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Opening Remarks By Mr Eric Chua, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry Of Social And Family Development & Ministry Of Culture, Community And Youth At Minds Key Word Sign Singapore Book Launch On 23 April 2023

Type: Official Speeches: Eric Chua

Topic(s): Disability Services


Mr Augustin Lee, Chairperson of the MINDS Board
Mr Kelvin Koh, Chief Executive Officer of MINDS
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. A very good Sunday morning, everyone. I am glad to see all of you this morning for MINDS Key Word Sign Singapore Book Launch. 

2. MSF has designated 2023 as the Year of Celebrating our Social Service partners, and community partners like MINDS play an extremely important role in working together with the government to support persons with disabilities to participate fully as integral and contributing members of society.

3. I want to thank MINDS for being one of our key partners in offering quality services across life stages and looking out for ways to enhance the quality of life of persons with disabilities and their families. The use of Key Word Sign as a communication approach is one good example.

Key Word Sign Singapore

4. Key Word Sign is a communication approach to support persons with speech and communication difficulties, enabling them to better express themselves and for their loved ones to understand them. It is different from sign language, as it is intended for people who can hear but have difficulty with speech and communication. Key Word Sign Singapore is adapted from KWS Australia and incorporates signs from the local deaf community to suit the local culture and context. Since the launch of Key Word Sign in December 2020, MINDS has also been training their staff on its use at MINDS’ centres and schools to communicate meaningfully with their students.

5. I understand that many of MINDS’ students have adopted the use of Key Word Sign in their communication, and this has helped them in many different ways, from expressing their basic needs to improving their understanding of the spoken language. These are positive outcomes especially for children with communication difficulties as it helps them build stronger relationships with the people around them and connects with the wider community, thus improving their quality of life.

6. Today, I am very happy to note that the launch of the Key Word Sign book series - ‘Learning Key Word Sign (SG) Together’, is part of MINDS’ efforts to expand the use of Key Word Sign beyond its centres and schools. This was developed in collaboration with the Singapore Association for the Deaf  to incorporate signs from the local Deaf community.

7. I would like to encourage those who work with persons with communications difficulties, whether you are teachers, medical and Allied Health Professionals, social service professionals, caregivers or family members, to learn Key Word Sign. Service staff such as transport providers will also find Key Word Sign useful. With everyone’s support, persons with communication difficulties will be able to seek assistance more easily. This will in turn help them feel more confident in navigating public spaces and encourage them to be more independent. 

8. I had personal coaching for a couple of hours and practiced and rehearsed the different key word signs that I have learnt. But I have just been reminded through the video this morning that actually, there are 700 signs for the whole list of vocabulary and I have learnt only 36. I have some way to go, but I do not think it is an insurmountable journey. I think I managed to retain much of what I have learnt, both through a coaching session and from my own rehearsals. I encourage everyone to pick it up and I think it is quite a fun process.

Enabling Masterplan 2030

9. MINDS’ work complements our efforts under the Enabling Masterplan, our national roadmap for a disability-inclusive society. Our latest Masterplan – EMP 2030 – sets out our vision for a more caring and inclusive Singapore in 2030 and seeks to enable persons with disabilities across all stages and aspects of life. This includes enabling persons with disabilities to live well in the community and strengthen support for their families and caregivers. 

10. To that end, the first Enabling Services Hub or ESH will be launched in Tampines West Community Centre by mid-2023. This is aligned with our EMP2030 goals of enhancing support for Inclusive Living and building more Inclusive Communities in our society. The ESH will match those who need more support with community befrienders and provide respite care services for caregivers. The ESH will also foster more inclusive neighbourhoods by organising community activities where residents with disabilities can get together with other fellow residents. Perhaps Key Word Sign could also enable both the community Befrienders as well as residents with communication and speech difficulties to better communicate and befriend each other during such activities!

11. We are also investing in transforming our environments and services to make them more inclusive. It is actually very apt that the book is launched here at Punggol Regional Library, Singapore’s newest public library which features a suite of accessible features for persons with disabilities. This includes Calm Pods to provide quiet and safe spaces when they need them and assistive technology devices for their use. 

Conclusion


12. As part of EMP 2030, these are some of the ways through which we are strengthening support for persons with disabilities in our midst so that they too can fulfil their aspirations and really be contributing members of society and realise their full potential. 

13. Once again, a big thank you to MINDS and everyone here for your continual efforts in supporting and empowering persons with disabilities. Let us all join hands and work towards our vision of creating a more caring and inclusive Singapore. 

14. Thank You.