WhyItMatters

Third edition of Enabling Masterplan: Inclusive push to improve lives

The national plan to chart the development of policies and services for people with disabilities is being formulated.

It will be the third edition of the Enabling Masterplan. The first such plan ran from 2007 to 2011 and the current one spans 2012 to this year.

The next five-year blueprint is something to look out for as it does not affect just the estimated 3 per cent of the population who have disabilities.

Singapore is one of the most rapidly ageing societies in the world and it is the number of those with acquired disabilities which will shoot up.

Be it paralysis from a stroke or the loss of basic functions due to dementia, the range of people suffering disabilities will be far wider than those born with physical or mental impairments.

The masterplan is also important because it guides budget allocation.

Immediately after the tabling of the 2007 Enabling Masterplan, the Government announced a doubling of the budget allocated to services for the disabled. Over the last five years, more than $1 billion was set aside for such services.

Going by the progress made by the previous two masterplans, there is reason to believe that the momentum to improve the lives of those with disabilities will keep up.

Big strides have been made in ensuring that public transport and physical infrastructure are accessible to them.

Particularly over the last five years, aspects such as early intervention, education, residential facilities and adult care services were looked into.

The next big step will be helping more of those with disabilities to enter the workforce, instead of being stuck at home or in school. Only about one in 10 of them is able to find work in the open market.

While infrastructure and services lay the foundation for an inclusive society, the key pillar that holds it all together is societal acceptance and understanding.

One impatient glare or frustrated groan when they move slower or struggle with communication can undo the work of the best planners.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2016, with the headline 'Inclusive push to improve lives'. Print Edition | Subscribe