Parliament: Greater push to promote sports for people with disabilities

Participants at Let’s Play! At Passion Wave@Marina Bay, Pek Dewei (left) and Oh Fu Quan, trying out wheelchair fencing on Jan 12, 2019. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - National agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) will ramp up efforts to promote sports at special education schools and disability centres by linking up these institutions with specialised coaches.

It hopes to reach out to 10 schools and centres by April 2020.

"Currently, plans are underway to build the capabilities of teachers and staff at special education schools and disability centres in conducting sporting activities," said Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's (MCCY) Senior Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng in Parliament on Friday (March 8).

"They will work with sports coaches to co-create and tailor activities that meet the needs of their students."

The ministry will also extend Play Inclusive, Singapore's largest unified sports competition, to two days this year. Last year's edition brought together over 450 students from several special education schools and mainstream schools to learn new sports together, and participate as combined teams in tournaments.

In addition, recreational sports programme Play-Ability, will be expanded to reach more homes and day activity centres which serve people with disabilities. Also launched last year, the programme has benefited adult centres such as the Thye Hua Kwan Home for the Disabled and Touch Centre for Independent Living.

Mr Baey and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu also updated the House on several ongoing sports-related projects:

- A report, slated for the second quarter of 2019, of a review of the Vision 2030 national sports masterplan.

- Four more Active Health Labs - in Bishan, Jurong East, Sengkang and Woodlands - by end-March, bringing the total to six.

- Canoeing and gymnastics ActiveSG academies to be introduced, bringing the number of such academies and clubs to 18.

- Fifty-two new indoor school sports halls and 32 new free-to-play school fields under the Dual-Use Scheme, as well as two new Play Fields - community sport spaces in the heartlands - in Jurong Lake Gardens and Yan Kit.

- A $3 million fund for national athletes preparing for the 2019 SEA Games, and the Asean Para Games, Olympics and Paralympics next year.

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Swimming coach Mr Danny Ong, whose Aquafins swim school conducts training for people with disabilities, welcomed the push to help facilitate sports coaching in special needs schools and disability centres.

"People with cerebral palsy or spina bifida may find it very difficult to walk on land, but... (swimming) helps increase their physical mobility, and also increases the self-esteem of these individuals," he said.

"Other sports, like basketball, can help individuals with intellectual impairment, for example, by helping them learn to identify colours and pass to the correct players, and also encourages good interaction."

Mr Ong, 43, was a special education teacher at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore for four years, and believes the move would aid teachers at special needs schools.

He said: "The coach may not know about disability (coaching) and the teacher may not understand the technicality of the sport, but they can complement each other. I think this initiative has great potential."

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