Speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the official opening of Enabling Village on 2 December 2015.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I am very happy to be here this evening for the opening of the Enabling Village. It is a double celebration because tomorrow is also the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. To all those who have worked so hard to make these come true, and to make today possible, congratulations and thank you very much.
In Singapore, we are building a fair and just society which respects every person, especially persons with disabilities. Each of us has something to contribute. Each of us can contribute in a different way, no matter who he or she is, what he or she is born with or born without.
The Enabling Masterplan is a roadmap for the disability sector. It reflects our desire to empower and recognise the disabled, and to give them “full opportunity to become integral and contributing members of the society”. We have made good progress under the current Masterplan. It will be completed in a year’s time, and we are preparing the next Masterplan in 2016. Minister Tan Chuan-Jin will initiate this, and continue to make it a collective effort involving all of the stakeholders. The new Masterplan should build on the momentum of the first one, and make an even greater impact on the sector.
The Enabling Village will bring new opportunities for persons with disabilities. For example, it will offer job training and employment support. We have got Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) like the Autism Resource Centre, MINDS, SPD providing vocational assessment, career consultancy and job support services. We have got employers like NTUC FairPrice, SingTel, SHATEC, National Library Board (NLB) and United Overseas Bank (UOB) in turn providing the jobs, expertise and training, customised to support the learning needs of persons with disabilities in their own organisations. For example, Muhammad Zahier Samad, now 28 years old. He has had severe myopia since young and has lost his sight. He is interested in a customer service oriented job, he completed his contact centre training at the Singtel Enabling Innovation Centre, which is a communications lab fitted with special software and equipment, and is now on his way to securing a job. I chatted with him recently; he was very happy with the training he got, and he looks forward to starting work. Or Keith Kum, who is 21 years old, has intellectual disability, and is undergoing a train-and-place programme with the NTUC FairPrice outlet at the Village as a retail assistant, learning about customer service and food safety. He will start work at a FairPrice outlet near his home upon completion of training. There are lots of FairPrice outlets in Singapore, so he should not go too far from his home to find one. I met him too, and he was going to practise on me. So I am going to come back and buy something from him.
The Village also provides opportunities to train young persons with disabilities, apply what they learn in school to real life settings, to build their confidence. For example, Pathlight runs the Art Gallery that houses and sell artworks created by persons with special needs. We also have a set of school-to-work transition programmes where job coaches work with graduating students to prepare them for employment. The Enabling Village gives young people opportunities to train, to prepare for their work and to interact with the wider community through shared spaces and events, like the gym, pre-school centre, outdoor garden, outdoor amphitheatre that are designed for both the public and the disabled to use.
For the Enabling Village to succeed, that will depend on the wider support of the public. I am very happy that there are many helping hands on deck, in addition to the VWOs and businesses. There is a Stroke Support Station to support rehabilitation of stroke patients. Mount Alvernia has set up its first outreach clinic to serve persons with disabilities as well as low income elderly, particularly residents of this area. Specialist doctors from Mount Alvernia will be volunteering here. I hope that more Singaporeans will volunteer their time and services over time, help us look after persons with disabilities, and bring them into our community and our society.
As SG50 draws to a close, it is timely to reflect the kind of society we want to build in the future. Long ago, one of our founding fathers Mr S Rajaratnam spoke about building a “democracy of deeds” and how “ultimately it is the quality and character of the individual citizens rather than blueprints and programmes which decide whether a society is good or bad…a success or failure”. We must continue to build a more inclusive society, valuing everyone and promoting active citizenship.
Last month, we had the Purple Parade, celebrating people with special needs. Tomorrow, the ASEAN Para Games will be opening at our Sports Hub. I look forward to visiting the Games and supporting our para-athletes. I am sure Singaporeans will cheer them on to do their best, and to do Singapore proud. I would also encourage Singaporeans to take part in the SGFuture engagements to foster a more caring and empathetic society and shape Singapore’s future together.
Congratulations once again on the opening of the Enabling Village. Thank you to all of you – VWOs, businesses, donors, community and government partners, Minstry of Social and Family Development (MSF), SG Enable – for your big-heartedness and hard work that made this a reality. Through our collective effort, more persons with disabilities will lead better and meaningful lives. Together, we can bring more hope and opportunity to all, and build a more inclusive Singapore.
Thank you very much.
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