More can be done to hire people with disabilities: Halimah

Wong Casandra
Senior Reporter
Members of the Handicaps Welfare Association performing at its 50th-anniversary dinner on 18 December, 2019. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — While measures have been taken to encourage inclusive hiring of people with disabilities in Singapore, much more can be done in this area, said President Halimah Yacob on Wednesday (18 December).

In her speech at the Handicaps Welfare Association’s (HWA) 50th-anniversary dinner, Halimah, who was the guest-of-honour, reiterated the call for everyone – from employers to social organisations – to play a part in ensuring those with disabilities find employment.

“If there are employers here (in the audience), I want to ask you to support the hiring of people with disabilities. If you have friends who are offering jobs or looking for workers for their companies, I hope you would suggest to them to take a look,” she added.

Among the 600-odd guests who attended the event at Marina Bay Sands were HWA’s former patron and Progress Singapore Party chief Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Senior Minister of State Heng Chee How and National Council of Social Service president Anita Fam.

HWA contributions commended by President

Halimah commended the association for its contributions in improving the lives of those with disabilities and noted that it had come a long way since it began in 1969 as a social club started by 23 disabled members.

“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,” she said.

Halimah highlighted the association’s collaboration with the Building and Construction Authority to implement the Wheelchair Accessibility Code in a Built Environment, which led to more barrier-free environments for people with disabilities.

“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,” she added.

The Enabling Masterplan is a five-year roadmap that guides the policies and programmes for people with disabilities. Its third edition, unveiled in December 2016, provides recommendations for the disability sector from 2017 to 2021.

From left to right: Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Frances Teo, Teo's husband and HWA president Edmund Wan as well as President Halimah Yacob at the Handicaps Welfare Association's 50th-anniversary dinner on 18 December, 2019. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

HWA president Edmund Wan, who joined the association in the year after it was created, said that it faced “multiple challenges” over the last 50 years.

These included “inaccessibility in built environment and transport system that restricted our mobility, social acceptance, getting a place in schools and educational institutions, and more importantly, employment opportunities”.

Wan said, “We have relentlessly lobbied with various authorities, so that the next generation does not have to face similar challenges that we faced in our earlier years.”

Among the initiatives that HWA pioneered were the introduction of Singapore’s only car driving instruction and a special adapted transport service for disabled people, he added.

New HWA logo, commemorative book launched at dinner

Moving forward, Wan said that the association would not only engage their members, but also care-givers, volunteers and partners who may have a loved one living with disabilities.

It would also strengthen the use of new technologies to increase productivity, without forgetting the “human” aspect of personal touch, he added.

During the dinner, Halimah launched HWA’s new logo, changed for the first time since the association began in 1969, as well as a commemorative book documenting the association’s journey. The book, which is not for sale, was given to guests at the event.

Halimah also spoke briefly about next year’s Presidential Challenge charity initiative, which will focus on empowering people with disabilities. The theme, unveiled at last month’s President's Challenge 2019 Appreciation Night, will centre around the group’s contributions to society and working together with employers to encourage more inclusive hiring.

This year’s edition focuses on mental health and is expected to raise more than $13 million.

“I hope that HWA will join the Presidential Challenge on this journey, to empower even more persons with disabilities so that they can continue to find greater meaning and independence in their lives,” Halimah said.

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