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Rejected at first, but he didn't give up

HANDY: Daniel's desk at Ernst & Young has been positioned in such a way that it allows him easy access.

His dad is his hero and his mum is his source of motivation.

To Daniel, mum and dad are two of the strongest people he knows. And from them, he learnt to never give up.

He persevered and landed a job with audit firm Ernst & Young even before graduating from Nanyang Technological University.

He has been working there for a month and earns $2,850.

Ironically, the firm was one of the seven companies that rejected his internship application as part of his school curriculum last year.

The Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities scholar and former beneficiary of the SPD (formerly Society for the Physically Disabled) Education Programme then sought an internship placement with accounting firm Edward Lee & Co.

When he failed to hear from the companies, Daniel admitted to feeling dejected.

"I did feel like it was unfair, that perhaps if I weren't disabled, I would have heard from them," he said.

For Daniel, one of the toughest challenges is the erroneous belief that people like him cannot function normally.

"It hit me the most during the internship process, that they could have dismissed my applications without giving me the chance," he said.

"Many might also think that we can't work at normal capacity or that they need to treat us differently and think of us as 'special'."

Daniel is grateful for being given the opportunity to prove himself at Ernst & Young.

Partner and head of Human Capital at Ernst & Young in Singapore, Mr Grahame Wright, said Daniel went through the same interview process as other applicants. His disability was no issue.

"His academic results, positive outlook, talent and drive show that he fits well in our team," he told The New Paper, describing Daniel as "bubbly".

"He showed that he is capable and our job is to help him use his talent to be successful in his career."

He added that there are other employees with various impairments.

In Ernst & Young, handicap-friendly facilities like a washroom with sliding doors have made things easier for Daniel.

HELP

Minor adjustments were made to help him. For example, his desk, near the door, has been positioned to allow easy access.

Every day, the tea lady fills a kettle on his desk so that he does not have to move to get water.

His colleagues are also mindful of his condition and offer to buy lunch every day so that they can eat together in the pantry or Daniel can eat at his desk. Otherwise, they make sure that lunch spots are wheelchair and handicap-friendly.

Mr Wright, 44, said the staff went through a training session to help them understand and better interact with the disabled.

Daniel hopes that working will teach him a sense of independence. He wants to be less reliant on his parents.

"I so feel sad that I need to depend on them for my most basic needs. But I know if I try to deal on my own beyond my capability, it will break their hearts should anything happen to me," he said.

"I can only try my best to be independent and remain optimistic. Every challenge can be overcome if we believe."

Looking into the future, Daniel is also resigned to the fact that he might never find a life partner.

He said: "I don't wish for too much when it comes to finding a girlfriend. I think it is unlikely that a girl will be accepting of my condition and I am okay with that.

"I am already a liability to my parents, I don't want to be a liability to my wife. Let fate decide."