Speech Of The Day

A clarion call to society

Ms Chia appealed to our better nature in her speech yesterday.
Ms Chia appealed to our better nature in her speech yesterday.

Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong, who uses a wheelchair, said Singapore has become more inclusive, but called for a campaign to raise awareness of those with disabilities, including those not as noticeable. Here is an extract from her speech, which drew applause from the chamber:

"We have a culture of kindness and generosity. Some of us have experience, either personally or distally, with disability. And we know we can suffer a disability at any time. So why then do persons with disabilities still not feel included in our society? It cannot be that it's because people are not kind.

Could it be because we have a lack of awareness? Could it be because there are disabilities that are not visible? Could it be because there are disabilities that are not perceived as disabilities?

Here are some small voices:

  • We hope for you to be patient when we are slow in entering the elevator. We don't like to hold up others.
  • We hope for you to be accommodating when we make strange, loud noises. We can't control our muscles.
  • We hope for you to give up your seats in the train. We feel bad for you not to have a seat, but our ankles are weak and we cannot stand for long.
  • Please understand if I refuse to communicate. Sometimes I'm afraid and confused from the many voices I hear in my own head.
  • Do not be offended if I do not respond to your greetings. I cannot hear you.
  • Give us a chance to train and upgrade our skills so that we can work. We cherish our hope for a brighter future.
  • Give us a chance to work, so that we can be less of a burden to our families.
  • Let my son have flexible working schedules so he can accompany me for my medical and therapy sessions. I do not want him to sacrifice his career development or lose his job because he's looking after me.
  • Be kind to my parents when I throw tantrums. It is not because they did not teach me well. I simply cannot comprehend my external environment.
  • Please play with me. My legs are weak, but I still have a sense of adventure.
  • Thank you for accepting me.

Madam, a disability is not caused by a medical condition per se. A person is disabled because there are external and internal barriers that impede his development and participation in the community.

We have people who do not feel included because they do not know what disabilities and what challenges we have. Can we ask this House to be that platform, to convey the little voices that I have just shared. Let our people know that there are disabilities they cannot see, they cannot perceive, but those are disabilities that are real and hurting.

I ask for a national education campaign so that we can reach out to our people.

I ask that we understand so that we can be one."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2016, with the headline 'A clarion call to society'. Print Edition | Subscribe