Not all heroes wear capes!
Have you ever thought about how many People with Disabilities (PwDs) live among us? According to the Ministry of Social and Family Development, there is an approximate 2.1% prevalence rate of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) among the student population, 3.4% among those aged 18 to 49, and 13.3% for those aged 50 years and above.
What does this mean?
To put that in perspective, about one in seven individuals aged 50 and above are living with a disability! SG Enable defines “disability” to be categorised into physical, sensory, intellectual, and developmental disabilities. Such a disability can be caused by unexpected events that throw life’s wildly off course, or as a result of medical complications or diseases.
Other than affecting how one lives his or her life, a disability can bring about tremendous financial woes. Burgeoning medical bills, coupled with the struggle to accept one’s new circumstance, might also negatively impact one’s mental health.
One isn’t – and shouldn’t! – be defined by his or her disability.
In Singapore, the National Council of Social Service strives to ensure that this is made known to all, with various programmes that help include PwDs in the community. SGEnable is another treasure trove of support channels for children, youth, and adults who suffer from disabilities.
In 2019, a MOM survey also reported that almost three in 10 PwDs – who are of working age! – are employed.
Here are some real-life examples of Singaporeans who embraced their disabilities, and turned it into one of their strengths:
Indeed, according to Michael Quek, who suffered a stroke in 2005 that rendered him wheelchair-dependent, “disabled doesn’t mean unable”. He was hired by the Adrenalin Group, where PwDs make up 30% of the employees. Ricardo Chua, the managing director, eagerly anticipates the day when hiring PwDs becomes the norm across all companies, distilling it down to simply giving PwDs “the opportunity”.
Michael has worked for the Adrenalin Group for over nine years, where he puts his graphic design training to good use as a photo editor and mentor for new hires.
Yip Pin Xiu
Did you know that Singapore’s youngest Nominated Member of Parliament is also a gold medalist Paralympian swimmer? Yip Pin Xiu has certainly made history despite suffering from genetic muscular dystrophy, which affected both her muscles and eyesight.
Fun fact: by 2008, the year that she clinched the gold medal at the Beijing Paralympics, she had already won a total of 38 gold medals from various competitions. She’s a true inspiration for all!
Sim Kang Wei
Despite being born with cerebral palsy, a condition that affects overall dexterity, Sim Kang Wei has contributed more to the local community in more ways than you can ever imagine. Besides being a trained counsellor at a Voluntary Welfare Organisation, he actively raises funds for charities. In 2013, he was the esteemed recipient of the National Youth Council’s Stars of Shine award, which showcases youths who serve as role models for their peers.
Kang Wei has always struggled with normal tasks growing up, which spurred him to help others like him.
David Aitabir, Melvin Ong, Sophie Soon, Zoe Zora
Great Eastern Singapore’s recent #Lifeproof campaign shines the spotlight on the topic of disability, featuring four creatives who, despite living with disabilities, continue living life on their own terms. Pushing the message of “our disabilities don’t define us, our dreams do”, the campaign encourages individuals to start thinking about their long-term coverage plans.
Madanlal Aitabir, otherwise known as David, is a recovered paraplegic who has been able to walk again after undergoing surgery. When he was diagnosed with his condition, he turned to using his skills as a tattoo artist to tide him through the days.
Ong was the victim of a spinal cord injury, bringing his career of being a freelance video technician and cameraman to a screeching halt. He became wheelchair-bound and semi-bedridden; however, he didn’t let that stop him in his tracks, continuing to manage Green Spell, his own apparel line.
Despite having cone-rod dystrophy which results in progressive vision loss, Sophie Soon has continued blazing a path as a violinist and National Paralympics swimmer.
Zoe never let her paraplegia stop her in working hard for what she wants to achieve. Working as a programme manager for an inclusive running club, Zora is also a model and stylist.
Life is what you make it; and as shown by the above individuals, no obstacle of any size is going to stop them in their tracks. We salute them for being inspiring role models for us all!