Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Disabled People granted new lease of opportunities :)

This morning newspaper put a smile on my face - have been encouraged by the articles that have shown their willingness to integrate disabled people into their work place
Have always felt that Singapore should help disabled people be independent - this way they can not only feel like a contribution to the society but also learn to help contribute to the family - which I believe is a dream for them - Hopefully I will be able to integrate in my company a system to help the disabled as well - in the process , May it come true

MCYS provides funding for the support of this cause!

Society for the Physically Disabled have their candidates for internships or freelance jobs!

And I am so proud of Singapore being lauded as one of the best countries who have pushed for the disabled people accessibility and transformation
"One of the most commented about countries regarding strides it has made in addressing disabled persons specialized needs is Singapore. Though many developed countries have specific laws for disabled persons, Singapore is one of the countries that have rapidly changed many of its access systems to recognize the specialized needs of its disabled population and workforce." Link..

Home > Singapore > Story
Dec 18, 2010
Hiring disabled: More firms open door
Many tap scheme that provides internships, funding for job re-design
By Judith Tan

PEOPLE with disabilities are no longer being sidelined in the job market.

They are now very visible as executives in various sectors like information technology, hospitality, and banking.

This year alone, 50 companies in the various sectors hired people with disabilities. These firms tapped into the Enhanced Open Door Fund, where these people are offered internships by firms under a funded apprenticeship programme, which may then result in them being hired.

One such firm is City Developments Limited (CDL). In September 2008, it began collaborating with the Asian Women's Welfare Association in its Teach Me Inc programme, to provide employment to people with disabilities.

Ms Sherine Toh, head of human resources at CDL, said the company initially hired two of them as interns for about six months. 'Subsequently we converted one of them into a permanent employment position. The same processes apply when it comes to hiring those with physical disabilities. There is no differentiation,' she said.

Mr Liew Chong Heng, 25, who has spinal muscular atrophy, was eventually hired as an internal audit officer and has been with CDL for two years.

He went through the Teach Me programme, which provides support services to the physically challenged to integrate them into the mainstream workforce. These people attend a four-month workshop that covers communication, personal effectiveness and work skills before they are placed at firms as interns.

Programme manager Tarin Ong, 35, said: 'We also help employers with integrating them at the workplace by conducting full-on workshops and lunchtime talks. We also perform accessibility audits to see if the infrastructure is friendly (to people with disabilities).'

Employers can be given up to S$100,000 by the Open Door Fund to implement job re-design and workplace modifications, as well as train people with disabilities. The fund came into effect in May 2007.

Set up by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and administered by the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), the fund encourages companies to look beyond a person's disabilities and recruit based on merit.

In October last year, it began helping firms take in apprentices. The firms then decide if they can be employed.

Said a spokesman for the SNEF: 'Most companies we engaged are not against the hiring of people with disabilities but they lack the knowledge of how to integrate them, or they may have certain stereotype assumptions of what they cannot do.

'We work with employers to highlight what they can do and sometimes do better than the able-bodied.'

He added that many employers who attended SNEF-run workshops on the issue went on to hire more people with disabilities. To date, 115 companies committed to hiring these people have tapped into the fund.

The disabled is just like us

More companies tap Open Door Fund to hire disabled

Friday 11 June 2010
reported by Jeremy Koh

SINGAPORE : More companies are tapping the Open Door Fund to hire the disabled.

Since it was set up in July 2006, 79 companies have tapped the fund, which provides subsidies of up to $100,000.

Of these companies, 22 came on board in the last eight months.

26-year-old Eddlie Neo sustained head injuries seven years ago in a gang fight.

He slipped into a coma for seven months and thought all was lost.

"Gone, (my) future all gone, because I was lying on the bed, I can't move, (though) can talk & see, but I cannot work," said Neo, a physically-disabled job seeker.

Neo can now look after himself and get around on his own.

Last year, he picked up IT skills at the Society for the Physically Disabled but is still looking for a job.

"I see a lot of people who are worse off than me, and I decided to carry on with my life. I hope companies' bosses will accept (workers who are) wheelchair-bound, that's the main thing. If they don't accept this, those who are on wheelchair can't (find) work," said Neo.

Neo's dream is to open a bar that hires those who are physically-disabled.

"I was a bartender before, so I'm interested in this kind of jobs. (I hope to) give them a chance to support themselves and show that people with disabilities can work and lead a normal life," said Neo.

36-year-old Juraimi Jafar, who was born with cerebral palsy, is also working to land a permanent job.

