NMPs urge Govt to look out for persons with disabilities during Covid-19 pandemic

NMP Yip Pin Xiu touched on challenges people with disabilities may face in accessing information, food and other essentials. PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - Safe distancing measures during the Covid-19 pandemic could pose challenges for people with disabilities and others will need to look out for them, said Nominated MP Yip Pin Xiu.

Speaking in Parliament on Friday during the Fortitude Budget debate, she asked: "How many Singaporeans have thought about how somebody who is blind and living alone, while observing safe distancing measures, is coping?

"If a student with muscular dystrophy needs an oxygen tank with a breathing mask, and their teacher asks them to put on a face mask or a face shield, which would mean that they have to take the oxygen tank off, so that the teacher doesn't get in trouble for not observing the measures. How would this affect the student and their family?"

Ms Yip, who is a national para swimmer, also touched on the challenges that people with disabilities (PWDs) may face in accessing information, food and other essentials.

To make sure this group of people receive critical information during the pandemic, she she suggested that a Singapore Sign Language interpreter be present for live, recorded events and communications, such as national addresses and press briefings.

Public materials could also be presented in "easy read" format for the cognitively impaired, she added.

She said: "We need to develop accessible written information products by using appropriate document formats with structured headings, large print, braille versions and formats for people who are deaf, blind or visually impaired.

"The images we put out have to be inclusive and enable the independence of persons with disabilities. For example, the current level of SafeEntry QR codes tends to be a bit too high. A consideration could be to place it at varying, easy-to-reach heights, as we have done with many lift buttons."

Ms Yip said many people with disabilities may also not able to work from home, and asked if they are being given help the need.

She said: "As we are encouraged to work from home or have home-based learning, what assistance is being provided to ensure that the assistive technology is available in the homes of persons with disabilities?

Ms Yip also asked if more government relief could be extended to people with disabilities.

"Those with disabilities already often have higher healthcare and personal care costs and these costs are likely to increase as alternative or emergency arrangements are made during the disruptions of service during the circuit breaker or the phases after that.

" In addition, some PWDs rely on informal and temporary work arrangements, and as such do not strictly fit into the eligibility requirements for Sirs (Self-employed person income relief scheme).

"Taking that into consideration, can the Government consider extending the amount that is given and the duration of the relief for persons with disabilities or increasing the eligibility to those with higher household incomes?"

She also called for a dedicated mechanism where those with disabilities, their caregivers and groups can offer feedback on the accessibility of Covid-19 response information and measures.

SUPPORTING THE ARTS AND CULTURE SECTOR

NMP Terence Ho in his speech during debate on the Fortitude Budget on Friday spoke about what more he felt can be done to support the arts and culture sector.

He acknowledged the Government's efforts to help artists, such as the $55 million Arts and Culture Resilience Package that has funded, as of May 22, more than 60 digitalisation projects through the Digital Presentation Grant for the Arts.

Digital presentations of arts and culture content on the National Arts Council's channels and the A List website have also drawn more than 6.2 million views.

Taking into account initiatives by groups such as the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, he said: "If we take into consideration of the other online digital programmes by the arts groups, we should reach more than 10 million online viewers as of today.

However, Mr Ho said more can be done to engage with these online viewers.

He suggested relooking marketing strategies to attract a wider audience, and introducing a digital cultural pass for pay-per-view digital concerts.

Arts groups could also collaborate more with the private and public sector to use resources "in a more effective way", he added.

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