Monday, May 08, 2006



  • "a part not apart" campaign research
  • origins of handicapped associations, volunteer ratios and statistics
  • % of handicapps in singapore
  • details on learning centers/schools for the handicapped (path-light, chao yang)


  • how handicapps were treated in the past
  • find out from grandma (if possible a transcript, brief one la)
  • find out from more old people if possible (parents maybe?)

fang kang

  • overseas studies of how governments treat and aid handicapps
  • how else we can modify our ideas or implementations to aid the handicapped


  • dates for events
  • timeline for reasearch and blahblah

under feasibility

  • how its feasible because its happening in rjc
  • volunteer fest!
  • sports carnival
  • teach me (email and propose CIP program)

Monday, May 01, 2006

North-East line will be disabled-ready
The disabled can wheel themselves into trains at N-E stations; MRT is also studying how to retrofit other stations
THE disabled can wheel themselves into the MRT trains along the North-East line when the system is ready in four years' time, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has said.
It also called for tenders, on Sept 18, to study how much it would cost and how to retrofit the existing 48 stations with ramps and lifts. Its own estimate: $50 million.
The LTA's chief executive, Maj-Gen (NS) Han Eng Juan, said in an interview with The Sunday Times: "By the year 2002, a person in a wheelchair can get into the station, onto the platform, into the train, get out of the train, platform and station using the North-East line."
While the LTA has announced that the stations along the N-E line will have features such as lifts, it has never committed itself to allowing the wheelchair-bound on board the trains.
Instead, its letters to The Straits Times, responding to calls to make public transport, especially the train system, more accessible, have focused on the dangers that the wheelchair-bound might pose to themselves and other commuters on the train, and the cost of retrofitting the transport system.
Commenting on the LTA's move, National Council of Social Service's chief executive officer, Mr Benedict Cheong, said: "We welcome this move to allow the wheelchair-bound to get on the Northeast line.
"We hope the same move can be extended to all other parts of the MRT and that retrofitting will be possible.
"As we look into the needs of the disabled, we are also simultaneously looking into the needs of the growing number of the elderly among us and, in the long run, this is cost-effective for everyone."
In the interview, Mr Han said that providing public transport facilities for the disabled was not a black and white issue -- to make it accessible or not accessible.
"It is a question of how far to go -- it can be limitless and we can make it so elaborate but unaffordable.
"The Government has a responsibility to provide the baseline and if, beyond that, more is needed, the people must be prepared to pay."
He said the Government's philosophy was to help the disabled to the maximum extent in the use of public transport, within its responsibility of meeting the needs of the general commuting public.
And this would also mean looking after the needs of a bigger group -- the growing group of the elderly.
Four million people make trips daily on the public transport system: one million on the train and three million on the buses. The number of registered wheelchair-bound people: 5,300.
Moving the masses quickly would also have to be weighed against factors such as the waiting time incurred while the wheelchair-bound got on and off the train.
And there was also the question of whether other commuters would help the wheelchair-bound in an emergency.
But, he said, the LTA was committed to studying whether it was feasible and cost-effective to retrofit existing stations and buses, or whether alternatives, such as a door-to-door dedicated service using taxis or vehicles run by a voluntary welfare organisation, should be implemented.
"At the end of the day, if more facilities are required, then more people must be ready to pay more for them.
"The next question will, therefore, be who is to bear the cost? Should all taxpayers bear the cost? Should other public transport commuters bear the cost with higher fares? Should the individual wheelchair-bound person bear the cost? Or a combination of these? These are questions that we as a society will have to answer."
The LTA is inviting views from the public. Its hotline 1800-3757300 will be open from tomorrow till Dec 4 during office hours.

