Feature on International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Today, we celebrate the  International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD).  Aimed to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life, the annual observance of the IDPWD was proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations.

This year, the theme for IDPWD is: Not All Disabilities are Visible

On top of the annual celebration of people with disabilities, 2020’s IDPWD also focuses on spreading awareness and understanding of disabilities that may not be immediately apparent, such as mental illness, sight or hearing impairments, diabetes, neurological disorders, learning differences, cognitive dysfunctions and more.

According to the WHO World Report on Disability, 15% of the world’s population, or more than 1 billion people, are living with disability.  Of this number, it’s estimated 450 million are living with a mental or neurological condition — and two-thirds of these people will not seek professional medical help, largely due to stigma, discrimination and neglect. 

Looking at Singapore itself, the approximate prevalence rate of persons with disabilities amongst those aged 18 to 49 years is 3.4%, and goes up to 13.3% amongst those aged 50 and above. Particularly in this period of pandemic, isolation, disrupted routines and diminished services have impacted the lives and mental well-being of people with disabilities even more than before. Within these statistics, ‘invisible’ disabilities, though potentially detrimental, are not always immediately apparent like physical disabilities, hence this year’s widening of the range of focus.

From 25 November to 3 December 2020, UNESCO will mark IDPWD with a week-long programme with the main objective of building towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world by, for and with persons with disabilities. Just yesterday, there was an e-publication launch of “Accessible Digital Documentary Heritage: Guidelines for the preparation of documentation heritage in accessible formats for persons with disabilities”, and until 4 December, UNESCO will be rolling out a Global Awareness Raising Campaign “Tell our stories, enable our rights” on its official social media channels, focusing on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people living with disabilities and on the immediate response to the crisis through open, inclusive and innovative use of digital solutions, tools and resources.

The IDPWD is also celebrated in Singapore, with various initiatives by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), The Disabled People’s Association, Community Development Councils (CDCs) all across Singapore and more. In 2018, SPD collaborated with SMRT to encourage more conversations and interactions between the public and persons with disabilities to work towards making our public transport spaces more inclusive, and just last year, MSF worked with WISE Enterprise to create fashionable yet functional bags with persons of muscular dystrophy.

Here at Chamber Music and Arts Singapore, we have also been putting in efforts to connect with persons with disabilities around us, and working to bring chamber music and chamber arts to these communities.

From our private music-art experience sessions in the past years (when we were still known as TTK Grand Series) to The Glasshouse #blossoms colourful blooms in spring (read more about #blossoms here !), we have been working closely with organisations such as Friends of ASD Families, LOVE NILs, Art for Good and more ~ to expose children and youths with special needs to quality chamber music and chamber arts.

If you have yet to visit The Glasshouse, do drop by ~! 

#blossoms colourful blooms in spring is an inclusive music and arts programme.  Consisting of light-hearted art activities alongside the accompaniment of carefully curated audio playlists that encourage calm, emotion regulation, positive self-talk and reframing, #blossoms can be enjoyed by children and youths with special needs, as well as children of regular needs who love hands-on activities they can easily follow along from home. 

Over the past months, Chamber Music and Arts Singapore has been in talks with various beneficiary organisations, to bring The Glasshouse to more families living within challenging circumstances, so that children and youths within these families can benefit from the programmes within this virtual music and arts sphere.  

Join us in the celebration of IDPWD as we reach out to more individuals and families around us, to work collectively together, to make Singapore a more inclusive and welcoming society to all ~!