaining small percentage had no experience at all. Most IGs in Japan are NOT related to the deaf blind person which facilitates more independence.

So what of Singapore?

We have all heard stories about well-intentioned passers-by “helping” those who are blind/visually impaired across the street …when they didn’t want to go!  However this situation would not occur with a deafblind person.  It is inevitable that there will be an accompanying IG.

There are about 13 Deafblind people known to Lisa: 7 are registered with SADeaf/SAVH.  There are probably more.  In Japan, an estimated 22,000 people are both deaf and blind.

IGs for the Deafblind in Singapore tend to be family members but they need a rest occasionally.  There may be formal provision for Befrienders to take deafblind people to a hospital appointment or church service but the Deafblind still have difficulty accessing leisure activities.

To learn more about SADeaf’s deafblind workshops please go to SADeaf’s website at http://sadeaf.org.sg/ – I understand Lisa will be conducting a 3rd “Introduction to  the Deafblind” workshop at the end of this year which, no doubt, SADeaf will advertise nearer the time. I commend it.

Jan Evans is a volunteer at Disabled People’s Association, Singapore. 

Three Easy Steps to Apply for Open Door Programme

By Jorain Ng

Applying for the Open Door Programme (ODP) is easy. I have successfully applied for the scheme and managed to get a lighter laptop for work thanks to the 90% subsidy .

Unfortunately, not many companies are tapping onto this scheme because 1) they are not aware of the scheme; 2) they do not know how to go about applying for the ODP; or 3) they think it’s too troublesome.

By penning down my experience, I hope to encourage companies who have hired or are interested in hiring persons with disabilities to familarise themselves with the ODP and apply for the scheme.

Step 1: Speak to your employee 

Persons with disabilities may require some form of adaptation or accommodation to assist them to overcome obstacles in their work environment, such as wheelchair access in a narrow office space. Hence you should speak to your employee about the accommodation(s) they might require to perform their job efficiently.

Do bear in mind that people with the same disability may have different needs and thus require different types of accommodation. So it is always good to ask, and never assume that what is appropriate for one will be appropriate for another.

If your employee is not sure about the type of workplace accommodation he/she requires, seek advice from SG Enable or their job placement/support officer and/or social worker (if they have one). SG Enable may perform a site visit to evaluate their job and work environment so that they can make the best recommendation.

Step 2: Contact SG Enable for information on application process

Contact SG Enable and provide them the following details:

  • employee’s disability;
  • employee’s job duties;
  • type of accommodation required.

An employment specialist will then advise you and provide the relevant information on how you can tap the funding and support under the ODP. SG Enable may also request to perform a site visit and require you to fill out more paperwork.

I only requested for a subsidy to purchase a lighter laptop so the application process was really straightforward. All my supervisor needed to do was submit a formal email request that included a description of my disability, purchase rationale and justification, and the cost of the equipment.

Step 3: Wait for SG Enable’s approval

Depending on the nature of your request, the reply from SG Enable may take a few days. So be patient.

In my case, SG Enable replied with an attached application form in their email. They requested that my employer submit the application form along with the original copy of the receipt so that they can reimburse DPA accordingly. The disbursement period took around 6 months.

Based on my personal experience, those three steps are all it takes to apply for the ODP.

The process may be longer and more complicated for other funding programs such as the apprenticeship program and capability development funding. But do remember that SG Enable is always willing and able to provide companies funding support to make their workplace more inclusive for persons with disabilities.

Have you applied for the ODP? Was it successful? Did you find the process easy or cumbersome? Let us know in the comments below!

What It Should Have Been: Edition #5

By Jorain Ng

We’re now into Round Five of DPA’s public education initiative on proper terminology to describe persons with disabilities.


Straits Times, 03 February 2015
New home therapy fund to help patients

President Tony Tan and Mrs Mary Tan distributing red packets to patients during the Home Nursing Foundation’s SG50 jubilee dinner yesterday. More than 300 wheelchair- bound and semi-ambulant patients and caregivers attended the event.

President Tony Tan and Mrs Mary Tan distributing red packets to patients during the Home Nursing Foundation’s SG50 jubilee dinner yesterday. More than 300 wheelchair users and semi-ambulant patients and caregivers attended the event.

This has been mentioned several times. A person who uses a wheelchair is not actually confined to their chair. Instead, the chair is a tool that they use to have more independence. In that way, the wheelchair is actually a positive assistive tool and so the term ‘wheelchair user’ is a more apt term.


Straits Times, 01 February 2015
Running event – with a twist

Mr Goh Giin Huat (left), 40, with running guide Kelvin Lin Yong Wen, 30, during their weekly training session. Mr Goh will be one of five visually handicapped pacers in the Runninghour race…

In another first, the event will have five visually handicapped persons, accompanied by guides, taking on the role of pacers…

Mr Goh, a guitar instructor, started running only in 2012 when he and his visually handicapped friends were asked to join Runninghour, an informal support group started in 2009 by Mr John See Toh, 54, and his wife Chan Jan Siang, 37, both educators.