THE ALTERNATIVE: Door-to-door dedicated service
A TRANSPORT system that takes the wheelchair-bound from door to door might be the best way to take care of the needs of the disabled. It will be cheaper than, say, the $40 million that would be required to retrofit the entire bus fleet or the $50 million to add lifts to existing MRT stations.
Also, as the public transport system requires commuters to make their own way to their destination most of the time, such as from bus stop to building, it solves the problem of the wheelchair-bound facing hurdles along the route.
The Land Transport Authority's chief executive, Maj-Gen (NS) Han Eng Juan, suggested that such a dedicated transport system could be run by a voluntary welfare organisation managing a central pool of handicapped-friendly vehicles.
It might cost up to $5 million a year to operate an estimated 50 vehicles from within two Housing board estates. This was the finding by the Ministry of Community Development (MCD)-led Working Group on Transport for the Disabled.
To use the system, a wheelchair-bound person can make a booking and the VWO will send a vehicle over to ferry him to his destination. Asked who will bear the cost of this system, Mr Han said the VWO would receive government support. The public would also have to contribute.
"We as a society must be prepared to reach into our pockets to help our less fortunate countrymen. We cannot run away from the fact that a higher cost will have to be incurred to cater to the disabled. The question is, therefore, what is the most cost-effective solution overall?"
If a centralised system is not used, then improvements can be made to the present dial-a-ride scheme that one VWO -- the Handicaps Welfare Association (HWA) -- already runs for its 1,600 members. This service can also be extended to include taxis.
HWA now operates 10 vehicles. It raises its own money to buy the vehicles or looks for sponsors. Each 20-seater vehicle can cost around $80,000. Its maintenance bill per year for the 10 vehicles is around $12,000. Members who cannot afford to pay the transport fare can ask the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) for transport subsidies.
The Working Group on Transport for the Disabled, comprising officials from the LTA, MCD and NCSS, is now studying how such dedicated services can be made more accessible and affordable.
How to set wheels rolling for disabled
Yesterday was the International Day of the Disabled. BRAEMA MATHI examines an issue that has pitted readers against the authorities for some time -- public transport for the disabled.
MOUNTAINEER David Lim is not a man to mince his words. And he didn't when he wrote to The Straits Times Forum page to complain about "band-aid" measures to help the disabled move around.
Mr Lim, 33, who is recovering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, asked why the authorities did not think of including features for the wheelchair-bound while it was planning the MRT system.
The reply from the Land Transport Authority's chief executive, Maj-Gen (NS) Han Eng Juan: "Are we to believe that we were singularly stupid in our planning when in the whole world, no one system had provided adequately well for the wheelchair-bound?"
No mistake was made, he said, when The Sunday Times referred Mr Lim's letter, published on Nov 25, to him.
There were bigger issues to resolve at that time, like whether having an MRT system was even viable in the first place.
But that phase was over and "we are now taking necessary action".
Mr Lim's was the 23rd letter appearing in The Straits Times on the transport needs for the disabled -- in particular, the wheelchair-bound -- since the beginning of the year.
There were 11 letters from readers, both disabled and able-bodied, three replies from the LTA, five from associations representing the disabled, one from the Ministry of Education and three from the Singapore Bus Service.
The thrust of the LTA's reply was that the issue was not about making public transport fully accessible to every single person, but finding an efficient and economical approach that would best meet the transport needs of the disabled, ambulant and non-ambulant, and the able-bodied masses.
Readers were not impressed.
A Mr Tham Ah Hock even went so far as to call for legislation.
"The disabled in Singapore must be integrated into mainstream society," he wrote.
"Perhaps the rights of the disabled should be legislated one day to ensure that we, the disabled, also have the 'freedom' to go where we want to go."
The rash of letters also threw into greater relief another concern -- while there are only 5,300 registered wheelchair-bound people now, the number is expected to go up as the population ages.
Should not steps be taken now to prepare for this eventuality?
While no able-bodied person will deny that help should be extended to the wheelchair-bound, the question is how should they be helped, and who should pay.
Also, how can the public transport system serve their needs and still be as efficient and cheap for the able-bodied.
Therein lies the LTA's dilemma, as Mr Han put it: "On one hand, we will have the contactless card system by 2002 to make fare transactions even faster, and on the other hand we can dilute this efficiency with a general system by including the wheelchair-bound to travel on the trains.
"It is our responsibility to maintain the transport network and keep up its capabilities.
"But we also have a commitment to both groups of people that we do not compromise the service for either group."
He produced the figures to show just how much it would cost to retrofit, say, the entire bus fleet.
Adding hydraulic lifts and other boarding and alighting mechanisms for a wheelchair to the 3,800 buses on the road would cost about $40 million.
It would cost another $7 million a year to maintain these buses.
Then there was the cost in terms of the time the wheelchair-bound would take to board and alight.
Other people would have to wait longer for the bus as "bunching" of buses would occur.
Translate this delay into dollars and cents: about $38 million a year.
"This is a conservative estimate taking into account only the delays in passengers sharing the same bus with a wheelchair-bound person," said Mr Han. "The actual figure will be much higher if the impact on passengers of other buses and non-work trips of the wheelchair-bound is taken into account.
"More buses and drivers will also be needed to make up for the delays."
With such high cost-estimates, "the crucial question, therefore, is should the large number of commuters be made to pay a considerable price, in the form of time delays and possible fare increases, to cater to a minority whose needs can be better met with a more cost-effective alternative system -- a dedicated service?"
A dedicated service: The idea of a dedicated service is not a new one. Some voluntary welfare organisations (VWO) are already providing such a service on a small scale.
In 1995, the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) approached private and public bus companies, taxi companies, the Automobile Association of Singapore and St John's Council to set up a special transport service for people with severe disabilities. But, according to NCSS' chief executive officer, Mr Benedict Cheong, it was "not successful as the operators found it not to be economically viable".
The disabled do get monetary relief: subsidies for bus and taxi fares to take them to special schools and rehabilitation and training centres.
For 1997-98, NCSS handed out $135,900 in taxi subsidies to 64 disabled people to use taxis, and $823,600 to 1,331 disabled people to travel on private buses and those run by VWOs.
The VWOs which provide this service are exempted from paying the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) and the Additional Registration Fee (ARF) when they buy their vehicles. To date, 135 COE and ARF exemptions have been given to VWOs.
Individuals who are disabled and need a car can also apply for ARF and COE waivers. Since 1990, 134 have been given exemptions out of the 245 applications.
But the NCSS and VWOs say much time and resources are spent raising funds for new vehicles.
Said Mr Ron-Chandran Dudley, president of the Disabled People's Association: "It is the wrong concept for VWOs to be saddled with raising money for the disabled's transport needs when they are also currently competing against other organisations for funds from the Singaporean.
"It has to be a concerted effort by the Government and the public to address this issue of creating an integrated system for everybody to use at a low cost in the long run."
To the disabled and the VWOs, the issue is integration: a public transport system that can cater to both the able and disabled.

