Towards an Inclusive Workforce Employers Forum: IAC and Microsoft Singapore Announce Continued Commitment to Help Persons with Disabilities Realise Their Potential

Singapore, 27 September 2012 – Microsoft Singapore together with 120 persons with disabilities, employers, disability sector professionals as well as policy makers from the government, convened today to celebrate the achievements of persons with disabilities at the Towards an Inclusive Workforce Employers Forum. Organised by the Infocomm Accessibility Centre (IAC), Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP), and the Enabling Employers Network (EEN), the event marked another milestone of the multi-organisational partnership to empower persons with disabilities for gainful employment.

As part of the event, nine trainees from the IT Apprenticeship Programme (ITAP) were presented with their graduation certificates. The ITAP is a six-month programme conducted by the IAC to equip persons with disabilities with skills required for administrative jobs.

“We are encouraged that the ITAP has helped to make a significant difference and contribution to the lives of persons with disabilities. Preparing them for gainful employment is one of the first steps towards helping them lead independent and fulfilling lives,” said Ms Chia Woon Yee, Director of Technology and Vocational Training of the Society for the Physically Disabled, the organisation that manages the IAC. “We are delighted to partner TAFEP and EEN as co-organisers of today’s event. The synergy among the three organisations goes a long way in empowering persons with disabilities in our workforce.”

“Today, a group of talented individuals has shown us that their disabilities will not prevent them from being effective contributors in the workplace,” said Mr Andrew Fung, General Manager, TAFEP. “We hope that their achievements will inspire not just other persons with disabilities to strive towards their goals, but also employers to seriously consider the contributions that persons with disabilities can make to their organisations.”

In addition to the ITAP graduates, four students with disabilities also received the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship for People With Disabilities to pursue higher education in the field of Information Communication Technologies. They were selected based on their academic achievements and outstanding community leadership involvement to help people with disabilities. (For more information on the scholarship recipients, please refer to Annex A below).

Sharing his aspirations, Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship for People With Disabilities 2012 recipient and second-year student at Singapore Management University, Mr Lim Zui Young said, “I am very thankful for this opportunity from Microsoft. I am confident that this scholarship will open doors for me and allow me to pursue a career in the field of Information Communication Technologies. I have big dreams to fulfill and one of them includes becoming a role model for the visually challenged.”

Into its fourth year of awarding the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities, Microsoft Singapore has been a stalwart supporter since IAC was established in July 2008. The company committed the first S$1 million in 2009, which was used to develop an IT lab, defray course fees, recruit trainers and fund scholarships and certification grants.

Ms Jessica Tan, General Manager, Enterprise Partner Group, Microsoft Asia Pacific, said, “This year’s scholarship recipients continue to inspire us to invest in today’s young talents. We hope that more employers will look beyond the disability, and come to recognise the potential that is inherent in each individual. We at Microsoft share a similar goal and vision as the Society for the Physically Disabled, we believe in helping to transform the lives of every member in the community through technology. We are heartened by the generosity of our staff and partners in contributing to our shared vision and we look forward to an even closer collaboration with IAC in the coming years to help more persons with disabilities realise their IT potential”.

For the first time, the event also involved nine leaders from the public and private sectors in a meaningful panel discussion on the critical framework and policies needed in creating a fair and inclusive employment workplace environment. The lively discussion also highlighted the need for employers and persons with disabilities to play their respective roles responsibly so that the latter can be integrated into the mainstream workforce.

“It is encouraging that there are more platforms like this to discuss issues on how to create an inclusive workplace for persons with disabilities. With more employers employing persons with disabilities into their workplace, we have to look beyond just employability but also integration and sustainability of these employees. Employers should continue to tap on assistance like the OPEN DOOR Fund to improve their policies and processes when hiring PWDs,” said Mr Shantha de Silva, Chairman of the Enabling Employers Network.

Another highlight of the forum was the insights and business cases shared by Mr Louis Orslene from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) in the United States. JAN is a service provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. As its co-director, Mr Orslene has guided other government agencies, private employers and service providers in the US and across the world on practical solutions to work accommodation.