On Saturday 24th September, the Disabled People’s Association (DPA) celebrated 30 years of advocating alongside persons with disabilities in Singapore. DPA was in fact the first advocacy organisation officially registered in Singapore, gazetted on 28th April 1986.
159 members, supporters, donors and disability sector partners came together at the Royal Palm Ballroom at The Central to mark this milestone: It was an evening of reflection and celebration. The guest of honour for the evening was Ms Low Yen Ling, DPA’s new patron. Ms Low is Mayor of South West District and Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Education & Ministry of Trade and Industry.
The event started with a tribute to DPA’s late founding President, Mr Ron Chandran-Dudley read by Master of Ceremonies, Mr Terrence Yang. There would never be enough time in one evening to go through Mr Chandran-Dudley’s life story in all its richness: Instead the tribute highlighted some of his personal journey from acquiring a disability to becoming an advocacy champion. The tribute touched on Mr Chandran-Dudley’s significant role in lobbying for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). It also focused on his family life, for example, the central role in his life and legacy played by his wife, Ms Rena Chandran-Dudley. DPA is collaborating with Ethos Publishing to raise funds to publish ‘The Man With A Mission: A Life Well Lived’. Ron Chandran-Dudley was working on this book about his life when he passed away. It was finished with the help of his wife, Rena. Dinner attendees were given a copy of a chapter of this book. DPA and Ethos Publishing hope to release the book on 14 January 2017.
DPA presented a short video introducing its work through the words of its members. It was an interesting challenge to make this video as inclusive as possible. The videographer is DPA’s own Assistant Treasurer, Ms Tan Keng Ying, who is Deaf. Inclusive communication skills were honed to ensure subtitles and voice over were accurate as Ms Tan had to lip read the video after filming. The video features DPA members Mr Alfred Yeo, who is Deaf, Ms Rosie Wong, who is visually impaired and reading a braille script and Ms Margaret See, a wheelchair user.
DPA also shared a video of its previous public education campaign featuring Singapore Paralympic gold medal winner, Ms Yip Pin Xiu. The video’s tagline ‘Her greatest disability is your apathy’ remains highly relevant and DPA President, Mr Nicholas Aw, set the advocacy agenda for next year, calling for society to ‘walk the talk’ on inclusion, rather than just talking about it.
As part of “walking the talk”, Mr Aw also announced that DPA is exploring the forms of discrimination faced by persons with disabilities in the workplace and asking them to describe their view as to the nature of discrimination. In this ambitious but important research, DPA is working with the Institute of Policy Studies at the National University of Singapore. However, DPA is utilising the Participatory Action Research model for the first time, reinforcing its motto, “Nothing About Us Without Us”. Persons with disabilities are not merely the ones being interviewed, but also active participants in all aspects of the project, not least the decision as to how the research findings will be used.
Throughout the evening attendees were treated to a number of performances. Ms Lily Goh and her team at ExtraOrdinary Horizons song signed and performed a percussion piece. Ms Goh is Deaf, a board member of DPA and beautifully combines sign language and songs in song-signing to highlight and share Deaf culture. During dinner, Mr Robert Tan sang and played the guitar. Mr Tan is visually impaired and has an uncanny ability to perform songs from memory after hearing it once.
The evening was a fitting birthday party for DPA to celebrate the big 3-0 with friends, old and new. It provided an opportunity for DPA to thank long-time friends, including DPA’s previous patron, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, who have helped DPA through its journey from small volunteer led group to the professional organisation it is now. The gathering also welcomed more recent friends: It looked forward to future collaborations, working together as a community of empowered and like-minded advocates towards a barrier-free and inclusive society.
For more photos of the event, please visit our facebook page.