How it's done in other countries
Tokyo, New York and London subways have disabled-friendly features, but LTA says accessibility is still limited
LETTER-WRITERS and voluntary welfare organisation (VWO) officials have cited examples of how other countries manage the transportation needs in other countries.
In busy Tokyo, the Metropolitan subway No 12 that is still being constructed has lifts at eight of its completed stations. The cost for that is 200 million yen (S$2.66 million). When it is completed, all its 12 stations will allow independent travelling for the wheelchair-bound. In New York, 19 stations are wheelchair-accessible, and another 100 will be retrofitted by the year 2020.
In London, the Jubilee line is open to the wheelchair-bound.
But Land Transport Authority chief executive Maj-Gen (NS) Han Eng Juan said that while these cities have embarked on programmes to upgrade their systems, "accessibility is still limited".
"For example, although the Jubilee Line extension in London has made provision for full access to trains, the existing rail system in most instances does not have the lift facilities to accommodate wheelchairs.
"In some cases, the gaps between train and curved platforms would prevent access in any event."
"We should recognise that a comprehensive wheelchair-accessible public transport system is not a quick and easy possibility."
He also pointed out that New York City authorities have also recognised the need for another service to supplement its wheelchair-accessible train and subway systems.
In Singapore, the Working Committee on Transport for the Disabled is looking at ways to improve the dedicated services that are now available.
But even if it was cheaper to have such services rather than retrofitting the entire public transport system, there was still the question of who should bear the cost.
Maj-Gen Han said: "Should all taxpayers bear the cost? Should other commuters bear the cost with higher fares? Should the individual disabled person bear the cost? Or a combination of these?"
He also made the point that public transport for the disabled is not the only concern. The bigger question is: How should the disabled be integrated into society as a whole.
Said Maj-Gen Han: "In my own assessment, the Singaporean has come a long way and we see the Forum Page writers being emotionally engaged in the issue.
"As a society, we are maturing; now it is up to us to make a bold step and go for it.
''But transport is not the only issue -- there is the larger issue of integrating the disabled person into society."

