Efforts to promote inclusion lauded

Mr Kenneth Chin, who has been deaf since two, is an aquarist at the RWS SEA Aquarium.
Mr Kenneth Chin, who has been deaf since two, is an aquarist at the RWS SEA Aquarium.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Several individuals with disabilities were recognised at two events yesterday - one celebrating inclusive employment and another honouring organisations that back socially responsible initiatives.

Bursaries totalling $117,550 were handed out at the NatSteel-SPD Education Programme Awards to 95 students with disabilities or whose parents have disabilities.

President Halimah Yacob said at the event at the SPD Ability Centre that she was heartened by voluntary welfare organisation SPD's efforts to promote inclusion. "Bursaries like these will help lessen the financial hardship of families, make education more accessible to all children and encourage them to strive for their dreams," she noted.

Grants of $5,000 each were also given to Mr Joshua Tseng Shi Hao, Mr Justin Kueh Jin Yan and Mr Shahrul Izwan Shaiful Bahri through the SPD Youth Aspiration Award to help them pursue their interests. This initiative, which helps over 5,500 individuals with disabilities, is supported by NatSteel.

Mr Kueh, 19, was born with severe hearing loss but does not miss a beat when he plays the double bass, while Mr Tseng, also 19, does not let his vision loss get in the way of his passion for public speaking.

Mr Shahrul, 23, was diagnosed with lower-limb spastic paraparesis when he was 16, and found drive in a new sport - wheelchair racing.

"Despite their personal challenges, each of them is dedicated to giving back to the community and has strong passions in sports and arts," said Madam Halimah.

Meanwhile, Charity in the Park 2018, a Community Chest event, raised about $2.3 million for around 80 social service organisations last night. Lauding employers like Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) for their efforts, ComChest chairman Phillip Tan said: "Besides a five-year pledge of a $5 million cash donation and in-kind support to Community Chest, RWS staff have volunteered in many corporate social responsibility activities, and it went further to initiate job redesign for its employees with disabilities."

RWS has four employees with physical disabilities, including Ms Jean Ling, 35, an administrative executive who uses a wheelchair, and Mr Kenneth Chin, 22, a SEA Aquarium aquarist who is deaf.

Ms Ling was a team manager at RWS' attractions operations before an April 2014 car accident during a holiday in New Zealand caused her to lose all sensation from the waist down. She returned to work only in February 2015. But RWS continued to pay her salary and moved her to a less physically demanding role. Ms Ling, who married electrical service engineer Oh Wei Jian, 28, last month, is hoping to start a family.

Mr Chin has been deaf since he was two years old but that did not stop him from pursuing a career in marine life and husbandry at RWS after graduating from Temasek Polytechnic with a Diploma in Veterinary Technology.

"I appreciate RWS accommodating my disability and allowing me to pursue my passion," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 21, 2018, with the headline 'Efforts to promote inclusion lauded'. Print Edition | Subscribe