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Opening Remarks by Senior Parliamentary Secretary Eric Chua at the Forward Singapore Engagement on Enabling Persons with Disabilities

Type: Official Speeches (All), Official Speeches: Eric Chua

Topic(s): Disability Services


Introduction - Working Together for a Better Tomorrow

Partners, friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.          Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us at today’s engagement. As part of the Forward Singapore exercise launched last year to refresh our social compact, we have been engaging many Singaporeans from all walks of life. They have shared their desire to forge an inclusive and caring Singapore. This is a sentiment I am sure resonates with all of us here today. We are all gathered here to further discuss ways to achieve our shared vision for a caring and more inclusive Singapore:

a.         Where including and supporting persons with disabilities are a part of our everyday lives.

b.         Where inclusive businesses and services are commonly seen in our communities and regarded as something ordinary.

c.         Where persons with disabilities are able to participate fully in various activities in their everyday life, empowered to pursue their aspirations and realise their fullest potential, just as anyone would.

2.          We have come a long way with our four successive Enabling Masterplans – our national roadmaps for an inclusive Singapore. The most recent masterplan was Enabling Masterplan 2030 or EMP2030 in short, was launched in August last year. But more remains to be done. In today’s session, we want to hear from you on how we can better enable persons with disabilities, in particular, helping them to live independently, as well as access and retain employment.

Efforts to encourage independent living and inclusive employment

3.          Last month, I shared in Parliament ongoing efforts to foster disability inclusion. Under EMP2030, we will be bringing more community support services as well as training and employment opportunities nearer to where persons with disabilities live.

a.         SPD, with support from SG Enable, will operate the first Enabling Services Hub or ESH in Tampines West Community Centre by mid-2023. The ESH will offer social inclusion activities and continual education and learning courses for persons with disabilities, as well as drop-in respite care to support caregivers. The ESH will also have an outreach team to reach out to persons with disabilities in the area and match them with community befrienders and resources. We will need everyone’s active participation to foster more inclusive communities across Singapore.

b.         Later this year, SG Enable will also be launching the first Enabling Business Hub (EBH) in Jurong West. SG Enable will collaborate with industry associations to showcase inclusive hiring practices and encourage more employers to adopt them. Persons with disabilities will have work opportunities and job support near where they live. This will contribute to our collective aspiration to reach the target of a 40% employment rate among persons with disabilities, up from 31% today. To all our employers present here today, we need more of you to come forward, to recognise how persons with disabilities can contribute, adopt inclusive hiring practices and open your doors and more importantly, open your hearts, to hire more persons with disabilities.

4.          We have also set up two EMP2030 taskforces comprising members from the people, private and public sectors, to look into one, Inclusive Employment, and two, Independent Living. The taskforces will focus on how we could enable persons with disabilities to live and participate in the community; and support employment for persons with disabilities by increasing the number of disability inclusive employers. The two taskforces are pressing ahead with their work and will be able to share their recommendations by the end of the year, taking in your views from this afternoon’s session.

Implementation of 24/7 on-demand traffic signals for a more inclusive environment

5.          To enable persons with disabilities to live more independently, we are also stepping up efforts to create inclusive physical environments. At the launch of the EMP2030 last year, we shared that 24/7 on-demand audible traffic signals will be implemented at pedestrian crossings across 10 town centres. For those of you here who live in Bedok and Tampines, you can be the first to benefit from these traffic signals, so keep an ear out for them. Preparation works have also commenced in these first two towns and they will be implemented from June this year, and LTA will roll out the implementation in the remaining towns in phases. These upgrades will help our residents with disabilities travel for work or leisure more independently.

Galvanising whole-of-society effort to enable persons with disabilities

6.          Now, what I shared so far are just some of the steps that the Government is taking to achieve our EMP2030 vision of a more inclusive society. However, to realise the goals and achieve our vision, we need everyone’s support and more importantly, we need action. Our approach must be one of working with persons with disabilities, caregivers, disability sector professionals, and community partners, to understand the specific needs of different groups and work on solutions together.

7.          Because together, we can, we must, and we will achieve more. At the recent National Youth Council's Youth Action Challenge 2023, a team of teachers who used to work at the same special needs education school developed a smart wallet system for adult PwIDs to go around without cash safely, as money management is a critical barrier to independent living. They realised that persons with intellectual disabilities or autism may find it difficult to handle money, or feel anxious about processes such as counting coins for payment. And this is compounded by the increasing prevalence of online scams and frauds. Hence, they came together to propose a solution that addresses that gap. We hope to encourage more of such ground up ideas and solutions today.

Closing

8.          Now, our social compact of tomorrow must be one where we work hand-in-hand in sync to achieve sustained impact. Not as separate pairs of helping hands, but as part of a strong tapestry of support to meet the needs of those we seek to help.

9.          As MSF dedicates 2023 as Year of Celebrating Social Service Partners to recognise the contributions of our partners to build a caring and inclusive society, and I look forward to stronger collaborations among all our important stakeholders and volunteers in the years to come. Everyone plays a part in making disability-inclusion a reality. The reality that we are working towards is really the day when inclusion as a word itself loses its meaning. Because how we perceive persons with disabilities, and how we behave around them, are actually markers of how who we are, and how inclusive we are as a society.

10.         On my social media platforms, I frequently share about how we could perhaps do better as a society, in terms of disability-inclusion. But I hold onto hope, because I truly believe that by and large, Singaporeans are a red-blooded, big-hearted bunch. Sometimes we feel positive, we want to be able to reach out and help that person with disability beside us. But perhaps, we are shy or a little awkward as to how to start. But it is with this hope in mind that I think we are able to get to a better place in terms of being a more caring and inclusive society.

11.         On that note, I hope everyone can have a fruitful session this afternoon to talk about the things that we hope to see happening in Singapore’s society in the years to come and I look forward to the conversations that we are going to have this afternoon. Thank you.