There has been a revival of interest in assistive technology in recent months as Singapore gears towards becoming a ‘Smart Nation’. Mr Abhimanyau Pal, executive director of SPD, shares in this letter the importance of harnessing technology to help people with special needs. The letter was published in The Straits Times’ Forum on 15 December.
We thank Dr Bala S. Rajaratnam (“Smart nation for eldercare”; 4 December) and Dr William Tan Kian Meng (“Tech can ‘enable’ disabled people”; 4 December) for highlighting the importance of harnessing technology to improve the lives of seniors and persons with disabilities.
The advancement of technology has made a huge impact in enhancing the lives of people with disabilities. The availability of assistive technology (AT) has provided solutions that help them overcome the limitations of their disabilities and participate more meaningfully in activities at home, in school, at work and the community in general. For instance, persons with visual impairment could stay updated on the happenings around the world by using a screen reader software to read out information from the Internet, and individuals with speech impairment could communicate with others using speaking applications installed in tablets.
We advocate the use of AT because we have seen how lives have been enhanced and transformed at our Specialised Assistive Technology Centre. Through the use of these AT devices, persons with disabilities could continue to work, return to school and be socially engaged. In doing so, it could bridge the gap imposed by a disability and help them to build up their confidence, increase their self-reliance and improve their quality of life.
Over the years, the Government has implemented schemes such as the Assistive Technology Fund and the Special Assistance Fund that assist persons with disabilities to acquire AT. It is encouraging to know that Singapore is embarking on the Smart Nation journey, where technology would be used to drive inclusion so that Singaporeans of all ages and abilities can lead more meaningful and fulfilling lives. Funding support from schemes like the newly launched Enabling Lives Initiative would also encourage more innovative projects and evidence-based solutions to be developed for the community including persons with disabilities and their caregivers.
While we look forward to greater technological advancements that could further break down barriers and encourage inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of community living, we also urge the Government to continue to consider the needs of people with disabilities when developing masterplans and policies, so that they do not get left behind in national planning.