Over 4,000 turn up at event to raise awareness about special needs community

Participants all dressed up at the event in Hong Lim Park yesterday. It served also as a reminder to focus on the abilities of those with special needs, and not just their disabilities, said Ms Phua.
Participants all dressed up at the event in Hong Lim Park yesterday. It served also as a reminder to focus on the abilities of those with special needs, and not just their disabilities, said Ms Phua.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

More than 4,000 people braved the rain at Hong Lim Park yesterday to attend an event to raise awareness about the special needs community.

Organisers said the Purple Parade aims to promote inclusiveness, whereby special needs people are appreciated as an integral part of society, and to celebrate their abilities.

The parade was conceived by a group of members from voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) and the Central Singapore Community Development Council when they were planning to commemorate the annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is held on Dec 3.

To make a bigger impact for the inaugural event, the group got 40 organisations involved, including the Autism Resource Centre, the National Council of Social Service and the Pathlight School.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Purple Parade, Ms Denise Phua, MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, said the event serves as a reminder to Singaporeans to focus on the abilities of those with special needs, and not just their disabilities.

"We want the whole of society to come together, work together and take advantage of what special needs people can offer," said Ms Phua, who is an adviser to the Purple Parade steering committee.

A carnival was held at the event to showcase the talents of people with special needs. They included several mouth and foot artists who painted on canvas and a group of young people with hearing disabilities who performed a hip hop dance item.

The event also saw many people signing pledges in support of Singapore's signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities last year.

These pledge cards were used to form a large purple square at Hong Lim Park. Ms Phua said the square symbolises a call for people with disabilities to be granted equal access in all areas, including housing, education, health care and transport.

As for the event name, Ms Phua said purple was chosen as the colour represents royalty.

Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, who was one of several Cabinet members at the event, said he hopes the event will happen annually. Ms Phua said the organisers are already "seriously" thinking of making it so.

She added that the Purple Parade is not just an event but a movement, and more plans are in the pipeline to support the special needs community.

roysim@sph.com.sg