People with intellectual disabilities need jobs, not sympathy

I hope global companies such as Google, Facebook and Goldman Sachs can show as much support to employing people with special needs as they do for previous Pink Dot events, in line with their policies on diversity and inclusion (Pink Dot draws 120 local sponsors; June 11).

I teach at a school that caters for children with autism and/or mild intellectual disability.

In my five years on the job, I have seen many young people stuck at home upon graduation because they are not able to secure meaningful employment. It is an inevitable downhill road to a poor quality of life for them.

Schools try their best to prepare students for a productive and meaningful life, but the missing piece of the puzzle lies in the hands of the employers.

I applaud companies which employ people with special needs.

However, I have also come across employers who only pay lip service, are not prepared to make accommodations for our students, or offer our students jobs so they can enjoy special incentives but stop hiring them when the incentives are taken away.

I appreciate that employers have bottom-line considerations and that, in today's world, productivity is paramount. People with intellectual disabilities may not be as productive as other workers, but it is a matter of how flexible employers are willing to be.

Perhaps they can pay such workers according to their level of productivity, with a neutral party determining what that level is.

I urge employers to truly embrace diversity and inclusion.

People with intellectual disabilities can contribute to our society, too. What they need is not sympathy but opportunity.

Lum Kwai Yeow (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2017, with the headline 'People with intellectual disabilities need jobs, not sympathy'. Print Edition | Subscribe