Registry plan for cerebral palsy sufferers

SINGAPORE - Sufferers of debilitating physical disorder cerebral palsy are the target of a new initiative to identify their needs - and even help find jobs for them.

The Cerebral Palsy Alliance of Singapore (CPAS) has begun working on compiling Singapore's first such central registry. The organisation, which serves about 700 clients with cerebral palsy - up from 650 five years ago - is collating data from hospitals and government agencies.

Without a registry, there are no official numbers on how many here have the disorder, in which damage to the brain causes impaired motor function. It is the most common physical disability in childhood, affecting 17 million people worldwide.

CPAS' registry will facilitate early intervention if necessary, and collate employment information, said its executive director Jessie Holmberg.

"We want to take the lead since no one has started a registry like this in Singapore," said Ms Holmberg, who spoke on the sidelines of her group's marking of World Cerebral Palsy Day in Pasir Ris on Wednesday. "Not many with cerebral palsy can go out to open employment, and employers... have their frustrations... Collecting data can help us go about collaborating to address these issues."

Employment has been a long-time concern among those with cerebral palsy here, Ms Holmberg added. Many face rejection from potential employers due to their medical condition.

Madam Lim Lai Tee, 59, whose cerebral palsy condition has left her with restricted mobility, said: "They won't employ me. They will say they don't want to take the responsibility. They see my disability as an extra burden."

But she declared: I will accept any job as long as I have one. I want to work because I want to be like normal people; I want my independence."

Mr Lin Xiu Xing, a CPAS executive, said a national registry that includes employment data would be helpful to social workers and trainers who would then know "which sectors are popular with special needs so we can tailor our vocational training and education to meet the needs of the market". CPAS aims to have the registry up and running by 2015.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who attended the World Cerebral Palsy Day activities, noted: "The Government, individuals and community groups like CPAS must work closely together to achieve the vision of an inclusive society."

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