What's available now
PUBLIC transport has become more disabled- and elderly-friendly over the years.
On the MRT, the blind are helped by voice announcements alerting them to the coming stations.
There are also priority seats on buses and MRT for the elderly and the disabled.
The deaf are alerted by "Bus Stopping" signs while the elderly and frail can hold on to non-slip grab poles to maintain their balance on the buses.
The Singapore Bus Service (SBS) and Trans-Island Bus (Tibs) have also ordered more low-step buses, to help the frail and the disabled board and alight with ease.
SBS now has one zero-step bus on trial now. Passengers just walk into the bus from the pavement as there are no steps at the entrance of the bus. It will buy 20 such buses next year. These buses cost 45 per cent more than a normal air-conditioned single deck bus.
Tibs has 518 buses of which many have low floorboards, low first steps and no steps for passengers as they move from the entrance into the aisle of the bus.
Taxi companies are also doing their part.
Tibs said its London cabs have wheelchair ramps and safety belts and 10 per cent of these drivers, on a voluntary basis, offer free transport to the disabled.
CitiCab said it was currently trying out $900-ramps for its 27 Maxicabs to help the wheelchair bound person. NTUC Comfort has a Care Cab Club of nine drivers who volunteer to pick up disabled passengers.

Effects of the Economic Crisis on the Placement of
People with Disabilities in Singapore

Justin Tan-hong Tuen
General Manager, Bizlink Centre Singapore Ltd

Abstract This paper looks at the impact of the economic crisis on the employment prospects of people with disabilities in Singapore. Background information on Singapore pertaining to the employment of people with disabilities (PWDs) is provided to give a proper perspective on the issues to be discussed. Background information on Bizlink Centre Singapore Ltd is also given, since Bizlink Centre is the only centralised job placement agency in Singapore. Retrenchment figures are given and the effects of the crisis on sub-contract jobs made available to sheltered workshops is also discussed. Various initiatives taken by Bizlink Centre Singapore Ltd and other agencies in Singapore are then discussed. The paper concludes that the economic crisis, although unwelcome, has nonetheless provided an impetus for the Singapore government and non-profit organisations to take urgent and new initiatives to that may have lasting impact on the whole issue of employment of PWDs in Singapore.


The economic crisis which hit Singapore and which is still affecting us has had some significant impact on the placement of people with disabilities in Singapore. This short paper will try to describe some aspects of this impact, and some steps that were taken to try and minimise the impact.

Background Information

In order to have a proper perspective of the effects of the economic crisis on placement of PWDs, some background information on disability issues in Singapore would be useful.

1. Legislation

Unlike in many other countries, Singapore does not have legislation pertaining to the employment of PWDs. Being a multi-cultural society with a Chinese majority and three other minority races, Singapore does not even have equal opportunity/anti-discrimination legislation. Nor does it have any minimum wage restrictions. Employers are free to advertise and recruit whomever they want, with the liberty of stating desired sex, age and even race. The implications of this on the employment of PWDs are obvious. Any employer can openly discriminate against employing PWDs without fear of legal action being taken against them. Nor is there any legal recourse if an employer chooses to discriminate against them with regards to remuneration. Placement of PWDs is therefore very dependent on persuasion education and encouragement of employers to accept PWDs as potential employees. Successful placement of PWDs in Singapore is also very dependent on the skill level of such PWDs.

