MARUAH letter to ST Forum on UN disability convention

MARUAH has written a letter to the Straits Times Forum, following the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/forum-letters/story/further-ways-ensure-equality-disabled-people-20130724

Further ways to ensure equality for disabled people

LAST Saturday’s report (“S’pore ratifies UN accord on disabled rights”) and the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s press statement last Friday highlighted Singapore’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

We welcome Singapore’s efforts to ensure that children and adults with disabilities will have equal rights in our society. We are also hopeful that because of the CRPD, the Compulsory Education Act will be amended soon to cover children and young adults with disabilities.

While this ratification is good news, we need to highlight some areas of concern.

The Government’s reservation in providing health insurance for persons with disabilities is troubling. The rationale is that the Government already has Medifund, provides heavy subsidies for hospital care and cannot intervene in the commercial sector.

These do not go far enough to ensure that affordable health care is within the reach of many disabled Singaporeans, both young and old, whether with mental or physical disabilities.

The Government can prohibit discrimination by ensuring that health-care insurance is made available for persons with disabilities. It can do so by providing incentives to the insurance companies, removing the goods and services tax on equipment aids for disabled people, and introducing an anti-discriminatory law for their long-term protection.

The Government’s rationale for the reservation in “guaranteeing the free expression of the will of persons with disabilities as electors”, because it already provides a presiding officer to assist, is unacceptable.

Disabled voters should be given the choice to appoint a trusted person to accompany them to the ballot box. The presiding officer can be the witness to the process as the ballot is cast by the trusted person.

We support the Government on its Mental Capacity Act, but ask for transparent governance processes to be instituted over the actions and roles of the trustees appointed to take care of the legal rights of persons with disabilities.

The current complaints mechanism as a means to check abuse is not adequate enough protection for the vulnerable among persons with disabilities.

The ministry is to be congratulated for moving on the CRPD. But we hope these reservations can be removed soon so that the disabled person has equal rights as any other.

Braema Mathi (Ms)
President
Maruah

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