Singapore, 7 February 2014 – The Singapore Management University (SMU) and Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate in developing and promoting best practices for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) in Singapore.
Held during the conference on Building a Culture of Inclusion within IHLs, which was jointly organised by SMU and SPD, the MOU was signed by SMU President Professor Arnoud De Meyer and SPD President Ms Chia Yong Yong. Witnessing the signing was Guest-of-Honour Ms Sim Ann, Minister of State for Education and Communications and Information.
Under the terms of the MOU, SPD shall endeavour to support SMU with relevant services and customise the delivery of these services to best cater the needs of prospective and current students, staff and faculty with disabilities. SMU shall endeavour to integrate these relevant services from SPD, as well as other disability service providers into its overall service provision to students. SMU shall also endeavour to be the industry leader in the IHL sector to develop, implement and promote best practices for the inclusion of persons with disabilities within its work and learning environment.
In addition, both parties shall endeavour to conduct separate or joint research and other collaborative activities, such as discussions and dialogues, to establish international best practices for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in IHLs. Please refer to Annex A for a list of these services.
Minister of State Sim Ann noted, “Our education system is committed to creating opportunities to realise the potential of each child, and to help him meet the challenges of life beyond school. To this end, we have always advocated an inclusive approach that recognises the strengths and interests of each student, and at the same time, is also sensitive to the needs of each student and their families.
“I am happy to see more and more discussions on inclusion within institutes of higher learning taking place. I would like to congratulate SMU and SPD for putting this conference together, and for the initiatives that they will undertake together with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding. Such collaborations will benefit not just SMU students, but also help make our society more aware, more compassionate and a better place for all.”
Said SMU President Professor Arnoud De Meyer, “We believe that no deserving student, staff or faculty should be denied access or opportunities at SMU on the basis of their physical, social, economic, cultural attributes or backgrounds. As a forward-thinking academic institution, we are aware that to achieve success in this ever-changing world of ours would require openness, adaptability and a range of cultural competencies. Hence, I am happy to say that SMU is the first educational institution in Singapore to initiate a Diversity and Inclusion function more than a year ago.
“This MOU with SPD is a statement of intent, for both organisations to work on integrating services that will benefit our students, staff and faculty. It signifies a first step towards – what we believe – will be a long and meaningful journey. I am confident that the partnership between SPD and SMU will yield fruitful results and positive long-term impact.”
SPD President Ms Chia Yong Yong said, “We look forward to developing and promoting best practices with SMU for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in institutes of higher learning in Singapore. We hope other institutes of higher learning will follow SMU’s lead and develop and promote a culture of inclusion of people with disabilities within its work and learning environments. It is only with our commitment that true inclusion can actualise.”
The conference, the first to be organised by an IHL in Singapore, was held in recognition of the challenges many IHLs in Singapore face with how best to support students with disabilities while engaging the wider community of students, staff and faculty to build or sustain a climate of inclusion. The conference sought to provide thought leadership on theories, research and issues on inclusion within IHLs in Singapore, and to foster new ways of thinking about disability in education, as well as to spearhead dialogue between policymakers, practitioners and the other relevant entities within Singapore’s education institutions.
The conference drew a stellar line-up of scholars and thought leaders who shared their valuable insights on various aspects of diversity and inclusion in IHLs. They include Dr Earl Avery, Special Assistant to the President & Ombudsman at Bentley University; Mr Chong Kwek Bin from the Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped; Ms Mary Quirke from the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability; Mr Royson Poh from SPD; Ms Wong Ailing from Singapore Association for the Deaf, as well as SMU students Mr Marcus Leong and Ms Alicia Teng.
The topics presented and discussed at the conference today ranged from admissions and curriculum design, to classroom management and graduate employment. Pertinent issues and best practices from around the world were also shared at the conference.
AREAS OF COLLABORATION
Through the MOU, SMU and SPD will endeavour to conduct research, and to hold discussions and forums to establish best practices for the inclusion of students, staff and faculty members with disabilities at Institutes of Higher Learning. This may include:
Information & Communications
- Content Accessibility: Ensuring equal information access to content assets across all users, regardless of their abilities or disabilities
- Prospectus: Ensuring that relevant information on disability services are available
- Criteria: A review of the university’s criteria in determining eligibility for disability services
- Testing: Explore and implement standardised testing services to validate disability support
- Disclosure: Form a criterion on when a disability should be disclosed and when disability services are required
- Learning: Identify support services that can be provided within classrooms, e.g. seminars, class participation, project work
- Assessment: Review test and examination processes so that students with disabilities are assessed fairly
- Infrastructural accessibility: Identify physical barriers to accessibility within the campus and recommend improvements / enhancements
- Electronic accessibility: Ensure persons with disabilities have equal access to enabling technologies and technology support
- Access to out-of-classroom services: Review processes and practices around support services such as the facilitation of internships, global student programmes, community service, student leadership, co-curricular activities and graduate employment, so as to ensure equal opportunity and access