The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) agrees that values of inclusion are best inculcated at a young age (Schoolchildren's attitude towards those with special needs worrying, by Ms Swee Bee Lan, July 30; and More needs to be done to raise disability awareness, by the SPD, Forum Online, Aug 4).
The collective effort of everyone, including parents, schools, social service organisations, corporate funders and even the man on the street, is needed to help shape children's behaviour.
The Attitude Study conducted by the NCSS in 2015 found that a higher frequency of contact with persons with disabilities correlated with more favourable attitudes towards these individuals.
Hence, the NCSS has pioneered the Children in Action programme for social service organisations and special education schools to promote interaction between children with and without special needs at inclusive playgrounds.
Educational content with messages on caring and sharing from our Sharity mascot is woven into Primary 3 pupils' Character and Citizenship Education curriculum.
In addition, Sharity Club (a school outreach programme under the Community Chest) has actively reached out to more than 110,000 lower primary pupils in the past two years by engaging them to put values-in-action into practice.
There is also an annual Sharity Day event that provides meaningful opportunities for pupils from mainstream and special education schools to interact, play and develop an understanding towards peers of different abilities.
Teachers and parents can access useful teaching resources on the sharity.sg website, which includes content on improving children's social skills for inclusive interaction with persons with disabilities.
To reach out to the general public, the NCSS will continue public education efforts through the "See the True Me" disability awareness campaign next month.
A series of activities to facilitate interaction between persons with and without disabilities will be organised in the coming months, including the annual Community Chest Heartstrings Walk next month. We encourage the public to join in the activities.
Increasingly, we are seeing more media reports of initiatives by different groups supporting disability inclusion. However, social inclusion of persons with disabilities cannot be accomplished by the efforts of a few.
We hope to see more ground-up efforts to promote inclusion as we journey towards our vision of "every person empowered to live with dignity in a caring and inclusive society".
Sim Gim Guan
Chief Executive Officer
National Council of Social Service