Breaking down 'disability' barrier
WHEN strangers run into Edwin Khoo, 37, who is blind from birth, they react in one of two ways. Either they are overly friendly and concerned or they are awkward.
"Just be natural," he said. "Be sensitive, but treat people with disabilities the way you'd treat everyone else."
Now there will be a huge space in Redhill - about 30,000 sq m, the size of more than five football fields - meant exactly for the kind of interaction that Mr Khoo is talking about.
It is meant for everyone - those with disabilities and those without them - to just rub shoulders. The site was unveiled yesterday by SG Enable, an agency which provides services for those with disabilities, and will be ready in the second half of next year.
The centre, which does not have a name yet, will also provide employment services and training facilities.
Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, who was the guest of honour at yesterday's event, said: "We didn't want this place just to be an exclusive place for persons with disabilities, as if it is a part that is divorced from the larger society and community.
"In the design of this place, we consciously want to make sure that the residents in and around this area, the people that are coming to this area, will also have the opportunity to come by and understand this community, work with this community... We do not want to see the community of persons with disabilities as an isolated example at one corner of Bukit Merah."
SG Enable is in discussions with at least 10 organisations, including voluntary welfare organisations and SingTel, to see how they can be a part of this space.
The site could also have a supermarket and banks.
The executive director of the Society for the Physically Disabled, Abhimanyau Pal, said: "Activities at this centre will provide opportunities for people with disabilities to interact with able-bodied individuals, and vice versa."
That is exactly what Mr Khoo wants: "I don't think there is a specific formula that you have to follow so as not to offend or hurt a person with disability. Generally, be a bit mindful and sensitive. But we are all just human - it's a matter of observing and just seeing how it goes."