New $4m fund to enable lifelong learning for adults with disabilities

Persons with disabilities can tap the fund to enrol in continuing education and training programmes. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Adults with disabilities looking to upskill or go for training will soon be able to tap a new $4 million fund by Temasek Trust and the five Community Development Councils (CDCs).

Launched on Wednesday (Sept 8), the fund will provide up to $1,000 each to 4,000 adults with disabilities to defray course-related fees or to purchase learning-support devices.

The Temasek Trust - CDC Lifelong Learning Enabling Fund will be administered by SG Enable.

It aims to support persons with disabilities in lifelong learning, as a common concern among them is that learning opportunities are few after they graduate from special education schools around age 18.

Temasek Trust said the fund was set up to address demand that arose from the Covid-19 pandemic which had widened the learning gaps of persons with disabilities in the community.

At the virtual launch on Wednesday, Central Singapore District Mayor Denise Phua noted that adults with disabilities, depending on their level of support needs, require continued training in vocational and independent living skills.

These include skills related to employability, self-management, community living, residential living, mobility, work readiness and communication.

She said: "From our understanding of the challenges faced by persons with disabilities, we know there are still gaps, especially for the adults in the post-school years.... Many persons with disabilities stop learning after they leave their formal schooling years, usually at the age of 18."

Persons with disabilities can tap the fund to enrol in continuing education and training programmes such as those offered by institutes of higher learning, or courses offered by social services agencies and training providers endorsed by SG Enable.

The fund can help to cover course fees, registration fees, course materials and assessment fees. It can also be used to buy assistive technology equipment such as transcribing and recording devices, and IT equipment like laptops and tablets, as well as to acquire accessibility services of sign interpreters or note takers, for example.

Those eligible for the fund are persons with disabilities aged 18 and above who are not currently enrolled in mainstream or special education schools. They must also be Singapore citizens or permanent residents.

They can apply for the fund more than once, up to a cap of $1,000.

Applications for the fund will open on Dec 3, in conjunction with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The application period ends on Dec 31 next year.

More information on the application process will be provided later.

Ms Phua said she hopes the fund will not only nudge adults with disabilities to adopt lifelong learning but also encourage more quality training providers to develop more accessible learning opportunities for them.

Ms Jaspreet Sekhon, 41, who has Down syndrome, plans to apply for the fund to upskill herself and achieve her goal of being a motivational speaker.

Participants using the hand sign for "I love you" at the virtual launch of the Temasek Trust - CDC Lifelong Learning Enabling Fund on Sept 8. PHOTO: CENTRAL SINGAPORE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL

A dancer with the Diverse Abilities Dance Collective, Ms Sekhon also teaches ethnic dance to young children with autism.

She is also involved in advocacy work on the need for education to overcome barriers and limitations in the community.

She said: "I plan to use this fund to improve my dancing skills and public speaking skills. I want to speak up for myself and others who cannot communicate as well, and help them to achieve their dreams.

"Dancing gives me a lot of confidence. Through it I can inspire others, and also show that a person with any kind of disability can showcase this talent."

Note: The article has been updated for clarity.

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