Acceptance of people with disability begins in our hearts, minds

I agree with Ms Ho Lay Ping that acceptance of people with special needs must start in the womb ("Acceptance of special needs kids must start in the womb"; June 2), and I share Ms Ho's disappointment that Singaporeans are tolerant towards, rather than accepting of, people with special needs ("S'poreans 'don't walk the talk' on special needs kids"; May 31).

Unfortunately, this attitude of many Singaporeans towards disability is reflected in government policy as well.

In October 2014, the Health Ministry referred to a routine foetal scan at 20 weeks of pregnancy to pick up structural abnormalities as one of the reasons to justify keeping the abortion time limit at 24 weeks.

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor added that keeping the abortion limit at 24 weeks "will allow these mothers some time to consider the implications and make an informed decision as to whether to keep or abort the child, without being rushed to meet a shorter cut-off time".

The singling out of disabled unborn children to justify abortion is inconsistent with the Government's obligations to promote respect for the inherent dignity of disabled people under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Singapore ratified in July 2013.

All human beings are entitled to be respected and treated equally irrespective of age, size, location, stage of development, and condition of dependency.

Therefore, I disagree with Dr Yik Keng Yeong's characterisation of the lives of disabled people as that of "suffering", "indignity" and that of a "lesser being" ("Parents must decide what is best for unborn child with disabilities"; June 8). Disabled people have inherent dignity from conception to natural death, as with any other human being.

While children with special needs may have a higher degree of dependency, in a sense, all human beings are dependent upon one another.

The acceptance of people with disabilities must begin in our hearts and minds. In doing so, we can build a society where families, community groups and the Government will cooperate to uphold the dignity of all human beings.

Darius Lee