Mr Goh Giin Huat (left), 40, with running guide Kelvin Lin Yong Wen, 30, during their weekly training session. Mr Goh will be one of five pacers with a visual disability in the Runninghour race…

In another first, the event will have five persons with a visual disability, accompanied by guides, taking on the role of pacers…

Mr Goh, a guitar instructor, started running only in 2012 when he and his friends with a visual disability were asked to join Runninghour, an informal support group started in 2009 by Mr John See Toh, 54, and his wife Chan Jan Siang, 37, both educators.

Also covered before. People with disabilities are individuals first. So, refer to the person first, then the disability. The term “handicapped” is also an outdated or offensive term. Instead, say “pacers with visual impairment” or “pacers with a visual disability”.


Straits Times, 20 February 2015
Painful advice the recipe to save failing business

Acting on Mr Lim’s advice, she changed her business model to focus more on catering. This helps to create more jobs for her disabled beneficiaries, most of whom work in the central kitchen instead of her current outlets in Bugis+ and Jem. 

Acting on Mr Lim’s advice, she changed her business model to focus more on catering. This helps to create more jobs for her employees with disabilities, most of whom work in the central kitchen instead of her current outlets in Bugis+ and Jem.

People first, please. Also, the term “beneficiaries” implies that her workers with disabilities are receiving some form of charitable service, which they are not. They are hired to work in the company, so they should be referred to as employees or workers.


Straits Times, 1 March 2015
School Made More Accessible

Ansel, 15, suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a condition which causes progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass.

Ansel, 15, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a condition which causes progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass.


Here are more examples of incorrect terminology: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. Have you spotted any other articles with terminology issues? Let me know in the comments below!

Singapore Budget 2015: How it affects the disability community

By Jorain Ng

The Singapore Budget 2015 is an important document presenting the Government’s proposed revenue and spending for a financial year. It affects every person living in Singapore, and so has inspired a flurry of articles on its hits and misses.

Yet, to the best of my knowledge, nothing has been written on how the Budget affects the disability community, and even now, many persons with disabilities have no knowledge on what the Budget means for them.

This article examines the Budget, and shows that there are measures indirectly affecting persons with disabilities, but it fails to address some of the more specific needs of the disability community.

Measures Affecting Persons with Disabilities

Instead of addressing persons with disabilities as a group with needs distinct from others, the Government introduced measures to meet the more general needs of individuals. Some of these measures indirectly cater to the needs of persons with disabilities.

The Foreign Domestic Worker Concessionary Levy, for example, is intended to alleviate the financial burden of households with caregiving duties. Households caring for persons with disabilities fall under this rubric, so they too can benefit from the scheme. Another example is the Higher Special Employment Credit (SEC). SEC aims to incentivise the employment of older workers, aged 65 and above, by contributing to their salaries. Senior workers with disabilities fall under this category even if it is not explicitly stated.

More Support for Charities 

The Government also introduced measures that provide more support for Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWO) like my organisation, the Disabled People’s Association (DPA), which indirectly affect persons with disabilities.

One measure, for example, is the increase in tax reductions for donations made this year. VWOs can expect to see an increase in donations from this tax reduction, which will enable them to undertake more projects and initiatives for their clients. With the Government’s extension of the Care & Share Movement until 31 March 2016, a substantial pool of resources is also made available to VWOs – in terms of introducing new projects and building capacity. VWOs will also benefit from having more student volunteers to help raise funds and do projects in the community, as the Government encourages volunteerism in schools by announcing their intention to donate to schools for causes and charities they identify.

These are well-meaning initiatives, to be sure, but I have my reservations.

Assessing them from a meta-policy perspective, these initiatives come across as an attempt to pass the buck to VWOs. VWOs do good work in caring and providing for individuals who need help and support, but it is not their duty to improve the situation and effect sustainable change in the community. This is the Government’s responsibility.

Issues with the Budget

Another concern lies in the Budget’s failure to address some of the more specific needs of persons with disabilities.

One of which is the lack of a robust support structure for students with disabilities studying in mainstream schools. Currently, allied educators help those with special needs in the classroom, and there is specialised training for teachers. But existing programs to recruit and train allied educators are inadequate, and the turnover rate is high due to the lack of career progression. More funding should be invested in programs to hire, train, and retain allied educators.

Funding should also be given to mainstream schools to establish disability support offices (DSO) to cater to the special needs of students and staff members. At present, the National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University are the only educational institutions to have DSOs. This good practice should be extended to all educational institutions, especially the primary and secondary schools which hold more students with disabilities than institutes of higher learning.

Can the Budget Win Votes?

Some political analysts have coined the term “election Budget” to describe Singapore Budgets. If Budget 2015 is truly an election Budget packed with goodies, then an interesting question arises. Can Budget 2015 help win the votes of the disability community?

With everyone asking what the Government has done for them, surely persons with disabilities are asking the same. Hopefully, this critical review has shed light on some questions surrounding the Budget, and helped inform the electoral decisions of voters with disabilities.