First Centre of Expertise for Disability Sports launched in Sengkang
Launch of Centre of Expertise for Disability Sports kickstarts efforts to draw disabled to sports
For over five years now, Teo Choon Khang, 8, has been faithfully attending swimming lessons weekly under swimming coach Danny Ong, who has more than 20 years of experience in coaching disabled persons.
And while Choon Khang, who has cerebral palsy, truly enjoys the 45-minute one-on-one sessions, the Primary One pupil from Cantonment Primary School does not have much interaction with others in the pool.
That will soon change, with the introduction of the Yes I Can! swim programme yesterday at the ActiveSG Sengkang Sports Centre.
The scheme, which caters to people with disabilities, comprises three public programmes and one for special education schools.
The public programmes are either dedicated lesson plans for people with physical disabilities, or with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder.
Class sizes are 12 or 18 students, and cost between $120 and $200, with classes starting in Sengkang this month.
Choon Khang's father, Wui Seng, was "grateful" that such swimming programmes are being introduced.
"We are likely to sign up (for the swimming programmes), even though this place is a bit far from our home," said the 40-year-old franchise consultant, who lives in the Cantonment area.
"But, even though the swimming programmes here are more economical than Choon Khang's current lessons, we should still be continuing with Danny because of the rapport he has built with us."
The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) yesterday also unveiled the ActiveSG Sengkang Sports Centre as its first Centre of Expertise for Disability Sports, where there will be programmes and facilities that are suitable for people with disabilities.
At least four other centres, in Queenstown, Toa Payoh, Tiong Bahru (Delta Sports Complex) and Jurong West, will be set up in the next five years, offering sports such as cerebral palsy football.
Sport Singapore chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin said: "Right now, we can easily take up to 1,500 people... For all the possible programmes that we will run. But, even if there are more (interested people), we will be more than ready to facilitate."
The centres and the swim programme are among the 18 key initiatives of the Disability Sports Master Plan, aimed at improving access and opportunities for sports participation for the disabled.
Other recommendations include inclusive and adapted PE lessons in schools, more competitions where both the able-bodied and disabled compete together, and coaches' education.
The aim is also eventually to make Singapore a more inclusive society.
MCCY Minister Grace Fu said: "We have a lot of work to do and we hope through our volunteers, voluntary welfare organisations and special education schools, we can help people with special needs better integrate into our society.
"Today's launch is an important step towards that goal. We hope this would let Singaporeans know... People with all abilities can participate."
Of the Sengkang Centre of Expertise, Paralympian swimmer Theresa Goh said: "It would be a game-changer for not just disability sports, but also sports in Singapore."