A recent letter to the papers made the case that ignorance, and not apathy of the able bodied, was the main reason why the able bodied did not know the conditions and needs of the disabled, and suggested that the Government and schools help educate the young on how to interact with the handicapped and the elderly.
Do Singaporeans need the Government to teach them what the disabled need? Are we waiting for some program or campaign to raise awareness before we help or seek information?
Knowledge and concern for the disabled begins at home, not in school. You don't need a Community Involvement Program for your kid before he learns about the disabled. Pick up the phone and call any VWO, and I can bet you they will be glad to teach you what you need to know to volunteer.
In my daughter's school, there are young volunteers and even the teachers themselves, who burn weekends to do things like babysit the special needs kids while their parents, many of whom are poor and cannot afford maids or babysitters, attend training sessions on caregiving. You don't need a pamplet or some school program to do that. It is not rocket science. Just the heart to help. The skills can be learned along the way.
Why is it always "something the relevant bodies and the Government should address"? We are the relevant bodies. It starts with us, our own families. If this attitude of waiting for some external prompting is not apathy, what is it?
"Oh no, my kids don't have the skills, they will shy away from helping. They need to feel comfortable about the disabled before they can interact. Please conduct a course."
Teach them not to shy away. Teach them to know where to find out how to help. Teach them to care enough to find out how to help.
Teach them yourself.
Blame ignorance, not apathy of able-bodied
Govt, bodies, schools can aid cause of disabled
Thursday • November 25, 2004
I refer to the article, "Disabling Misconceptions" (Nov 22).
A significant finding of the survey commissioned by the National Council of Social Service was that 64 per cent of the disabled who were surveyed "felt that able people did not know their conditions and needs".
This is something the relevant bodies and the Government should address, for I believe it is not merely due to "apathy of the public, or the over-protectiveness of the caregivers".
Rather, it is due to the lack of knowledge on the part of the able-bodied in dealing with the disabled.
The launching of the first Disability Awareness Campaign on Monday will be a step in the right direction.
I still remember my school days, decades ago, when I would help a middle-aged blind man to the bus-stop.
Every morning, I held onto his arm as we walked to the bus-stop together. Years later, I realised that was the wrong thing to do. I should have let him hold on to my arms and guided him along.
This is so basic, yet I was unaware of it until I obtained the information from a pamphlet issued by the Association for the Visually Handicapped.
Schools can do their part. Children are always intrinsically eager to help the less fortunate.
Unfortunately, without the necessary knowledge, they are unable to do so and thus tend to shy away.
Once students are equipped with the right skills, schools can expand their Community Involvement Programme (CIP) and make it more meaningful.
For instance, my son's involvement in the CIP, from primary school to Secondary One, has been restricted to cleaning the school or classrooms and raising funds through pledges.
He has not been exposed to community/social works outside his school.
My 16-year-old daughter has had an opportunity to visit old folks' homes.
While she found it more enriching to interact with the elderly, she felt handicapped as she was not sure how she should deal with them — particularly those who are wheelchair-bound.
Knowing such skills would make our children more comfortable around the disabled and they would have no qualms interacting with them and integrating them.