Make inclusiveness part of civil service culture

Dendrobium Joseph Schooling (left) and Dendrobium Yip Pin Xiu (right) at a ceremony in the Singapore Botanic Gardens' Botany Centre on Aug 7,2017.
Dendrobium Joseph Schooling (left) and Dendrobium Yip Pin Xiu (right) at a ceremony in the Singapore Botanic Gardens' Botany Centre on Aug 7,2017. ST PHOTO: DON WONG

Most Singaporeans will not dispute the honour accorded to national swimmers Joseph Schooling and Yip Pin Xiu in having orchids named after them in recognition of their stupendous achievements at the 2016 Rio Olympics and Paralympic Games (Swimmers Schooling and Yip first local athletes to have orchids named after them; Aug 8).

I believe the recognition for Yip is overdue and should have happened earlier, in 2008, when she won Singapore's first Paralympic gold at the Beijing Paralympic Games.

For most of Singapore's history, public service organisations have not proactively considered the needs of people with disabilities during policy, systems and infrastructure design. Their needs seemed to be an afterthought.

The retrofitting of lifts and ramps at MRT stations is an example of this mindset.

Singapore is now a First World country, and we are into the third edition of the Enabling Masterplan, which is meant to steer Singapore towards a more caring and inclusive society, and to address the challenges faced by people with disabilities.

Like many other grandiose visions, the devil is in the details.

The Enabling Masterplan (2017-2021) must not be driven by the Ministry of Social and Family Development alone.

We need a whole-of-government approach. All ministries need to be on board and walk the talk. Perhaps we need to set inclusiveness as a key performance indicator so that the pursuit of inclusiveness becomes a new civil service culture.

Li Ze Zong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2017, with the headline 'Make inclusiveness part of civil service culture'. Print Edition | Subscribe