When he was five years old, Mr Michael Ngu contracted polio and became paralysed in both legs, but his disability did not stop his dream of becoming an architect.
His career began in the 1980s and for nearly a decade, he worked for celebrated architect I.M. Pei in New York. Today, Mr Ngu, 62, is the president and chief executive of Architects 61, an award-winning local company.
Yesterday, he was one of 13 people with disabilities recognised for their achievements in their fields, as well as for their potential and contributions to society, at the inaugural Goh Chok Tong (GCT) Enable Awards.
"I hope my achievement can be an inspiration to others," said Mr Ngu. "It has been challenging for a person with disabilities to achieve and gain acceptance in society."
Today, Mr Ngu's projects are seen not just in Singapore, but also overseas - in China, India, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar.
Closer to home, his firm has had a hand in designing several notable structures including Changi Airport's Terminal 1 and 5, and the Helix Bridge.
Mr Ngu has also found time to give back to the community, having served as vice-chairman of the Singapore Cheshire Home, a charity for people with disabilities, and treasurer of the Handcycling Association of Singapore, now known as the Para Cycling Federation of Singapore.
Yesterday's awards ceremony, held at the Istana, was graced by President Halimah Yacob and attended by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.
Lauding the award recipients, Madam Halimah said: "Their stories remind us that everyone is unique and differently abled, and can contribute back to society in their own ways. I hope today's awards will inspire everyone to go the distance with our endeavours."
There are two categories of the GCT Enable Awards. The Achievement Award recognises contributions to the recipient's field and to society. The Promise Award encourages those with great potential to keep at it and develop their talents to a higher level.
Achievement Award recipients receive $10,000 each, while Promise Award winners are awarded $5,000 each.
Mr Ngu, who was one of three Achievement Award recipients, said he "never dreamed that this day would arrive".
"I grew up with the stigma of Asian societies towards individuals like me," he said. "This award is not only remarkable and commendable, but also timely to mark and recognise people with disabilities. Hopefully, it can be a catalyst towards a more gracious and inclusive society."
The GCT Enable Awards is an initiative under the Mediacorp Enable Fund, and is supported by the Tote Board as the founding sponsor and UBS Singapore as the principal sponsor.
ESM Goh said: "The Achievement and Promise awards are to celebrate the accomplishments of persons with disabilities, not only for the challenges they have overcome, but also for who they are and what they can contribute to Singapore if we maximise their potential."