Handicaps Welfare Association seeks ways to better help disabled

Wheelchair dancing by Onwheels members at the 50th anniversary dinner for the Handicaps Welfare Association at Marina Bay Sands on Dec 18, 2019. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Moving forward, the Handicaps Welfare Association (HWA) will collaborate with non-members to create inclusive solutions for the disabled community in the country, said its president Edmund Wan.

Speaking at its 50th anniversary dinner on Wednesday (Dec 18), Mr Wan also said the association needs to strengthen its technological capabilities while not losing the human element of personal touch.

"We will be engaging not only members to create future solutions but to include our care-givers, volunteers and even partners who may have family members or someone living with disabilities."

He also said there is "tremendous potential" in collaborating to create solutions for Singapore's disabled community.

"We will find new cost and value-added ways to do what we are good at by leveraging innovation and technologies to increase productivity," he added.

Singapore's president Halimah Yacob was the guest-of-honour at the dinner in Marina Bay Sands that was attended by about 600 people from the social and healthcare sectors.

Also present were Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How and HWA's former patron Tan Cheng Bock, who is secretary-general of the Progress Singapore Party.

In her speech, President Halimah also stressed the spirit of collaboration, saying social service agencies, like HWA, can achieve the aims of the Enabling Masterplan and create initiatives to improve the lives of the disabled by working closely together.

The Enabling Masterplan is a national roadmap that guides the initiatives for the disability sector. The third edition was launched in December 2016, charting the sector's focus from 2017 to 2021.

President Halimah Yacob (centre) and Handicaps Welfare Association president Edmund Wan (right) at the association's 50th anniversary dinner at Marina Bay Sands on Dec 18, 2019. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

"It is through the combined efforts of social service agencies like HWA, their staff, partners and volunteers, that the impact of each Enabling Masterplan is amplified and translated into concrete initiatives to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities," said President Halimah.

She also unveiled HWA's new logo and launched a commemorative book depicting its journey in the past 50 years.

The book, given to those at the dinner, is not for sale to the public.

Mr Wan said HWA is a pioneer in some services for people with physical disabilities.

The association has faced multiple challenges in the last 50 years, including the "inaccessibility in built environment and transport system that restricted our mobility, social acceptance, getting a place in schools and educational institutions, and equal employment opportunities".

He highlighted its efforts in helping the community, like starting an accessible transport service in the 1980s to address the growing need for mobility for disabled people.

"Today, almost all public transports are designed to include persons with disabilities and even for the growing elderly population," he noted.

President Halimah commended HWA's efforts in ensuring social services reach disabled beneficiaries, and noted its has come a long way since it began in 1969 as a support group with just 23 disabled people.

"With the strong support of more than 2,000 members, HWA now serves thousands of beneficiaries through a diverse offering of social and recreational activities, as well as services such as affordable and customised transportation for persons with disabilities who find it challenging to take public transport."

President Halimah added that HWA goes beyond the provision of services, to working with various agencies on initiatives to improves the lives of the disabled.

She cited its collaboration with the Building and Construction Authority to implement the Wheelchair Accessibility Code in a Built Environment, which has seen a rise in the number of barrier-free environments for people with disabilities.

President Halimah also commended HWA's partnerships with like-minded individuals and organisations to improve access to education and skills training for the disabled, through scholarships and the launch of the first vocational rehabilitation centre for persons with disabilities in Singapore.

She also reiterated the focus on people with disabilities in next year's edition of the President's Challenge. It would focus on "how we can work together with employers to encourage more inclusive hiring", she said.

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