2. Lack of Statistics

In Singapore, the government has not taken a census of the number of PWDs in our population. Therefore, no one actually knows how many PWDs there are in Singapore. The only recourse we have to obtaining the number of PWDs in Singapore is to extrapolate from statistical information of other countries. We normally extrapolate from countries like Hong Kong, and based on this, we estimate that three to four percent of our population are disabled. This works out to 120,000 to 160,000 PWDs in Singapore. In 1985, a survey was conducted by Singapore's Ministry of Community Development on a sample population of PWDs, and discovered that 55 percent of the sample size was unemployed. There are no other known surveys of the employment situation of PWDs in Singapore. Most data on placement of PWDs is obtained from Bizlink Centre Singapore Ltd, which is Singapore's centralised job placement centre for PWDs (see below for more on Bizlink Centre Singapore Ltd). However, Bizlink Centre is only able to provide statistics on PWDs who have accessed the services provided by Bizlink. It is speculated that a large number of PWDs do not avail themselves of Bizlink Centre's services, and seek employment through their own avenues.

3. IT Age and High Cost of Living

Being a small country with no natural resources, Singapore sees it as a necessity to continually upgrade its industries and people. In order to ensure its economic survival, companies in Singapore are urged to move into high value-added industries and to make use of information technology to keep one step ahead of its competitors. Great importance is therefore placed on multi-tasking and skills retraining and upgrading of Singapore workers. This has serious implications for PWDs especially those who are not well educated and are low functioning, such as the intellectually disabled and visually impaired. Singapore's wage cost is also relatively high, and this results in low-value added industries/jobs being relocated to other countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, China etc where wage costs are much lower. The result of this is that many jobs that are suitable for low-functioning PWDs who have difficulty in acquiring basic skills, have dried up. So a large sector of PWDs are left with little or no employment options, save for employment in sheltered workshops where pay is extremely minimal or even non-existent.

4. Lack of Welfare Benefits

The Singapore government is wary of going the way of some western nations where the state becomes solely responsible for health and welfare subsidies, which would place an immense strain on government finances and result in high income taxes etc. There is therefore neither unemployment nor disability benefits. Neither are there any substantial incentives for employers who employ PWDs. There is only one single incentive scheme for the employment of PWDs, which is a tax relief for modification of premises to accommodate PWDs employed by a company. But the incentive is not attractive, and although the tax incentive has been on the statute books for a number of years, as far as is known, to date, not a single company has applied for this tax incentive.

Singapore's system is to emphasise that welfare is a joint responsibility to be shared by private citizens and the government. Funding for welfare programmes is therefore on a fifty percent basis, with NGOs and welfare organisations having to source for the other fifty percent through their own efforts. To facilitate the raising of funds from the private sector, a statutory body called the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), has been set up to raise funds for voluntary welfare organisations who join the NCSS as funded members.

5. High Cost of Transport

Singapore has an excellent transport infrastructure, with many unique schemes found no where else in the world, such as its Electronic Road Pricing system and Restricted Zones. However, the excellence of Singapore's transport infrastructure is applicable only to its majority (currently) non-disabled and ambulant disabled citizens. To the non-ambulant disabled, Singapore's transport infrastructure is a nightmare, with neither its underground Mass Rapid Transit system nor its public bus services being accessible to the wheel-chair bound. Taxi services in Singapore are very expensive, and private cars are even more expensive, with many models being 8 to 10 times more expensive than similar models in Europe and the US. This has considerable impact on PWDs who are non-ambulant, who often do not bother to find employment because the bulk of their salaries will go towards paying for their transport to and from work.

