Paralympian athlete among 16 recipients of Goh Chok Tong Enable Awards

Ms Sherena Loh, co-founder of the Muscle Dystrophy Association (left), and Paralympian boccia athlete Nurulasyiqah Mohammad Taha.
Ms Sherena Loh, co-founder of the Muscle Dystrophy Association (left), and Paralympian boccia athlete Nurulasyiqah Mohammad Taha.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Ms Nurulasyiqah Mohammad Taha, 35, has never experienced what it is like to walk on her own.

She was born with spinal muscular atrophy (Type II) - a rare condition where the muscles weaken and waste away - and has to use a wheelchair to get around.

She knows how important accessibility is to people with disabilities, having lived with the challenge all her life.

Ms Nurulasyiqah has been captain of the Singapore Boccia Pair team since 2008 and is a mentor to other athletes in the sport from the Muscular Dystrophy Association (Singapore).

Requiring accuracy and muscle control, boccia players throw or roll a ball towards a target.

For her achievements as a two-time Paralympian boccia athlete and her potential in the sport as well as willingness to serve the community, Ms Nurulasyiqah was among 16 recipients of the Goh Chok Tong Enable Awards on Thursday (Dec 3).

The award, an initiative by the Mediacorp Enable Fund, is now in its second year and is sponsored by UBS Singapore and the Tote Board.

In her speech at the award ceremony at the Istana, President Halimah Yacob said: "Many of you have truly exemplified the spirit of positivity and resilience. You have shown that persons with disabilities can also contribute and bring value to organisations, businesses and our society."

Madam Halimah also called for more efforts to support the integration of those with disabilities into the wider community, especially among employers.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who is the patron of the fund, said the award evaluation committee decided to give out three more awards this year even though it meant that more had to be drawn from the budget.

"2020 has been a very challenging year for the community and for all of us. Livelihoods were affected. Routines were disrupted. Dreams and aspirations were put on hold. It is right that we go the extra mile to recognise more persons with disabilities," said Mr Goh.

"Our award winners today possess qualities we hope to inculcate in all our children. They are positive, they are tenacious, and they are self-motivated. All of them want to give back to the community, to build a kinder, more inclusive Singapore," he added.

Ms Nurulasyiqah said that she was thankful and humbled to be one of the 12 recipients of the UBS Promise award, which also comes with $5,000. The other four received the UBS Achievement award and received $10,000 each.

"But more importantly is what I want to do with the award, which is to do more for my community," she added.

She hopes to champion greater accessibility to financial and educational resources for people with disabilities, as Singapore has made progress in accessibility in infrastructure and public transport.

"For example, for some persons with muscular dystrophy, they don't have financial means to afford mobility equipment that is customised and suited for their needs. There needs to be more financial support for them," said Ms Nurulasyiqah. A customised wheelchair can cost more than $10,000.

The awards ceremony on Thursday, held on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, also marks the start of SG Enable's virtual Enabling Lives Festival, which lasts till Dec 22.

The festival celebrates disability inclusion efforts and the achievements of those with disabilities as well as strengthen connections and spark collaborations within the disability community, said SG Enable chief executive officer Ku Geok Boon.

The festival includes virtual workshops, panel discussions and performances as well as an online i'mable Gift Market that is retailing handcrafted products by artists and artisans with disabilities from social service agencies and social enterprises.

While it has been a challenging year, SG Enable has special milestones to celebrate, said Ms Ku.

She said: "We now have an expanded scope as a focal agency for disability, after disability functions from the Ministry of Social and Family Development and National Council of Social Service were transferred to and consolidated at SG Enable from October.

"This gives us more opportunities and resources to work with social service agencies and like-minded partners to create more positive outcomes for persons with disabilities and their caregivers."