NLB tie-up: People with special needs hired

(From left) NLB CEO Elaine Ng; Dr Yaacob; SG Enable CEO Ku Geok Boon; Ms Phua; and ARC's Mr Victor Ong visiting the Digital Services Centre yesterday.
(From left) NLB CEO Elaine Ng; Dr Yaacob; SG Enable CEO Ku Geok Boon; Ms Phua; and ARC's Mr Victor Ong visiting the Digital Services Centre yesterday.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Those with special needs can now find employment converting old library materials into a digital form for the public database.

A five-year partnership between the National Library Board (NLB) and the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) will see individuals with special needs completing training to do scanning and other digitising tasks at the Digital Services Centre in the Enabling Village in Redhill.

Such initiatives are a reflection of the Prime Minister's vision of an inclusive society, said Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, on his visit yesterday to the Digital Services Centre.

"If you train them, guide them and support them, they can do the same jobs that we all can do. I think that's a wonderful outcome. It means that everyone has a role in society," said the minister.

Since the centre's opening last month, six individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder have found jobs, and there are plans to expand both the centre and the number of employees.

One of the six, Mr Mitchell Soh Jun-Yi, 19, said employment opportunities benefit those with autism by enriching their lives and allowing them to earn money for their families. "I don't think it's necessarily true that people with autism can't work, even if they have disabilities," he said.

His job at the centre includes data entry for old library archives, and quality control checks of archived newspapers.

Such tasks, which require focus and precision, make the job very well suited to those with autism and related conditions, said Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua, who is also ARC's president.

"What is special about this project is really our ability to turn what is a perceived weakness of a person with special needs into a strength," she said.

Most digitising work is done at NLB but in a previous collaboration in 2011, it outsourced similar cataloguing work to the ARC, whose beneficiaries completed the work accurately in half the expected time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2016, with the headline 'NLB tie-up: People with special needs hired'. Print Edition | Subscribe