Singaporeans support inclusion but do not practise it, according to survey

People in Singapore's shopping area of Orchard Road.
People in Singapore's shopping area of Orchard Road. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans support the idea of inclusion but do not walk the talk, a survey has found.

While most people believe that children with and without disabilities can study together, only half of parents polled are comfortable with having a child with special needs sitting next to their own child in class.

Furthermore, only one in 10 Singaporeans are confident of interacting with children with special needs.

These are some of the findings of a survey, commissioned by local philanthropic house Lien Foundation, which asked more than 1,000 people for their experience of inclusion in daily life and early education.

The findings - revealed at a press conference on Monday (May 30) - suggest that Singaporeans are more tolerant rather than accepting towards those with special needs, said Mr Ng Tze Yong, programme manager at Lien Foundation.

"Singaporeans embrace the idea of inclusion, but there is a gap between what we think and what we do," said Mr Ng.

"Building handicapped ramps, parking lots and toilets is the easy part. We now need to move beyond that to dismantle the obstacles in our minds and the barriers in our hearts," he added.

Inclusion refers to the concept of ensuring that all persons, including those with disabilities, are given opportunities to realise their potential in the same environment.

Asked about the current level of acceptance and degree of social interaction between the public and children with special needs, more than half of the respondents think that Singaporeans are willing to share public spaces with children with special needs, but not interact with them.

Only 8 per cent of those polled felt that Singaporeans are willing to go the extra mile to make a child with special needs feel welcomed.

Yet most of them believe that it should be compulsory for children with special needs to go to school. Currently, children with special needs are exempted from the Compulsory Education Act.