Ideas sought to help disabled

People at the Purple Parade in November, an event to show support for persons with special needs or disabilities. Focus group discussions conducted by SG Enable found that information about assistive devices was fragmented among VWOs for the disabled.

Wanted: Ideas on how to keep people with disabilities and their caregivers informed about devices and technology that make life easier for them.

A $30 million fund was set up last October with money from the Tote Board to support projects that help people with disabilities, and organisers are now calling for proposals.

SG Enable, an agency that provides services for the disabled, will administer $23 million from the fund for new projects, while the rest of the money is for a public education drive led by the National Council of Social Service.

SG Enable has outlined themes for project ideas it is looking for, starting with awareness of assistive devices. In all, eight application calls centred on different themes would be made over four years, under the programme called the Tote Board-Enabling Lives Initiative.

SG Enable conducted focus group discussions and found that information about assistive devices was fragmented among voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) for the disabled. Potential project ideas could include a website or centre that aggregates such information.

"Currently, access to devices usually lies with the individual VWOs," said Mr Leo Chen Ian, 40, who has cerebral palsy and runs a business consultancy that helps companies hire people with disabilities.

"The variety of devices available may be limited by the VWO staff's expertise and the type of disability that the VWO caters to, whereas some devices can actually be used by people with different disabilities," he said.

For instance, both the blind and those who do not have control of their fingers can create sound effects akin to music just by moving their hands, using a device called the Beamz system.

SG Enable's chief executive Ku Geok Boon told The Sunday Times: "Greater awareness and use of such devices or even mainstream technology could enable persons with disabilities to overcome some of their functional limitations and achieve greater independence."

SG Enable said it wants to support "innovative and evidence-based" projects and that the themes centre on three main issues - the use of technology; support for caregivers; and managing transitions, such as from school to work.

Ms Ku said SG Enable and Tote Board will work with the grant recipients for the entire project implementation period to turn ideas into reality.

This is unlike a hackathon, which is "typically a sprint which takes a project only from the idea-creation stage to a refined conceptual stage".

All projects must be sustained for at least a year, and will be funded up to a maximum of five years. The grant funds up to 90 per cent of eligible expenses per project.

Applications for the first call must be in by March 31. To find out more, go to

This article was first published on Mar 1, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.