He has never worked full-time and gets by with a $100 allowance as a trainee packer.

He knows he has to earn his own keep with a secure job.

He said: "If my parents (are gone), then I need to take care of myself. Otherwise, who's going to take care of me."

Juraimi and Neo are among the disabled in Singapore who badly need a job.

While more companies have been tapping the Open Door Fund to make this possible, the numbers do not appear encouraging.

Only 79 companies have done so over the past four years.

"A lot of time, the misconception or the fear of not knowing how to react, how to talk to a person on a wheelchair, for example, or how to talk to a person who's blind. It's this poor understanding of how to relate to a person with disability," explained Chia Woon Yee, director of Technology and Vocational Training at the Society for Physically Disabled.

About 400 physically-disabled people have found long-term employment, thanks to the Open Door Fund. - CNA /ls

Copyright 2010

Areas for improvement
It was toilet humour, of a sort. "There are 'wheelchair toilets' that are too small. When you wheel it in, you can't close the door," Mr Julian Wee, who has cerebral palsy, observed wryly.

Then there was another public loo meant for disabled persons that he'd encountered - sporting wheelchair-unfriendly steps. Such little ironies capture, in a nutshell, the stops, starts and partial advances over the last few years in improving life for the physically disabled in Singapore.

Friday marked the annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. And with the Government's Enabling Masterplan in its penultimate year - after being launched in February 2007 as a blueprint for expanding disability services in Singapore - it is perhaps timely to take stock of how far persons with disabilities feel they've managed to merge with the able-bodied mainstream.

By the Government's estimate, the disabled make up 3 per cent of the population here - there is no official figure as disability "is a complex phenomenon", a spokesman said.

And, on the one hand, the signs of progress are reason to raise some cheers.

"Things have improved quite a lot in these few years. There are now buses for the handicapped and lifts at the MRT station," said Ms Tan Li Li, a wheelchair user who works at the Society for the Physically Disabled's (SPD) production workshop.

Those who have achieved successful careers, like Mr Wee, 33, an economist at a Shenton Way research firm, also help dispel outdated stereotypes about what the physically handicapped are capable of and, just as importantly, increase the "visibility" of this group in everyday society. The rousing sports successes of Singapore's Paralympians also have won the community new levels of respect.

On television, disabled characters are finding their way into popular culture here - besides the wheelchair-bound Artie in the hit American series Glee, they have been protagonists in Channel 8 dramas too.

So, if Singapore has come some way in being more inclusive for those with physical disabilities, why do some things still feel the same? There are still lifts with buttons too high for wheelchair users to reach; ATMs with raised platforms; disabled-friendly toilets that are locked or used as storerooms, cited Ms Joyce Wong, an assistant director at SPD.


Even though buses and the MRT are becoming more disabled-friendly, Mr Wee mostly takes taxis to get around. He found getting across the massive Wheelock Place/Tangs junction at Orchard Road - including navigating the warren of underpasses - so difficult a few months ago, that he "had to take a cab around".

These gaps in accessibility prevent persons with disabilities from being fully part of society and render them relatively "invisible", he feels.

Then there is Mr Lee Ling Chuan, a wheelchair-user who sells TOTO lottery tickets near his home in Bedok, who had never been on a wheelchair-accessible bus (WAB) as he hadn't seen any where he lived, he said. (The first WAB service was launched by SBS Transit in June 2006; six more services launched on Thursday have brought the total to 61.)

For disabled persons who don't live near an MRT station or bus stop with WAB service, they must depend on taxis or arranged transport - which comes up against the issue of affordability. "A large proportion of our clients are from the lower-income group," said Ms Wong of the SPD, which serves about 3,000 disabled persons and caregivers.

"Transport is a holistic thing. You can't have it piecemeal," Mr Wee argued. "In the last 10 years ... (the authorities have) flattened down kerbs, they've introduced tactile surfaces for the visually handicapped ... but ultimately, there are still many places which aren't very accessible."

Ms Wong added: "Connectivity from point to point - from transport to buildings, buildings to public areas, from transport to housing ... must be there, in the next phase to improve 'visibility' for persons with disabilities."

There is also a social and economic cost to factor in, Mr Wee noted. When disabled persons can't get around, their social life is curtailed. "These days, how you do in a job interview matters quite a bit ... Even able-bodied people get nervous at interviews, what more a disabled person who has not had much contact with able-bodied people, or in a social setting - it's going to be quite nerve-wracking."


