Supporting employment of people with disabilities should be part of national policy: President Halimah

President Halimah Yacob participating in a digital artwork activity with Ms Yan Jia Yi in an IT class learning digital art on Oct 7, 2020.
President Halimah Yacob participating in a digital artwork activity with Ms Yan Jia Yi in an IT class learning digital art on Oct 7, 2020.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Supporting the employment of people with disabilities (PWD) should be made part of the national policy on jobs and not just something championed by welfare groups, said President Halimah Yacob on Wednesday (Oct 7).

The President was visiting social service agency Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore (CPAS) when shecalled upon co-workers and customers to provide a supportive environment for PWD in the workplace.

Noting that Covid-19 has made under-representation of PWD in the workforce even more obvious, Madam Halimah said: "A national policy on jobs which include PWD will ensure greater focus and planning, including the kind of infrastructure that is needed to promote their employment instead of subsequent adaptation which is more difficult to do.

"Also, with technology as the enabler, more work can be done from home or at centres such as CPAS, so there should be more job opportunities accessible to them."

According to figures released by the Ministry of Manpower last year, more than 25 per cent of people aged 15 to 64 who have disabilities are employed.

The resident employment rate for people with disabilities is 28.6 per cent, while another 4.2 per cent are active job seekers.

To build a more inclusive workforce, over 140 organisations have signed the President's Challenge Enabling Employment Pledgesince it was launched in March. During her visit on Wednesday, Madam Halimah urged more companies to come on board the initiative.

Mr Bobby Lee Seng Tong, a trainee at CPAS, shared his experience of being discriminated against at the workplace. The 54-year-old, who has had cerebral palsy since birth, had been retrenched twice in the past, with employers not being clear to him regarding his termination.

Mr Lee was previously assigned to operate CPAS push carts at Changi General Hospital. As push cart operations were suspended due to Covid-19, he is currently working at CPAS' Goodwill, Rehabilitation and Occupational Workshop (GROW) under sheltered employment.

Finding stable employment and commuting daily are some of the challenges facing Mr Lee, who uses crutches and requires space to manoeuvre himself. With increased social awareness of special needs, Mr Lee said employers would better understand the challenges facing those with disabilities and adjust their expectations accordingly.

CPAS is commemorating World Cerebral Palsy Day, which falls on Oct 6, with a fund-raising campaign that runs till Oct 31.

The #SpareYourChangeforSuzy campaign aims to reach out to at least 100 individual or corporate fund-raisers to help CPAS achieve a target of $100,000 in donations. The ongoing campaign, which began in August, has raised over $50,000 to date.

For more information on the #SpareYourChangeforSuzy campaign, visit this website.