Singapore has a population of 5,604,000 people (UNESCAP 2015), and UNESCAP report 2015 indicated that a total of 3.0%, there are an estimated minimum of 100,000 people with disabilities living in Singapore.
Singapore has made some effort to define its understanding of people with disabilities (PWD), and to evolve that definition over time. In 2004, for example, then Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS, now known as Ministry of Social and Family Development, or MSF) added the category of developmental disabilities to the 1988 definition written by the Advisory Council for the Disabled (ACD)
Following this, the definition of PWDs in Singapore became, and remains, “those whose prospects of securing, retaining places and advancing in education and training institutions, employment and recreation as equal members of the community are substantially reduced as a result of physical, sensory, intellectual and developmental impairments.” This definition, at its core, is based on a medical criterion, but also takes into account the socio-functional limitations in the environment and society. The latter part of the definition draws on the idea that society is in part responsible for the barriers facing PWDs, and that there is a great deal that society can and should do to reduce these.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) affirms that all people with disabilities are entitled to all human rights and fundamental freedom.
Singapore became a signatory of the convention in November 2012 and ratified it in August 2013 with reservations. Singapore implements the UNCRPD through the Enabling Masterplan, which sets goals and benchmarks for making Singapore a more inclusive society to better meet the needs of its disabled population.
The most recent version of the Masterplan is dated 2012 – 2016, and its vision is to see “Singapore as an inclusive society where persons with disabilities are empowered and recognized, and given full opportunity to become integral and contributing members of society.” Singapore also singed Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) & Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
In 1987, the Central Registry of Disabled Persons shifted its purpose to become a register of users of disability services rather than an all-inclusive list register of PWDs; this register is now called the Developmental Disability Registry, and is managed by National Council of Social Service (NCSS). However, this approach does not take into account the number of people with disabilities who do not access government or NCSS funded services. In the absence of a registry, it is difficult to estimate the number of people with disabilities currently living in Singapore. Estimates based on 2010 data from the Health and Education ministries suggest that Singapore has around 97,200 people with disabilities; the majority – approximately 77,200 – are over the age of 18. The Enabling Masterplan 2012-2016 uses these estimates to suggest a prevalence rate of three per cent of the general population. This prevalence rate takes into account acquired disabilities and PWDs who have not registered for services. Disability-inclusive laws and regulations
• Code on Accessibility in the Built Environment, 2007 Following and expanding the initial Code on Barrier-Free Accessibility in Buildings (1990), the Code on Accessibility in the Built Environment (Singapore 2007) sets out the basic design and construction requirements and guidelines for “improving accessibility in the built environment for persons with disabilities”.With the aim of creating “a built environment that is seamlessly connected so that people of all ages and physical conditions will be able to integrate into the mainstream society and lead an active as well as normal life”, the Code includes “mandatory barrier-free features in common areas of new buildings” and “non-mandatory design guidelines have been included to help architects and building owners design buildings for specific needs.”The Code sets requirements for interconnection between buildings and those from buildings to infrastructure. Requirements to improve the level of accessibility in transport stations, bus shelters, vehicles parks, public parks and open spaces are also included.
• Income Tax Act, 1947
The Income Tax Act (Singapore 1947) provides income tax deduction to owners or lessees of premises who have incurred expenses in relation to additions and alterations to premises that would facilitate the mobility or work of persons with disabilities, subject to rules and conditions in the act.
The Association for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (AEPD) is based in Dong Hoi, the capital of Quang Binh province in central Vietnam. The province has a population of 853,000. AEPD’s works in two districts, Dong Hoi and Bo Trach.
AEPD’s mission is to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities (PWDs) through economic and social empowerment and access to health care. The Association was set up in 2003 as the Viet Nam member of the Landmine Survivors Network, which shared the 1997 Nobel Peace prize for its contribution to the global campaign to ban landmines. In 2010 LSN-Vietnam broadened its mission and changed its name, in recognition of the fact that landmines are only one cause of disability. Vietnam has a population of 88.5 million people. By some estimates as many as 15.3% may be affected by a disability.
AP has sent Peace Fellows to AEPD since 2008 and is helping AEPD to design a long-term program on Agent Orange (video left). AEPD and AP surveyed 500 victims of Agent Orange in Quang Binh in 2014 and identified their needs. The partners will now seek funding to provide services.
Climate change is another issue that could benefit from AP’s international advocacy. AEPD is one of the few advocacy groups to argue that climate change will have a dire impact on people with disability, and agencies like the World Bank need to know about this. Meanwhile, AP and AEPD have produced an advocacy quilt that describes the threat from climate change. AP uses the quilt in promoting AEPD’s unique and important program.
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