To complement the Government's plan to find out the number of people with disabilities in Singapore (Census to help target disability services; April 24), two related proposals should be considered: First, the creation and subsequent maintenance of an official central registry for the disabled; and second, the use of data and statistics for analytics.
At the moment, the National Council of Social Service administers the Developmental Disability Registry, but it is not clear whether this covers all individuals with disabilities in Singapore, or if the data and information gathered have been used for policy or research studies.
The upcoming census is a useful first step for an "invisible population" that we know little about.
In addition to the advantages of a comprehensive study, the Government and its agencies can also better coordinate the work of voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), and evaluate the effectiveness of programmes or interventions.
With the data and statistics in place, analytics allow for more specific questions to be explored.
For instance, what are the prospects of students who attend the special education schools? Do people with disabilities secure long-term, gainful employment, and what are the employment rates in general?
How do they receive health and psychosocial care, especially if they cannot be self-reliant in tasks and do not have familial support?
In particular, attention should be paid to the special education schools, since they appear to be the main and the most successful resource for the younger individuals.
In the initial stages, some hard work should be expected - in terms of getting funding and resources, gathering historical data sets, and digitising hard-copy records and case information.
The needs of this group of people are dynamic and require updated information.
Moving ahead, it would be necessary for the VWOs and social workers to leverage technology.
The gains for the beneficiaries will be significant.
Kwan Jin Yao