Hundreds pledge to enable the disabled

SINGAPORE - Teaching physically disabled adults to swim 20 years ago inspired Mr Danny Ong to set up his own swimming school for those with special needs.

Opened in 2005, AquaFins currently has about 50 students andMr Ong, 37, is now aiming to hold two workshops this year to raise public awareness about disability swimming.

He is one of hundreds to have pledged to do something to enhance the lives of the disabled in Singapore as part of a year-long campaign by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS).

Called "We are Able! Enhancing Possibilities, Celebrating Abilities", it aims to gather support in creating an inclusive society for people with physical or intellectual disabilities.

Mr Ong said: "There is a quote that goes, even if you are disabled, it doesn't mean you are unabled. Sports are a form of rehabilitation for people with disabilities to get them to be more active and they help a lot."

The public can make "pledges of action" online or fill up a pledge card at five voluntary welfare organisations, including the Society for the Physically Disabled and the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore.

The council has already received more than 400 pledges since the site went live in March.

The campaign also aims to educate the public on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which Singapore signed on Nov 30 last year.

The UNCRPD covers key themes like accessibility, inclusiveness and access to opportunities for disabled people to maximise their potential.

Ms Tina Hung, deputy chief executive officer of the NCSS, said: "Raising awareness and addressing misconceptions are important steps towards creating accessible environments for persons with disabilities."

Another pledge has come from the Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre. Currently, 13 per cent of its employees have disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy and mild intellectual disability.

Its general manager Jagdeep Thakral said: "They value employment, take pride and are passionate in what they do."

Voluntary welfare organisations are backing the campaign but say there is more to be done for the disabled community.

Mr Abhimanyau Pal, executive director of the Society for the Physically Disabled, said more support can be given in the workplace. "Having a job helps people with disabilities to be financially independent and it's an important stage of their rehabilitation into mainstream society."

Visit www.WeAreAble.sg for more information.

limyihan@sph.com.sg


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