On an encouraging note, national targets are in place. All public buses are to be wheelchair-accessible by 2020 and more than 70 per cent of MRT stations will have at least two barrier-free access routes by the end of next year, according to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports.

The retrofitting of MRT stations with disabled-friendly features has taken over a decade, while work to make all bus routes accessible to wheelchairs has involved bus interchanges, kerbs and other infrastructure.

In addition, a $40-million Accessibility Fund incentivises the upgrading of private buildings, while Town Councils are upgrading all HDB precincts with barrier-free accessiblity features by next year.

Though it was made mandatory in 1990 for buildings to provide such accessibility, "there remains a large stock of buildings built before 1990 that are not barrier-free", said Mr Chin Chi Leong, the Building and Construction Authority's Commissioner of Buildings. In this, the public sector is taking the lead and about 98 per cent of key Government buildings now have "at least basic barrier-free features", said Mr Chin.

One factor has given vital impetus to the drive to make the island more handicap-accessible: The silver tsunami.

It used to be argued that, as the number of disabled persons was relatively tiny, accessibility features were not cost-effective. In the 1980s, disability advocates like Mr Edmund Wan, a polio survivor, called for special needs to be considered in the MRT system. "The reasons given then were that we are just a minority, we are difficult to handle in an emergency," said the retiree, a committee member of the Handicaps Welfare Association.

The tune has changed, observers note, with one in five persons expected to be aged 65 or older by 2030, and the needs of the elderly overlapping with those of the disabled. The BCA promotes the adoption of Universal Design, giving access for the widest possible range of needs from the elderly to families with prams, persons temporarily handicapped through illness or injury, and even foreigners who don't speak the lingo.

In retrospect, Ms Wong noted: "It's more expensive to retrofit a place that has been built than to put in those features at the start."


Another apparent sign of progress is that the disabled are making inroads into mainstream jobs. Bizlink, a Government-appointed job agency for persons with disabilities, placed more than 600 in jobs in the past three years. In the latest financial year 2009/2010, it put more in mainstream employment than it did in sheltered workshops that employ only disabled persons.

Weekend Today also spoke to teachers, engineers, accountants and professionals who just happened to have physical disabilities.

But there is still a fair way to go for disabled persons to become visible, familiar members of society who aren't pigeonholed as "victims" or helpless.

"Cab drivers are very surprised when they learn that I work and that I can speak English," said Mr Wee. "For the most part, you only see disabled persons in the mass media when they're appealing for donations ... There's that typecasting that happens, inadvertently."

Televised fundraisers like the laudable President's Star Charity raise substantial funds for Singaporeans with disabilities, who in turn often perform on the show, displaying their musical and other admirable talents. Even so, stereotypes of supplication - however inadvertent or well-intentioned - accentuate the status gap between those who give and those who receive.

Meanwhile, local TV has featured the disabled as, for example, among the underprivileged who get home-makers in the Channel 5 docu-reality programme RenovAID. There was also Beyond The Physical, in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, on the "lesser-known world of disabled sports and athletes through the eyes of their able-bodied counterparts", said Ms Kim Wong-Nathan, VP Network Commissioning, Channel 5.

Channel 8 Mandarin dramas such as Your Hand in Mine, Taste of Love and The Shining Star have featured disabled main characters.

But sometimes raw nerves are touched when TV shows feature disabled persons. When the BBC chose one-armed presenter Cerrie Burnell to co-host a children's show on the CBeebies channel, a handful of parents claimed she scared children - one squeamishly complained she should "pull her sleeve down a bit more". American series Glee also got brickbats - for hiring an able-bodied actor to play the wheelchair-bound Artie.

In general, SPD's Ms Wong said, TV dramas featuring the disabled "often portray a person who is helpless" and in this respect, the media could do more to fight stereotypes.

It could also perhaps help educate the public. Mr Lim Chin Heng, a deaf maths resource teacher in a mainstream school, said he was once asked why he and his friends were using sign language - was it because he had a short tongue and couldn't speak?

Certainly, there is much more that would help the physically disabled be more visible in Singapore life. Accountant May Low, who is deaf, said the small pool of interpreters made it difficult for deaf persons to fully participate in society.

In the assessment of Mr Ron Chandran-Dudley, who is visually handicapped, and has been working on disability issues for close to six decades: "Awareness of the capabilities of disabled persons is increasing".

For his part, Mr Wan hopes that one day, disability will be considered like "race - nothing particularly significant", just part of the fabric of Singapore life.

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