Microsoft YouthSpark scholars with Ms Jessica Tan (right), Managing Director of Microsoft Singapore, and Ms Chia Yong Yong (centre), President of SPD
At Towards An Inclusive Workforce 2013 held at NTUC Business Centre on 6 September, we honoured four extraordinary youths with learning, physical and sensory disabilities who defied the odds to excel academically. We also paid tribute to organisations in Singapore who champion and provide equal employment opportunities to people with disabilities.
Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship
At the half-day event, four polytechnic students – Mr Tan Jian Hao, Ms Foong King Yi, Mr Eilson Tang and Mr Ang Chin Hao – who are pursing IT-related studies received the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship from Microsoft Singapore’s Managing Director Ms Jessica Tan.
Jian Hao is a first-year Nanyang Polytechnic student pursuing a diploma in Engineering Informatics. The 19-year-old lost his hearing due to a high fever when he was four years old. He had to work harder to keep up in class, relying very frequently on lip reading and hand gestures as well as handwritten notes to communicate with his classmates and teachers or when he needed clarifications.
A third-year student from Republic Polytechnic, 20-year-old King Yi is the scholarship’s first recipient who has dyslexia. The Business Application student would re-write her notes and draw maps and diagrams so that she could understand her schoolwork better through visualisation. King Yi believes in working harder to overcome her disability so that she can keep up with her peers.
Chin Hao is unable to see clearly due to a rare congenital eye condition. Driven by a desire to make his parents proud, the 19-year-old persevered despite the learning difficulties and is now a second-year engineering informatics student at Nanyang Polytechnic.
The youngest scholar in this year’s cohort, 17-year-old Eilson, was born with bilateral deformity in his right hand. The mathematics whiz was involved in several community projects including mentoring his juniors in mathematics.
Albeit their arduous education journey, the youngsters faced every obstacle courageously and with the right spirits. The tenacity that they showed, backed by glowing academic reports, made them deserving recipients of the scholarship which is in its fifth year.
“It is an honour to receive the Microsoft YouthSpark Scholarship and it has given me greater confidence to go for my dreams. My parents, good friends and teachers have inspired me to live life to the fullest and I hope I can inspire others to do the same,” said an elated King Yi.
Towards An Inclusive Workforce 2013
Towards An Inclusive Workforce 2013 was organised alongside the scholarship award ceremony. Jointly presented by Infocomm Accessibility Centre and SG Enable, the event brought together professionals in the social service sector and employers to dialogue over inclusive workplace practices and support that can be extended to both employers and employees with disabilities to help them perform their tasks more effectively. Close to 100 participants attended the event.
The panel of speakers included Mr Tan Chuan Hoh, Senior Assistive Technology (AT) Specialist from the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD), Mr Jaieden Shen, Head of ‘Hi-Job!’ from the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS), Ms Wong Yeok Lin, Technical Manager of ‘E2C’ from the Autism Resource Centre and Mr Franklin Tan, Senior Manager of Admissions from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
Organisations such as Laksania, Uniqlo, NTUC FairPrice and Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium were lauded for hiring people with disabilities.
Well-known American advocate for persons with disabilities and Chief Executive Officer and founder of Ruh Global LLC, Ms Debra Ruh, also delivered the keynote address. Debra has travelled around the globe to speak about the accessibility of information technology and communications for persons with disabilities.