THE Society for the Physically Disabled is proud that Singapore’s equestrienne Laurentia Tan and swimmer Yip Pin Xiu have won medals at the Paralympic Games.
We share their joy as they savour the sweet rewards of countless hours of training, untold sacrifices and total dedication. We congratulate and salute Laurentia and Pin Xiu.
The presence of our Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan and Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Mr Teo Ser Luck, at the Games to cheer our athletes is a great encouragement.
We are also heartened, as announced by Mr Teo, that plans are being studied to allow disabled athletes to receive a comparable level of support enjoyed by other national athletes.
The current disparity between the rewards received by non-disabled athletes under the Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme and those received by disabled athletes under the Athletes Achievement Awards is disconcerting. Mr Teo’s announcement is, hence, timely.
A disabled athlete has to overcome external physical barriers to and at training locations and his/her physical limitations, as well as bear high costs in commuting to and from training locations.
In terms of funding, a disabled athlete has to contend with a common mindset among sports agencies and sponsors: That supporting a disabled athlete is a social service handout rather than a reward for and recognition of sporting excellence and achievement.
Mr Teo himself noted that few saw disabled athletes as sportsmen.
By 2012, we hope there would be a single common scheme for both disabled and non-disabled sportsmen. If we persist in having two different standards, we reinforce the erroneous perception that disabled people are different, and strengthen the barriers against building an inclusive society. We cannot build a gracious inclusive society if we continue to deny the achievements of those perceived to be different and less able than we.
For now, we certainly hope to see Singapore celebrate our Paralympians’ achievements on the same proportionate scale as that given to Team Singapore after its successful run at the Beijing Olympics.
Chia Yong Yong (Ms)
Society for the Physically Disabled