The International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) is celebrated annually on 3 December around the world. Let’s take this opportunity to work together in breaking down barriers and integrating people with disabilities into the community.
Because We Can All Be More
People with disabilities can do more and be more. That’s why we work towards helping them fulfill their potential, like Veronica and Diroy!
Veronica is a client at SPD's Day Activity Centre. She has Rasmussen Encephalitis which causes her limbs to be weak and balance to be poor. Veronica cannot walk or stand for too long even with support. Even so she still wants to give back to society and did so at the Heartstrings Walk 2017!
Although Diroy was born with dwarfism, his eye for design and passion for sports, coupled with lots of hard work, meant that he excelled in both areas. Diroy represented Singapore in shot put and javelin at the 2016 Paralympics and several international events, along the way globetrotting and bringing positivity to wherever he goes. Diroy’s creative flair and technical abilities in design are also of commercial standards. His ultimate goal is to see his design brand ‘Diroyland’ recognised globally.
Click on the thumbnails below for more stories of those who can and did more!
Some Disability Facts & Figures
There are currently no official central registry of persons with disabilities. However, existing data from government agencies estmated that approximately 3% of the resident population has some form of disabilities.
Based on the number of reported cases of students with sensory impairment, physical impairments, autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disabilities, the Ministry of Education estimated that 2.1% of the total student population of approximately 460,000 has a disability.
Based on a random sampling of 2,000 Singapore residents and permanent residents aged 18 and above done by the National Council of Social Service in 2015, the self-reported disability prevalence rate was 3.4% for those between 18 to 49 years old, and a disability prevalence rate of 13.3% for those aged 50 years and above. This includes those who acquired disabilities due to accidents, illness and older age.
Persons with sensory (hearing or visual impairments) and physical disabilities would constitute half of the disability group. The remainder comprises those with intellectual disabilities and autistic spectrum disorder.
Types of Disabilities
People with disabilities could be born with the condition or acquired it through illnesses or accidents. We categorise them into 3 general types - developmental, sensory and physical.
A diverse group of chronic conditions that are due to mental or physical impairments, or a combination of both.
Originated at birth or during childhood.
May impact day-to-day functioning, and usually lasts throughout a person's lifetime.
Examples include autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities.
Refers to a disability of the senses, such as visual or hearing.
Visual impairment is any diagnosed condition of the eye or visual system that cannot be corrected to within normal limits.
Visual impairments may result from disease, damage or injury to any part of the visual system.
Hearing loss can be due to damage to the outer or middle ear (conductive) or due to damage to the inner ear (sensorineural), or a combination of both.
Hearing loss may range from mild impairments to profound (deaf).
A limitation on a person's physical functioning, mobility, dexterity or stamina.
It can involve difficulties with walking and mobility, sitting and standing, use of limbs, breathing, bladder control, muscle control, sleeping, fits and seizures or chronic tiredness.
A person in a wheelchair or uses a white cane has a disability that is visibly apparent to others. However, there are many other disabilities that are not obvious.
For instance, some people with sensory disabilities such as visual or hearing impairments may not wear special spectacles or hearing aids, or they may have discreet hearing aids on.
Some persons with certain mental health conditions may experience disabling conditions. Others with developmental disabilities also struggle with their ‘hidden’ disabilities every day.
With a greying population, we also see growing numbers of seniors living with a disability due to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and chronic medical conditions that are disabling.
We share here the stories of people with invisible disabilities.
Interacting with People with Disabilities
Ask before helping as some persons with disabilities require help whilst some more than able to do things themselves. Whatever the case, do ask before helping and do not feel offended or embaressed if your help is declined.
Speak directly to him/her and not the companion or caregiver. The same applies to if a person with hearing impairments is accompanied by a sign language intepreter.
Be sensitive about touching his/her devices or equipment. Wheelchairs, white canes and even guide dogs are considered personal space and should not be touched without first asking for permission.
With a person with autism, a developmental disability
Be patient and give the person time to process and respond.
Be direct in a request.
A person with autism find difficulty in listening to more than one person speaking at a time so take turns.
With a person with intellectual disabilities, a developmental disability
Speak directly to the person and maintain eye contact.
Speak simply and avoid complex words.
Ask for his/her opinion and allow him/her to make decisions.
Do not be offended by a lack of response or unconventional behaviour.
With a person with hearing impairments, a sensory disability
Speak directly to him/her and not the companion, caregiver or a sign language intepreter.
Speak one at a time when in a group.
Do not shout. Rather, speak clearly and ensure your face can always be seen, including the lips if he/she can read lips.
Get his/her attention via a light touch on the shoulder, a wave or other visual signals.
With a person with visual impairments, a sensory disability
Identify yourself before making any physical contact and ask before giving assistance.
Offer to read written informationand give specific and non-visual information.
When leading from point to point, offer him/her your elbow to hold on to rather than you holding on to him/her.
Inform him/her before leaving.
With a wheelchair user
Ask before giving assistance or handling his/her wheelchair.
Be aware of a person's reach limit.
Conversing at eye level is preferred so do sit down if a chair is available.
Check for accessibility such as ramps and wide corridors.
Barriers Faced by People with Disabilities
A barrier is anything that gets in the way of persons with disabilities participating in daily activities, or having equal access to opportunities that are available to the public.
Physical Barriers - Found in buildings and spaces, and stops people with disabilities from accessing a service or place.
Attitudinal Barriers - When people have incorrect understanding and mindsets about disability, such as stereotypes, lack of awareness, pity and fear.
Information and Communication Barriers - Stops people with disabilities from getting information, such as audio announcements without visual cues and print/digital materials not available in Braille.
Systematic Barriers - Policies and practices that discriminate against persons with disabilities.
The second Enabling Masterplan, from 2012 to 2016, sought to build the foundation laid by earlier initiatives for Singapore to strive towards an inclusive society.
The third Enabling Masterplan builds on the progress of the previous two masterplans and will guide initiatives from 2017 to 2021. The 3rd Enabling Masterplan Steering Committee envisions Singapore to be a caring and inclusive society where persons with disabilities are empowered to achieve their fullest potential and participate fully as integral and contributing members of society.
What You Can Do
We all can thrive and fulfill our potential with an inclusive environment that shows support and understanding. Show understanding of people with disabilities and help them become a part of our society by simple actions such as
- using person-first language (ie. persons with disabilities instead of disabled person),
- taking time to know those in your community who has a disability,
- showing patience and giving way to wheelchair users in lifts, trains and buses,
- paying attention to the font size in your document to a person with visual impairments,
- planning outings with accessibility in mind,
- not staring, or
- not judging a caregiver making effort in calming his/her child with special needs such as ADHD.
Run to Show Your Support
Held in conjunction with IDPD, the inaugural SPD Breaking Barriers Virtual Run to allow you to show your support as you run for the cause. It is also an opportunity for everyone to step out of the comfort zone, break out of mental barriers and take up the challenge to complete 10km. Find out more about how a virtual run concept works and how you can sign up at www.virtualrun.spd.org.sg today. Alternatively, you can also make an online donation towards the run here.
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