For the physically disabled, commuting in Singapore can pose some significant challenges. Fellow commuters tend not to give way when boarding or alighting trains. Focussing intently on their phones, they often pretend not to see us, worrying if they let someone on in a wheelchair, no room will be left for them. Before that, we must first get into the station. Some lack adequate provisions, and not being able to use the stairs often involves a time-consuming and circuitous route to the platform.
Preceding all of that is the much tougher challenge of finding gainful employment. The charity SPD (Serving People with Disability www.spd.org.sg) is made up of willing specialists that help disabled people find employment. They thoroughly assess both candidate and employer suitability and recommend matches accordingly.
Even with SPD’s excellent support, finding work can be a protracted process. Before working with SPD, I sent out over 100 resumes to recruiters, securing only a handful of interviews. Commonly, recruitment agencies tell candidates they will put them forward but never do, concerned that the placement process will be too challenging or time consuming, and with some only seeming interested in obtaining their fee as quickly as possible. Disabled people are therefore not recommended with anything like the frequency of their able-bodied counterparts. I was fortunate to find employment, especially when compared to friends who have tried for 10 years before finding work.
Perhaps it is a fault of the way they are incentivised – SPD’s employees, by contrast, do not have to bolster their salaries with commission – but it is also part of a wider societal problem. I would appeal to everyone not to treat us as invisible, but to recognise that the challenges we face, often make us resilient, resourceful and tenacious; qualities that translate directly into the workplace. Please also ask if we need help as this will always be greatly appreciated – don’t be too preoccupied with your telephone to recognise that a fellow human being needs a little help.
Attitudes, awareness and acceptance can all be improved in the region and employers have a key role to play. Many courses can assist employers and SPD is a great organisation to work with. Canopius has taken a positive, affirmative, and deliberate step in this direction and wants to encourage more in the wider insurance industry in Singapore to take a similar approach. If insurers are serious about, and truly believe in diversity and inclusion, they should actively seek out the benefits of employing from this sector of society.
Eileen Leong, Office Administrator, Canopius Singapore. Featured in Dive In 2019.