Living with disability: Praise & award for warm service
Three individuals tell how they overcome disabilities and thrive at work
Mr Jason Goh may have an intellectual disability, but the 24-year-old retail associate with popular clothing store Uniqlo is earning accolades.
Not only does he earn as much as his peers, he is also paving the way for more students from Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds) schools.
His duties at the ION Orchard store include offering a basket to customers, replenishing stock and keeping merchandise neatly displayed.
He makes about $1,700 a month.
Intellectual disability refers to an impairment of a person's mental ability which may affect, among others, his reasoning, writing and social skills. It is also associated with an IQ lower than 70.
Mr Goh's aunt, who took care of him, first noticed signs of his disability when he was in nursery.
"He had problems identifying words and characters, couldn't hold a pencil well and was very quiet," says Madam Katherine Goh.
The 45-year-old marketing executive has three children but chose to raise her nephew after her brother - Mr Goh's father - died. Mr Goh is estranged from his mother.
Madam Goh enrolled Mr Goh in Lee Kong Chian Gardens School and Woodlands Employment Development Centre, which are both run by Minds.
Mr Goh worked as a dishwasher for three years before joining Uniqlo in August 2012.
He got both jobs through Hi-Job!, a job placement programme headed by Mr Jaieden Shen.
"Traditionally, the intellectually disabled in Singapore have limited career options, mostly in the cleaning and food-and-beverage sectors," says Mr Shen.
"Jason was one of the first few to be hired by Uniqlo, and he's done so well that about 20 other intellectually disabled individuals are now hired by the company."
They are hardworking and unlikely to job-hop, adds Mr Shen.
More employers are interested in hiring people with disabilities, thanks to increased awareness about successful cases, says SG Enable's assistant manager Or Beng Hua.
"However, they are often uncertain where to seek advice and how to start building an inclusive workforce."
SG Enable was formed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development to provide consultancy services to employers keen on hiring persons with disabilities.
Mr Goh, who was confirmed as a full-time staff member at Uniqlo in October, won a customer service award last July.
He is the first person with a disability to receive the award from the company, which has more than 800 stores worldwide.
Mr Goh beams with pride when asked about the award. He says he feels good when customers praise him to his store manager, Mr Takao Hashimoto.
"Jason is very energetic. He always gets noticed by visitors from the Japanese headquarters because of his warm service," says Mr Hashimoto, who adds that a loud welcome greeting is Mr Goh's trademark.
"The other employees tend to be rather soft, but Jason isn't shy.
"He's also great at promoting the items in the store. Whenever there are new arrivals, he's the one I go to to sell them.
"He replenishes stock quicker than some of the new employees.
"I really hope he becomes a trainer for the newbies and influence the culture in the store."
To facilitate Mr Goh's integration, Mr Shen briefed his co-workers.
"I needed to give the other retail associates tips on how to better interact with him, such as using simple phrases and ensuring that he understands instructions, and to be patient with him," says Mr Shen.
On a work day, Mr Goh gets to the store three hours before it opens at 11am.
"I'm never tired," he says.
Instead, he enjoys his bond with his colleagues and the sense of purpose he gets.
Says Madam Goh: "A full-time job gives Jason confidence and a sense of pride in being able to contribute.
"He also feels a sense of belonging."