Good Morning, Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports
Mr Gerard Ee, President of National Council of Social Service
Professor Wong Lim Soon, Dy Executive Director (Research) of Institute for Infocomm Research
Professor Andrew Downing, Senior Board Member of Novita Tech Australia
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Welcome to the opening of the SPD Specialised Assistive Technology Centre and prize presentation ceremony of the first National Assistive Technology Invention Competition.
On behalf of The Society for the Physically Disabled, competition participants and SPD clients, we would like to thank Mrs Yu-Foo for gracing this function. Your presence, Madam, has reaffirmed the government’s explicit support for the development of assistive technology (AT in short) in Singapore.
The Society for the Physically Disabled started an AT service in late 2001. The start up was based on two general principles:
- Firstly, Technology can alleviate the limitations arising from a person’s physical disability; and
- Secondly, Technology can level the playing field for the disabled in work, social, play and learning.
The SPD Specialised ATC was fortunate to have received support from the National Council of Social Service and the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, and some corporate sponsors during the early years. During this period, we attended to 300 clients and provided close to 1,500 AT training sessions. We observed that the benefit of AT is most evident in 3 groups: children, working adults and the severely disabled.
For children, AT facilitates the learning process and enhances the students’ learning capability be it in the special schools or in mainstream schools. We are happy to inform that the Ministry of Education and the Singapore Examination Assessment Board have agreed to allow the use of AT in mainstream school national examinations for disabled students on a case-by-case basis.
For the working adults, technology will level the playing field in an already fast changing work place. Technology also plays a pivotal role in improving the quality of life for the more severely disabled. It is indeed very heartwarming for our team of specialists to see the joy and happiness of our clients when they succeed in their attempts to communicate and verbalise using technology.
During the last three years, SPD has touched the lives of many of these clients. For the work done in 2003/2004, the SPD Specialised ATC was recently honoured with the National e-Society Excellence Award by IDA and Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation. It was also recognized by MCYS and NCSS as the national Specialised AT Centre for all physically disabled in Singapore.
The e-Society Award and the government’s recognition will certainly spur us to do more and better serve the physically disabled community.
The SPD Specialised AT Centre now comprises four elements, namely: service provision, training/public education, sales coordination, and community research network. The service division comprises a team of professionals from certified AT specialist, occupational therapist, speech therapist to computer and engineering specialist. In addition, we will partner international AT centres to augment and complement our professional service. Today, we will sign a memorandum of understanding with Novita Tech Agency, one of the top professional AT centres in Australia. Through this memorandum, we hope to build up professional capability with this esteemed centre in the areas of AT service, teaching, training and R&D.
The SPD Specialised AT Centre is now partially funded by the government through the VWO Capability Fund (VCF). With limited resources, it is not possible for the centre to undertake all AT assessment. Thus it will work with the government and VWOs to develop an AT curriculum and training where the basic first tier screening and assessment can still be done at the operational (VWO) level. The Centre will focus on the more complex cases and consultancy work.
The government has also streamlined all technology-related funds under the two-tier screening and assessment system. It is in this direction that the SPD Specialised AT Centre is organizing today’s public forum and the series of professional workshops over this weekend. Local and overseas professionals will share their expertise and experience. There will at least be five (5) concurrent sessions throughout the day. The sessions will be comprehensive, from lectures, workshops to hands-on practical sessions. I am sure the participants will take home something useful from the workshops.
The other important division of the Specialised ATC is the community research network. This division intends to function like an “”oasis”” where individuals, researchers, research organizations and commercial organisations can come together to work on projects to produce new, better or modified technology for the physically disabled. To date, we have collaborated with partners on more than 10 projects. In 2004, the SPD Specialised ATC partnered the Institute of Infocomm Research (I睷) on the “”brainy communicator”” project that won the Samsung Digital Hope Award. In 2003, we partnered Xrgomics to obtain a Social Enterprise fund to work on a new keyboard to leverage on its TenGo software. You will be able to view these projects in our exhibits today.
AT Invention Competition
The other important event today is the prize presentation of the first National Assistive Technology Invention Competition. We are glad to have partnered the I睷 in this meaningful competition. Twenty Six (26) entries were received. Ten (10) from student category and nine (9) from open category were short-listed for final judging. The panel of judges comprising local and overseas professionals had a tough time arriving at a decision.
The AT Invention competition serves as a very important feeder platform for the Community Research Network to develop. All participants and their projects will be ushered into the network; and more future partnerships and development can be pursued.
Today’s ceremony will usher in the new Specialised ATC. The Specialised AT Centre with the new mandate will strive even harder to meet its objectives. We look forward to more partnerships and collaborations to make this happen.
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank individuals, volunteers and sponsors who have supported the SPD Specialised ATC all these years. Our heartfelt thanks go to Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation, Samsung Asia Pte Ltd and Winfinity (Singapore) Pte Ltd for their donations towards our various Technology initiatives.
We also congratulate the winners of the AT Invention Competition, and to Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, we thank you for taking time off to grace today’s event.
I wish you all a good programme ahead today and over the weekend.