Inclusive Society, Enabled Lives
"Everything we do here goes back to our larger vision of creating an inclusive society, because everyone deserves an equal opportunity to fulfil their aspirations and build their dreams."
- Ms Ku Geok Boon, CEO of SG Enable
Nestled in the tranquil estate of Lengkok Bahru lies a wonderfully innovative space where the community can come together and a spirit of inclusiveness can thrive.
Called the Enabling Village, this is Singapore’s first community space dedicated to integrating persons with disabilities into the community. It was launched in December 2015.
VALUED MEMBERS OF SOCIETY
The village was developed by SG Enable, an agency that enables persons with disabilities and champions for the creation of an inclusive society.
For a society to be truly inclusive, every individual must be valued, regardless of what they were born with or without. This includes persons with disabilities, a group which many in society are still unable to see beyond their disabilities.
But SG Enable wishes to change that perception. They believe individuals should be defined not by the disabilities they have, but by the abilities they possess.
“Persons with disabilities are valued members of society, and here at the Enabling Village, we support their efforts to lead independent and fulfilling lives,” said Ms Ku Geok Boon, CEO of SG Enable.
AN INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY SPACE
Spanning 30,000 square metres, the village combines retail, lifestyle and training facilities with disability-friendly amenities, such as a supermarket and a pre-school.
But these facilities and services are not just for persons with disabilities; in fact, the village serves the wider community.
That is why the village adopts a universal design and the use of assistive technologies, to ensure that its facilities and services can be accessed by users regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. Some key design features include barrier-free movement, tactile floor indicators, hearing loops and braille signs.
“The whole idea is to have a space that is accessible. For example, the supermarket has wider aisles, lower shelves and wheelchair-friendly pushcarts, so that wheelchair users can navigate their way around easily alongside able-bodied shoppers,” said Ms Ku.
EMPOWERMENT THROUGH EMPLOYMENT
One of the ways the village enables persons with disabilities is through employment training.
“Work is dignity, and employment is empowering,” asserted Ms Ku.
“For persons with disabilities, the journey towards a meaningful job is often scattered with barriers. But given appropriate support and equipped with relevant skills and tools, they can overcome their challenges and contribute meaningfully at our workplaces.”
The village is therefore a one-stop centre for employability and employment services for persons with disabilities, where job seekers can seek employment assessment, career advice, referral, support and training under one roof.
“We do not just train them. We ensure that the training translates to a work placement, and the work placement translates to integration in the workplace,” said Ms Ku. “It’s all about creating ready employees.”
A MODEL FOR THE FUTURE
Ultimately, SG Enable hopes that the Enabling Village model will be replicated all over Singapore.
“The village is a model for future society,” said Ms Ku. “Anybody who wants to look for employment opportunities or training courses, or just a place to shop and dine will find what they want at the Enabling Village.” She continued, “Everything we do here goes back to our larger vision of creating an inclusive society, because everyone deserves an equal opportunity to fulfil their aspirations and build their dreams.”
*Tote Board is a founding donor of the Enabling Village. The Board believes in providing equitable opportunities for vulnerable groups. The Village fulfils this by empowering those who are disadvantaged because of disabilities to develop their potential and contribute meaningfully to society.