What can persons with disabilities achieve and why it matters?
27 June 2016
By Andrew Buay, Vice President, Group CSR, Singtel
How do we see people who are different from us?
At a recent event launched by the National Council of Social Services to raise awareness of disabled people, I watched a social experiment video in which individuals were shown portrait upon portrait of disabled persons. When asked what they thought about disabled people, not a single person felt that people with disabilities could stand on their own feet and earn their keep.
I’m glad they were wrong. And I will tell you why.
About three months ago, we hired Nur Madiah Hidayah Lim Othman. She is a strong 35-year-old woman who was born without limbs, spending most of her life on a wheelchair to get from place to place. But being different from most people did not stop her from leading the life she wanted, as she would eventually fall in love and lead a married life.
I’m glad to inform that Madiah is also one of the two graduates from Singtel’s Enabling Innovation Centre which we helped set up with Community Chest and SG Enable, an agency dedicated to enabling people with disabilities, in October 2015, to increase the employability of people with disabilities. The centre has become a place for persons with disabilities to attain skills which are highly sought after in IT, communication and contact-centre sectors.
It was an easy decision to offer Madiah a role in Singtel as an online customer support officer. Like most people, she has the qualifications. She assimilates well into her new role and contributes positively to her team. In her words, “I never thought I could get a job and go to work like a normal person. Now I have a routine. I have to wake up in the morning, have my breakfast and rush to work, like everyone else. I’m not treated differently when I’m serving customers through our webchat channels. I feel useful. Most people think that people like me will always be takers. But I can be a giver too. I feel useful here and I feel included.”
We would not have discovered just how competent people with disabilities can be when given the opportunities, if we hadn’t stepped up our efforts in using information and communications technology to support people like Madiah.
A survey conducted by National Council of Social Services recently shows that about six in 10 people with disabilities do not feel that they are socially included, accepted or given opportunities to achieve their potential. I sincerely hope this would change as we see more Madiahs around and more companies stepping up to the call to support a more inclusive society.
This whole experience has made me realise that when people with disabilities get the opportunities to receive quality training, doors are opened to them. They secure other rights in their life, gain access to job opportunities, healthcare and other services. This in turn enables upward mobility for them in society, thereby building an inclusive and sustainable community for all.