More than 300 guests from corporate companies, the government sector, social services and non-profit organisations, academia and the community of people with disabilities convened at the Singapore Management University’s Mochtar Riady Auditorium on 3 February for a dialogue on the role of education in helping to build a better place tomorrow, in connection with the working world.
The conference, jointly organised by SMU and SPD for the second year, provided a platform to facilitate discussion, accelerate knowledge transfer, and aid the development of more extensive collaborations to better integrate people with special needs.
The theme of the conference “Education for Inclusive Workspaces” is especially relevant today as more persons with disabilities are graduating with higher education and seeking employment. Their transition from the school to the workforce is important – the support and accommodation extended to students with disabilities cannot stop at schools.
Two panel discussions, one addressing inclusive education and the other inclusive employment, were held. SPD’s senior social worker Angela Chung was one of the panelists in the “An inclusive education” discussion. Angela has extensive experience working with mainstream educators to help students with disabilities integrate into their school environment.
“The conference is a good platform to discuss topics on diversity and inclusion. I hope it would spearhead and inspire new initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion in education and employment. Championing for inclusion should be the duty of every citizen, not just the disabled community,” said Angela.
Others in the education panel included Dr Wong Meng Ee, Assistant Professor at Early Childhood and Special Needs Education Academic Group, National Institute of Education (NIE), Mr Jeffrey Soh, an SMU alumnus, Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation scholar and Operations Project Manager at Goldman Sachs, and Mr Albert Lee, Senior Lecturer, Dyslexia Association of Singapore Academy.
Ms Anika Grant, ASEAN and Asia Pacific Human Resources, Accenture, Ms Charlotte Park, CEO, and Chairperson of Diversity and Inclusion Council, Mercer Singapore, and Mr Rajan Raju, Head of Retail Clients, Singapore, Standard Chartered Bank, who sustained a spinal cord injury in 2011, were panelists at the inclusive employment discussion.
SPD President Ms Chia Yong Yong, who is a person with disabilities and understands the challenges and issues of pursuing higher education and an active career, voiced the importance of increasing the momentum of the collaborative efforts. She said: “As a nation, more can be done to help students with disabilities adapt and integrate into their new learning environment. There is also the need to help them transit from tertiary education to the working world when they enter the mainstream workforce. This will involve educating employers on inclusive hiring and encouraging more firms to offer internships to students with disabilities, just to name a few.”
“There is a need for greater visibility and dialogue in society for public discourse on disability issues, and educational institutions can lead this space. This afternoon’s conference brings together voices representing stakeholders that will help make learning and work spaces in Singapore truly inclusive,” she added.