This article summarises the key insights shared in a webinar organised by GIC in support of The Purple Parade, a yearly event in Singapore that supports inclusion and celebrates the abilities of persons with disabilities.

Speakers included:

  • Yip Pin Xiu, gold medallist Paralympic swimmer, former Nominated Member of Parliament and Vice-Chair of The Purple Parade Working Committee;
  • Dr Azariah Tan, pianist and pedagogue;
  • Chen Ziyue, artist and SG Enable Inclusion Champion;
  • Joseph Tan, cellist with The Purple Symphony, Singapore’s largest inclusive orchestra, and his father and caregiver, Micah Tan;
  • Benjamin Tiong, father and caregiver to GIC’s Jonathan Tiong.

The panel, moderated by GIC’s Jean Chua who looks after the GIC Enable Programme, shared about life with disabilities and as caregivers, how to overcome challenges, and what it takes to create a more diverse and inclusive society.

Read on for their views on these key topics.

Building a more inclusive society

  • It’s important to first adopt an inclusive mindset to be able to create an inclusive society. This means not only focusing on designing accessible infrastructure but also on educating people about diversity and inclusion.
  • You can’t have diversity without inclusion, and this is what leaders must exemplify through their actions because they have the power to enact change.
  • If you are not familiar with something, you will naturally be afraid of it. It’s about learning more and looking beyond the disability to see the person for who they are. A disability doesn’t define you as a person.
  • The needs of people with disabilities vary widely, from person to person. If you are unsure how to offer help, always ask first.
  • People with disabilities are not looking for a free ride but an enabling environment where they can contribute as valuable members of society.
  • Prevailing COVID-19 policies could have been better designed with the needs of people with disabilities in mind. For example, we should ensure that the designated single entrance to buildings is accessible, and remember that not all people with disabilities are able to comply with the mandatory wearing of masks.

Creating equal opportunities

  • People with disabilities must actively seek out socio-economic opportunities, and being part of a like-minded community while growing up could be particularly valuable.
  • How to overcome challenges: 1. Identify the challenge. 2. After analysing the situation, try to find a solution. 3. If there is no solution, accept where your limitations are, and instead focus on building your strengths. Always believe in yourself.
  • How to tackle pressure in a competitive environment: Build resilience, always stay true to your purpose and sources of motivation, and surround yourself with a robust support system.

Caregiving as a lifetime commitment

  • Caregiving is a role that requires selflessness and sacrifice – it’s a career that’s not chosen yet requires a 24/7 work shift.
  • Being a full-time caregiver is often perceived as a ‘waste of resources’, and that stigma is even greater towards fathers. Caregiving, however, is no less meaningful compared to pursuing your next career endeavour.
  • Caregivers face a high risk of mental health issues and often experience ‘caregiver burnout’ or fatigue. To help mitigate mental and emotional distress, they should regularly carve out time for themselves, and connect with fellow caregivers.
  • If you have caregiver friends, reach out and make an effort to keep in touch.

Educating a more inclusive next generation

  • Expose children to people with disabilities, including how their parents interact with them. Parents are their children’s first role models so it’s important not to show pity, be open-minded and see all as equal.
  • There is an untapped opportunity for children’s books to feature more characters with disabilities to teach children from a young age that all people are equal regardless of their ability or disability. At the same time, they will also be able to learn more about character traits such as resilience.
  • Encourage children to volunteer as a buddy to their disabled schoolmates. Having them live their daily school lives in close contact with a disabled peer will mean more than just words of support.

Concluding takeaway

While there is no handbook on how to best support people with disabilities, it’s first and foremost about being aware and practising empathy. If there is one crucial advice to take away from this event, it’s to ensure that we always strive for a better understanding of, regular communications with and empathy towards people with disabilities.

GIC Enable Programme

With a vision to champion diversity and inclusion by including differently abled individuals into our workplace, the GIC Enable Programme was designed to enable persons with disabilities to find purposeful employment. The initiative started as an internship programme to students with disabilities, with the opportunity for full-time employment after graduation. The GIC Enable Programme is now an umbrella for all of GIC’s disability inclusion initiatives.

GIC is also a member organization of the Singapore Business Network on Disability and a partner of SG Enable.

Social Impact at GIC

In addition to supporting The Purple Parade and as part of its broader social impact work, GIC has since 2016 funded The Purple Symphony’s Training Award Programme, a grant that equips people with disabilities and of disadvantaged backgrounds with improved access to music lessons and performing opportunities.

GIC believes in building confident and inclusive communities through our social impact efforts. Find out more here.