Bizlink Centre Singapore Ltd

Bizlink Centre Singapore Ltd was originally set up by Singapore's Ministry of Community Development and then Singapore Council of Social Service as a centralised job placement project for PWDs. The project was then known as the Employment Programme for the Disabled, and its objective was to seek employment opportunities for all categories of PWDs, including the intellectually disabled. In 1995, it was registered as an independent voluntary welfare organisation (VWO) and continues its mission to seek both open and sheltered employment opportunities for PWDs.

Bizlink runs a number of programmes for PWDs. The main ones are as follows:

1. Employment Placement Programme

This programme offers job placement services to persons with disability who are suitable for open employment. It also organises follow-up services such as counselling and company visits to ensure that clients placed by the division have properly adjusted in their workplaces. In 1998, Bizlink placed 212 persons into open employment.

2. Vocational Assessment Programme

This programme assesses the aptitude, skills and interests of PWDs. Interviews and assessments are carried out, including periods of job trial, which can last between two to three weeks. PWDs are placed on job trial at Bizlink's production workshop. Recommendations are then made on the various types of work suitable for them. Those who are found suitable for open employment are channelled to the placement programme. Others are channelled to other services and agencies more suitable for them, such as sheltered workshops, day activity centres etc. Some are channelled to Bizlink's own production workshop. In 1998, this division assessed 468 clients for job placements. Vocational assessments are important in Singapore because of the lack of anti-discrimination legislation and the dependence on persuasion of Singapore employers. Vocational assessment assists in appropriate and efficient placement of PWDs and thus makes it easier for employers to accept PWDs into their workforce.

3. Business Development Programme

This programme operates a Production Workshop, which provides competitive wages to PWDs. PWDs employed by the workshop are those who for some reason or other are unsuitable or not ready for open employment. The workshop also serves as a trial and training area for clients undergoing job trial. It also acts as a showcase to demonstrate the potential of PWDs in open employment.

Retrenchement of PWDs

Since the start of the economic crisis, Singapore has experienced large numbers of retrenchments. PWDs are amongst those who are retrenched. Although we have not come across companies who exclusively retrench PWDS, indications are that PWDs are among the first to be retrenched especially those PWDs who are lower functioning. Since the beginning of the economic crisis, Bizlink Centre has registered 110 retrenched PWDs seeking reemployment through Bizlink's placement programme. Placements have also slowed down (212 in 1998 vs. 260 in 1997).

Slowdown in Production Workshop

A slowdown was also experienced in Bizlink's production workshop. Sub-contract jobs were harder to come by as companies wound down and economic activity slowed. Sub-contract rates also became lower, as companies sought to lower production costs.

Initiatives Taken to Minimise Impact of Economic Crisis on Placement of PWDs

A number of initiatives were taken to minimise the impact of the economic crisis.

1. Focus on Temporary and Contract Labour

There was a shift in focus from permanent placements to temporary placements. With the slowdown in economy, it was felt that a temporary job was better than no job, and PWDs were counselled to accept temporary placements during this period. Bizlink also began to act as a contract labour supplier. Many companies during this period have a zero growth policy with regards to head-count, or a non-replacement policy. But work still needed to be done, and Bizlink offered to supply contract labour to these companies, whereby as far as the company was concerned, its head-count was not affected, but it paid Bizlink a contract sum to supply labour. Bizlink would then supply PWDs to these companies to get the various jobs done, but the workers would technically be under Bizlink's employ.

2. Contract Labour with Management Responsibility

Another initiative, slightly different from the first, was the supply of contract labour with management responsibility. In the first initiative, labour was supplied under contract, but the contracting company managed the labour. In the second initiative, labour was not only supplied under contract, but was also under the management of Bizlink. Such contracts are similar to the existing contract work brought in to be done at our workshop, except that these contracts were done at customers' premises.

3. Integration of Non-Disabled Workers

In order to increase overall productivity and versatility, non-disabled workers were integrated, both at Bizlink's workshop and under the contract labour scheme. In a sense, this move brings "open" employment into a "sheltered" environment. It is the ideal of a commercial workplace integrating PWDs and non-disabled, but beginning from a sheltered environment and moving "outwards", as opposed to beginning from a non-sheltered, commercial environment and moving "inwards" towards integration.

