The disabled will soon enjoy greater access to sporting facilities as the Government follows through on its vision of building a more inclusive society through sport.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu announced yesterday that Centres of Expertise in disability sports will be set up at five ActiveSG sports centres - starting with one each in Jurong West and Toa Payoh next year.
These centres will provide "enhanced barrier-free access", while each of them will pilot programmes in one disability sport.
Inclusive gyms, with equipment conducive to users of all abilities, will also be built within these centres.
Said Ms Fu in her welcome address at the inaugural Asean Para Games Symposium on Sport for Inclusion: "Overall, these centres will provide persons with disabilities with the supporting infrastructure to develop motor skills and improve their fitness.
PROVIDING INCREASED ACCESS
Overall, these centres will provide persons with disabilities with the supporting infrastructure to develop motor skills and improve their fitness.
GRACE FU, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, explaining the benefits
"They will be able to do this within an environment where persons with or without disabilities can exercise and participate in sports together."
The plans reflect the recommendations of the Committee for Disability Sports, which was formed earlier this year. The full list of recommendations will be announced early next year.
Ms Fu said that another recommendation of the Committee is to strengthen the disability sports eco-system and improve capabilities.
One way, she said, is to work with voluntary welfare organisations, hospitals and rehabilitation centres to introduce sports as part of the rehabilitation and recovery process for patients.
Workshops will also be held to equip teachers to run adapted and inclusive physical education lessons, so that more students with disabilities in both mainstream and special education schools can take part in sports.
Raja Singh, Team Singapore's chef de mission at the Games, called these plans a "game-changer" for the local disability sports scene.
He said: "This will bring (disability sports) to the next level. But more than just helping athletes get into the competitive world, the message is that sports will improve your quality of life, whether it is your family life or your career.
"It is an option and we should encourage more to pick it up."
Ms Fu is confident the Asean Para Games, which Singapore is hosting for the first time, will provide the platform for these plans to take off.
She said: "We want to use disability sport to improve society's awareness and understanding of persons with special needs, and through this, foster a more inclusive and caring society in Singapore.
"This is the legacy that we want to build for the Asean Para Games. Everyone, regardless of age, gender or ability should have the chance to realise their potential through sport."
Yesterday's symposium, held at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, was attended by about 160 officials and athletes.
Among the guest speakers was United States para-athlete Scout Bassett, an amputee and three-time US 100m champion.
Bassett will hold a clinic tomorrow for, among others, youth from the SportCares CareRunners programme.