Social acceptance is crucial in integrating persons with disabilities into the society. Raising awareness through public education aimed at different strata of society has to be an on-going process. Doing so at educational institutions lays the foundation for greater acceptance of people with disabilities among the next generation.
Through regular disability awareness talks that we conduct in schools, we hope to shape young minds and their views on diversity. The most recent one took us to the School of the Arts Singapore (SOTA) on 27 October where Poh Sho Siam, SPD’s senior analyst from the Advocacy and Public Education team, drew 24 students into the subject of disability where they learnt the role that they could play in helping persons with disabilities overcome some of their challenges and etiquette to guide their interactions.
The feedback from the session was positive, both from the students and Sho Siam. She was heartened to know that the students were very much aware of the disabled community and responded positively towards questions on people with disabilities.
“Although most of the students were only 14 to 15 years old, they understood that disabilities are not always apparent and didn’t have the common misunderstanding that only a wheelchair-user is a person with disabilities. Many of them genuinely believed that not all people with disabilities are helpless and that they have their own unique strengths and abilities which would allow them to contribute to society,” she said.
Some of the students’ reasons for signing up for the talk also impressed her. “One of the students felt blessed and grateful to be without disabilities and wanted to give back by extending a helping hand to those who need to be heard and need to be helped. Another felt that people with disabilities are valued members of society and therefore wanted to learn more about how to contribute in helping them live their lives to the fullest. All these are very encouraging reflections of our future leaders,” she added.
There have been greater discussions on inclusion in the mainstream society in recent years and we look forward to every opportunity to spread the inclusion message.