4. Integration of Specialised Workshops

In tandem with initiative number 3, there is also a move in Singapore towards integration of the various specialised workshops currently in existence. The Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped for example, runs a workshop comprising only of visually impaired persons. This necessarily results in limitations as to the scale and scope of works that the workshop could perform. An integrated workshop with other disability groups and even non-disabled persons could greatly increase the scale and scope of such workshops. A centralised marketing programme has been set up under Bizlink Centre to co-ordinate the marketing efforts of 4 participating workshops (including the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped) as a fist step towards greater integration and complementarity of the various specialised workshops in Singapore.

5. Focus on Joint Projects with Commercial Companies

Another initiative is a move towards joint projects with commercial companies, especially in high value-added industries. Bizlink is currently operating a joint project with Singapore Aerospace Manufacturing (SAM). High tech equipment is provided by SAM and located at Bizlink's premises, and Bizlink provides skilled PWDs who have been trained on the job at SAM's premise and who have undergone a specialised certification course with Singapore's Institute of Technical Education. The skilled PWDs manufacture precision machining parts for the aircraft industry using SAM's machines, and Bizlink charges SAM on a per piece rate basis. Quality control is under SAM whilst process management is under Bizlink. The PWDs are under Bizlink's employ.

6. Focus on Ownership Manufacturing

Sub-contract jobs normally are low value-added, so one of the initiatives is to move towards ownership manufacturing. To this end, Bizlink is working with the Singapore Polytechnic's Centre for Applications in Rehabilitative Engineering (SP CARE) to manufacture a low-cost motorised wheel chair. The wheel chair was designed by SP CARE and uses a commonly available manual wheel chair as the base for the new design. Thus it is also possible to retrofit existing manual wheel chairs to turn them into low cost motorised alternatives. Bizlink will manufacture and sell this wheel chair, not on a sub-contract basis but as owner manufacturer, with royalties going to SP CARE for each wheelchair sold. This project will be launched by mid 1999.

In conjunction with this initiative, Bizlink's centralised marketing programme is developing handicraft/gift items for the various participating workshops to manufacture and sell. Design ideas are obtained from collaboration with the various design schools and faculties in the various tertiary institutions in Singapore. Bizlink has also developed a brand name (to be launched in due course) that will identify quality handicraft/gift items that are manufactured, assembled or designed by PWDs.

Involvement of Ministry of Manpower

Perhaps one of the most important developments of this economic crisis is the involvement of Singapore's Ministry of Manpower. In the past, employment of PWDs was seen as a welfare issue, not a manpower/labour issue. But the economic crisis gave the National Council of Social service an opportunity to organise various seminars and workshops aimed at helping VWOs and their clients to better cope with the impact of the crisis. The ministry of manpower was invited to present some of their assistance schemes during these workshops and this has led to the formation of a loose committee/dialogue grouping involving the National Council of Social Service, the ministry of Manpower (MOM), the ministry of Community Development, Bizlink Centre and the Singapore Action Group of Elders. Although this dialogue group is rather informal, it marks the first time that MOM sees employment of PWDs as part of its agenda. It is also the first time that MOM representatives are actively involved in what would previously have been considered a welfare committee. The hope is that this dialogue grouping/committee will evolve to something more formal that could address issues including employment legislation, employment incentives etc. for PWDs.


Although the economic crisis has brought suffering and hardship to countries in South East Asia, including Singapore, and affecting PWDs and non-disabled persons alike, it has also brought with it an impetus to look at old issues with more urgency and renewed vigour. VWOs and the Singapore government have been pushed to action and to take on new initiatives, which may have lasting impact on the whole issue of employment of PWDs in Singapore. There may be a silver lining to this economic cloud after all.

Go back to the Contents

Asia and Pacific Journal on Disability
Vol. 2, No. 1, May 1999

Contributed by Mr. Tsuyoshi Takeda, Asahi Shimbum Newspaper

ISSN 1029-4414

source: (1st May 2006)


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