Forum: Pandemic has dealt blow to people with disabilities

PWDs want to make a dignified and meaningful living, and be able to support themselves rather than depend on others or the state.
PWDs want to make a dignified and meaningful living, and be able to support themselves rather than depend on others or the state.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

I am a Singaporean who is blind.

During the Covid-19 crisis, people with disabilities (PWDs) have been facing greater challenges than ever before.

Before the pandemic, many PWDs already had difficulty finding jobs and making a decent living. For example, many visually impaired Singaporeans could only find work as masseurs. Now, even this option has disappeared.

PWDs want to make a dignified and meaningful living, and be able to support themselves rather than depend on others or the state.

It is disappointing to note that the recent government Budgets do not have many measures to help PWDs specifically. For example, many PWDs were already unemployed prior to the pandemic and cannot claim assistance for loss of income.

We are also not able to upgrade our skills by attending courses funded by SkillsFuture credit as almost all these courses are for the able-bodied.

Measures implemented to ensure safe distancing make it even harder - sometimes even dangerous - for the blind to leave their homes to buy food and groceries, or engage in other essential activities.

We have to depend even more on sighted people for many activities. But many of us are not able to get help from friends who are not in our households, because of safe distancing regulations.

We have no choice but to try our best to perform our daily activities ourselves and take care of our own basic needs.

The Covid-19 crisis has had a disproportionately negative impact on PWDs. A wider conversation in society is needed if we are to effectively tackle the challenges faced by PWDs in Singapore, so that we can become a truly inclusive society, leaving no Singaporean behind.

People with disabilities want to make a dignified and meaningful living, and be able to support themselves rather than depend on others or the state.

Reena Rajasvari

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2020, with the headline 'Pandemic has dealt blow to people with disabilities'. Subscribe