S'pore unveils plans to improve employment, independent living for persons with disabilities

Mr Aloysius Chan (seated) showing a soft skills reminder card - to aid in his workflow at his workstation - to Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli (far right). ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Persons with disabilities will get more targeted help to secure and stay in employment as well as move about the island on their own.

These plans are built on 21 recommendations by two workgroups on issues such as barrier-free accessibility, digital inclusion, bringing job support services to the heartland as well as strengthening soft skills curriculum in special education schools.

The recommendations come after consultations with about 300 persons with disabilities, their families and caregivers, as well as disability social service agencies over the course of two years.

The Government has accepted these recommendations, which were announced by the Ministry of Social and Family Development on Wednesday (April 14).

Some have already been rolled out by ministries and agencies last year while more will be progressively implemented from the second half of this year.

The two workgroups were launched in 2019 as part of the Third Enabling Masterplan, a national roadmap to building a more inclusive society for persons with disabilities here.

The employment workgroup focused on preparing persons with disabilities for the future economy while the independent living workgroup aimed to promote independent living of persons with disabilities through technology and design.

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli, who co-chaired both workgroups, said: "All these years, we have been trying to enable persons with disabilities so they can work like us. We hope more of them can be absorbed into the workforce by either providing the support that they need or training that the employers want us to give."

There has been some success in doing so with current schemes, but the Government wants more of such examples to be the norm in Singapore, he added.

He spoke to the media after a visit to the Hive and Tech Able at the Enabling Village in Bukit Merah, where he observed the employment services supporting persons with autism, and the assistive technology available to persons with disabilities.

The employment workgroup's 10 recommendations seek to better prepare students with special educational needs for employment, create new employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, support them in upgrading their skills, and better recognise and incentivise inclusive employers.

Some plans to help achieve these aims are in the works.

One is an upcoming review by the Ministry of Education of the vocational education curriculum in special education schools, to further emphasise the intentional development of soft skills for work.

(Standing, from left) Ms Jacelyn Lim guiding Mr Masagos Zulkifli and Mr Eric Chua as they visit the Enabling Village, where Ms Kawini Kumarihamy Ekanayake (in yellow) and Mr Chong Rui Yang (in grey) are engaged in Peranakan Beading. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Enabling business hubs in regional centres will also be developed to offer training and employment, shared facilities and services such as job coaching to persons with disabilities and their employers. The first such hub is expected to open in 2023.

"(The hub) will offer training and support nearer to where people with disabilities live rather than (them) having to travel to places like the Enabling Village. It is better to put it across as many regions as possible," said Mr Masagos.

The independent living workgroup's 11 recommendations are focused on improving accessibility in the built environment, ensuring access to information and services, increasing adoption of assistive technology, raising awareness of disability and promoting inclusion.

In response, two community partnership groups will be set up by the first half of this year - one to identify the accessibility gaps in the Central Business District, and another, to identify the accessibility gaps in a Housing Board town, among other plans.

The Public Transport Council will also seek feedback from persons with special needs or disability and their caregivers on travel experiences in a survey later this year.

More details about the Third Enabling Masterplan are on a new website.

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