President’s Message

Note from DPA President, Mr Nicholas Aw, March 2016

This year Disabled People’s Association (DPA) has focused on ‘walking the talk’ and moving beyond changing mindsets to educating and motivating people about how to go out there and make changes that will impact on the lives of persons with disabilities.

In April 2016, DPA reached a significant milestone of having advocated with the disability community for thirty years. DPA has the honour of being the first registered advocacy organisation in Singapore. Yet, as we reflect on this achievement it is important to take a moment to remember our former founder and President, Mr Ron Chandran-Dudley.

Mr Chandran-Dudley passed away after a massive heart attack on Wednesday, 30 December 2015. After acquiring a disability in 1952 he went on become a leading disability advocate and was one of the founders and first chairman of the Disabled People’s International (DPI). DPI is an international disabled people’s organisation that collaborates with the World Health Organisation, International Labour Organisation and United Nation Agencies. Significantly, DPI was part of a coalition that advocated for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Back in Singapore, Mr Chandran-Dudley founded the DPA in 1986 to further the cause of the disability movement locally. At the last AGM in 2015, Mr Chandran-Dudley reflected that he was proud of how far DPA had come and the work it continues to do in advocating for a more inclusive society.

DPA hopes to honour Mr Chandran-Dudley’s legacy by DPA inspiring and nurturing future disability advocates. In order to do this DPA has stepped up its efforts to work with schools and institutions of higher learning to challenge the view that inclusion is a charitable thing and instead replace it with the idea that it should be a societal norm. I truly believe that if inclusion is taught to students at a young age and more children with disabilities are educated alongside those without disabilities, we would not have as much problems with integration in other areas such as the workplace and in the community.

Going forward, DPA will build on our founder’s work by taking on the challenge of realising the CRPD by tackling a difficult, but important subject of discrimination in the workplace. DPA will work with the Institute of Policy Studies at the National University of Singapore to not only document barriers employees with disabilities have faced in the workplace in Singapore, but also explore what people mean when they talk about discrimination. This project will be run by persons with disabilities and will involve the participants with disabilities at various stages of the project, including deciding what to do with the research after the findings are analysed. DPA does not just merely talk about being the voice of persons with disabilities, in this project it is demonstrating that it actively engages with and takes direction from the disability community.

I encourage you to get involved in the growing number of events, projects and initiatives that DPA is pursuing. With the new format of the DPA Annual Report, it should be even easier to see the variety of ways DPA empowers persons with disabilities and engages with the public to build a more inclusive society. Whether it is personal input into a policy DPA is gathering feedback on, training to be a speaker at one of DPA’s talks or even attending an overseas workshop for persons with disabilities, DPA can help build your confidence and find the right fit for you in our collective advocacy work.

Next year is the last of my term as DPA President. As important as it is to reflect on this past year’s work, it just as essential to look at succession planning. DPA’s membership has a wealth of persons with disabilities who have the potential to be future advocates and even sit on our Board of Management. I encourage you to think about how you can be involved in DPA’s management at next year’s election. As always, I invite you to be part of the conversation and keep giving your views on the issues you may face as a person with disabilities so that we may continue to advocate together for a more inclusive Singapore.