Enabling disability-inclusive response to Covid-19

As of 15 May 2020, there were more than 4.3 million reported cases and almost 300 thousand reported deaths worldwide due to Covid-19 according to the situation report by the World Health Organisation (WHO). While we are learning more about the evolving Covid-19 situation, it becomes a clear fact to us that there are still many unreported and undetected Covid-19 related cases and deaths worldwide. This is just merely 116 days (i.e. less than 4 months) from the first WHO Covid-19 Situation Report released on 21 January 2020. This pandemic will continue to deepen its long-term impact on everyone in Singapore and the rest of the world with waves of resurgences worldwide. It is anticipated that the evolving and uncertain Covid-19 situation will persist for at least a year or possibly even longer until an effective pharmaceutical intervention and/or vaccine is developed.
In Singapore, the government and stakeholders are stepping up efforts to protect two key vulnerable groups (i.e. the elderly and migrant workers). As a Smart Caring Nation which values and takes pride in promoting an inclusive society, we must also proactively step up efforts to look after other vulnerable groups in our society. One key vulnerable group is the disabled who have not yet received sufficient awareness, let alone attention, in our national narrative of unitedness in these trying times.
According to the United Nations Policy Brief for a disability-inclusive response to Covid-19 (May 2020), “the global crisis of Covid-19 is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing the extent of exclusion and highlighting that work on disability inclusion is imperative. People with disabilities — one billion people — are one of the most excluded groups in our society and are among the hardest hit in this crisis in terms of fatalities.” This global population of persons with disabilities makes up an estimated 15% of the world’s population, where one in ten children is a child with a disability (IASC Guidelines, 2019, Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action).
The third Enabling Masterplan (2017 – 2021) released in December 2016 by the National Council of Social Service would require a serious review during these extraordinary times in which we are struggling to prepare ourselves for the new normal post-Covid-19. It is time to appeal to all key stakeholders (including special education professionals, healthcare professionals, parents and primary care givers of the disabled) to not only take a top-down approach but also make ground-up efforts to work on our fourth Enabling Masterplan.
During and post-Covid-19 in our era of 4IR (4th Industrial Revolution) which is enabled by cyber-physical systems, it becomes even more pertinent for each of us to leverage and accelerate the adoption of emerging digital technologies and acquire enduring employable skills for the future of work that will enable the disabled to thrive just like each of us in our efforts to protect our lives, livelihoods and mental wellness.
Mind & Hand is an EduTech platform that partners both educational industry players and private sector business employers to offer our students programmes that keep pace with technological change and that are relevant to the industry. We hope to empower our students with the skills, confidence and perspective to navigate the global skills crisis and prepare them for a workplace of the future.

By Jonathan Lee–
Jonathan is a proud parent of two and he is a fervent advocate of future-ready education


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