Forum: Mask-wearing: Officers aware of needs of persons with disabilities

We thank Mr Wesley Loh for sharing his experience on mask-wearing as a person with disability and his feedback to raise greater awareness on this issue (Public education: Gaps in efforts to support those with special needs, Nov 17).

As activities and services resume gradually, we must remain vigilant and continue to observe safe management measures to keep the risks of Covid-19 transmission low. The use of masks is mandatory. Exceptions can be made only for medical reasons, such as respiratory conditions or sensory challenges. Certain persons with disabilities may be exempted.

During the circuit breaker period, the Ministry of Social and Family Development, SG Enable, and the National Council of Social Service developed a guide for front-line officers, including safe distancing ambassadors (SDAs) and enforcement officers (EOs), to raise their awareness about special needs arising from different types of disabilities. SDAs and EOs can be flexible when persons with disabilities are unable to comply with certain measures.

Persons who cannot tolerate wearing masks for medical reasons are encouraged to carry supporting documents, such as a doctor's memo, to facilitate the work of SDAs and EOs. They are urged to observe safe distancing measures and stay indoors as far as possible to protect themselves. For those who can wear masks, including the majority of persons with disabilities, masks are mandatory and important for their protection.

The guidelines for front-line officers on the needs of persons with disabilities can be found on SG Enable's Enabling Guide website, along with resources produced by KK Women's and Children's Hospital and disability social service agencies on how persons with disabilities can be kept safe amid Covid-19.

These guidelines have also been shared with major supermarket chains, where staff may encounter shoppers with disabilities. We are looking to further disseminate the guidelines to raise awareness among more front-line staff and members of the public.

We agree with Mr Loh that more can be done to educate the public about disabilities, and to raise awareness about support strategies for persons with disabilities. We will continue to find avenues to do so, as we work together with the community to build an inclusive, caring Singapore.

Lim Yi Jia

Director, Disability Office

Ministry of Social and Family Development

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