Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Helping those with acquired disabilities

Two schemes offer aid, including rehabilitation, job training, job matching and other pre-employment help
By Kok Xing Hui, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Last Friday, technician Tan Hwee Boon, 50, had his hands amputated after a bout of food poisoning and its treatment led to gangrene. He also needs to have his feet amputated in about two weeks.

Despondent, the father of two teenagers had told The New Paper that he was not sure what he could do for a living.

People who acquire disabilities halfway through life and can no longer do the same job, such as Mr Tan, may draw comfort from two schemes set up in the last year or so to help them.

The Transition Programme for Employment was piloted in June last year and aimed at people below 50 who have spinal cord injuries or strokes. The scheme is delivered by the SPD - formerly the Society for the Physically Disabled - and puts clients through rehabilitation, job training and counselling, and then job matching.

It has since taken in 63 clients and matched nine to jobs.

The other programme, iEnable, was launched in April last year and is helmed by SG Enable, a government-established agency formed to provide services for people with disabilities.

iEnable attaches a case manager to each client to help repair clients' confidence, support them emotionally, prepare them for job interviews, and get them a new job with an employer who understands their needs. It has taken in 51 clients and helped 19 get jobs.

While there are no national figures on people with acquired disabilities losing employment, SG Enable said there are about 300 patients suffering from spinal cord injuries and amputations discharged from hospitals every year.

Acquired disabilities can arise from severe stroke, traffic accidents, or diseases such as diabetes, which may require amputation. Those with new disabilities sometimes cannot carry out the same jobs. There were 6,567 stroke cases in 2013 and studies done in other countries show that only 20.7 per cent remained employed after a stroke, with half of these having had a change of jobs.

Depending on a person's financial situation, iEnable can help him get aid for his daily basic needs and offer pre-employment assistance such as buying new work clothes and helping with transport fees, training and job interviews.

iEnable currently relies on medical social workers from 10 public and community hospitals to refer clients with acquired disabilities to it.

"The range of jobs available is wide. They include PMET (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) positions, (and openings for) laboratory assistants, recruitment consultants, finance executives, administrative assistants, packers, cleaners and kitchen help," said Ms Ku Geok Boon, chief executive officer of SG Enable.

She said that SG Enable already has more than 200 jobs for people with disabilities listed in the Open Door Programme job portal.

Sometimes, mishaps do happen in life, and some of us would inadvertently end up being disabled – could be amputations,...
Posted by Tan Chuan-Jin on Monday, August 24, 2015

He lost hearing, but found footing
By Kok Xing Hui, The Straits Times, 24 Aug 2015

Mr Anthony Loh, 52, was heading home from church in 2012 when he suddenly felt dizzy and could not keep his balance.

He rested in bed at home, but felt the ceiling was spinning. His elderly mother rushed him to hospital, where Mr Loh was found to have lost his hearing. Four months later, he went for cochlear implant surgery.

It helped him to hear again, but life was hardly the same. "I was depressed and self-conscious about the implant," he said in Mandarin.

The device works by sending sounds through a magnetic transmitter worn at the back of the head directly to an implant inside the head, which sends signals to the brain.

It was hard to get used to. Voices sounded different. Even now, he cannot distinguish voices if more than one person talks at the same time.

He found himself becoming angry more often and broke up with his girlfriend of three years.

His father also suffered a stroke that year.

Depressed, Mr Loh later quit his job as a graphics designer at a signage company in March 2013 because he found the stress unmanageable.

For 1-1/2 years, he was jobless and hardly left home, embarrassed about the implant.

He drained his five-figure savings to pay for household expenses, as well as his father's and his medical bills. It was social worker Brian Khor from the iEnable programme who helped him back to his feet, said Mr Loh.

"The financial assistance helped, but you know how they always say that you've got to teach a man to fish? In the early days, Mr Khor watched me cry and listened to me. Then he forced me to leave the house so that I'd get used to being seen with the implant," said Mr Loh.

He gradually regained confidence and his mood improved. iEnable matched him to a part-time job as a quality control officer at Singapore Post, with Mr Khor accompanying him for interviews to provide support and make sure his employer understood his condition.

He said: "Without SG Enable's help, I really don't know where I'd be today. Perhaps staying at home, still jobless. My dad died last month and while I'm sad, I'm stronger now and coping better than when I lost my hearing."

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