Striving towards a Multi-Abled Singapore
A supermarket with lower checkout counters for wheelchair users and magnifying glasses for the visually impaired to read labels more easily is just one of the facilities at the Enabling Village. Here people with and without disabilities are accepted for who they are.
Located near Redhill MRT station, the $25 million set-up opened in 2015. It has food outlets run by Soul Food and Shatec, which hire people with disabilities, and an art gallery where visitors can buy artworks and merchandise designed by people with autism.
To boost the job prospects of people with disabilities, it also has an information and career centre, as well as training facilities such as a mock hotel room where they can learn housekeeping. Various training courses are also offered.
As Singapore strives to be more inclusive, there have been more initiatives that not only cater to people of all needs and abilities, but also to encourage interactions among them.
Another example is Kindle Garden, an inclusive preschool that is the first of its kind in Singapore. It enables children of all abilities, from mainstream ability children to those with severe needs, to learn and play together. About 30 per cent of the approximately 80 currently enrolled at the preschool, which is run by non-profit AWWA, have special needs such as autism, down syndrome or cerebral palsy.
(Image: Kindle Garden)
This mindset has extended to the workplace, such as at Foreword Coffee. This specialty coffee company has a social mission to empower people with special needs by giving them jobs and equipping them with barista skills.
The work processes at their cafes are split into four stations so that each employee can focus on just one task. The coffee machine for Foreword Coffee’s third outlet, at Temasek Shophouse, also uses a switch that can be flipped easily instead of the more conventional knob. It was bought specially for staff with health conditions such as cerebral palsy, who do not have enough strength in their arms.
In 2019, of 18 staff members across three outlets – at the Civil Service College, Centre for Healthcare Innovation at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Temasek Shophouse – 14 have special needs such as autism, cerebral palsy and hearing impairment. The company is looking to set up its fourth outlet, given the long list of job applicants.