Adaptive tech subsidies could encourage employers to hire persons with disabilities: President Halimah

President Halimah Yacob viewing an animation created by Ms Jasmine Yau (far left), a learner in the Bridge-Pro Framework, during a visit to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (Singapore) on April 12. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Mr Lim Kay Choong, who has muscular dystrophy, feels that his employer's mindset on persons with disabilities has enabled him to integrate well into the work environment.

The company is keen and willing to discuss and make arrangements for him, said Mr Lim.

"Having a job gives me financial independence. This helps me gain confidence in other aspects of my life, as I can make my own decisions on whether I want to buy a laptop or go out with friends to a better restaurant. I earn my money and I am happy to spend it," said Mr Lim, 32, a research analyst.

Mr Lim has been able to find work with four different organisations with support from the Muscular Dystrophy Association (Singapore) (MDAS). He has been with his current company for more than two years.

He shared his experience during a dialogue session with President Halimah Yacob, who visited MDAS on Monday (April 12).

Speaking to the media after the visit, Madam Halimah said there can be more support to encourage employers to hire persons with disabilities.

One way is through wage or training subsidies, which the Government has been providing.

Another is to provide more subsidies for adaptive technology, which can be costly but which some persons with disabilities need.

"It (could make it) a lot easier for employers then to employ them and for (persons with disabilities) to be able to secure this adaptive technology that can assist them at work," said Madam Halimah.

During her visit, she interacted with some MDAS members both in person and through Zoom and observed a class on graphic design under the association's Bridge-Pro Framework.

This is a transitional programme that nurtures and empowers individuals with muscular dystrophy through a customised curriculum in areas such as life skills, communication and vocational training. It is funded for three years under the President's Challenge Empowering for Life Fund.

Mr Timothy Chan, 30, said the programme helped him broaden his skills.

"MDAS' Bridge programme gave me skills in graphic design... Through that and the physiotherapy I was also getting, I was able to pick up the skills," he said.

He added that through MDAS, he was recently linked up with a company to design decals for shopping malls and also found part-time work with a pharmaceutical company, where he would start in May.

Mr Lim Kay Choong (in blue shirt), President Halimah Yacob and Mr Timothy Chan (in red shirt) at the Muscular Dystrophy Association Singapore. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Ms Quek Jing Yan, co-founder of digital marketing agency SEOciety, said during the dialogue session that more than half of its payroll at any time consists of persons with disabilities.

She noted that the industry turnover rate for a digital marketing agency is "very high", but added: "Persons with disabilities in our team do not have as many opportunities out there, so they stay and continue to grow with us."

She added that sometimes, salary progression for persons with disabilities can be a challenge.

In some instances, the salary increment could affect their eligibility criteria for medical subsidies, and could leave the person worse off if the increment did not cover the reduction in subsidies, she said.

Urging employers to hire more persons with muscular dystrophy, Madam Halimah said that they add value and are able to contribute to the needs of the company.

"Most importantly, so long as they're given the opportunities... there is adaptive technology (and) they're given the opportunity to acquire the skills, persons with muscular dystrophy are able to make good contributions to the workplace."

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