More companies tap Open Door Fund to hire disabled

SINGAPORE : More companies are tapping the Open Door Fund to hire the disabled.

Since it was set up in July 2006, 79 companies have tapped the fund, which provides subsidies of up to $100,000.

Of these companies, 22 came on board in the last eight months.

26—year—old Eddlie Neo sustained head injuries seven years ago in a gang fight.

He slipped into a coma for seven months and thought all was lost.

"Gone, (my) future all gone, because I was lying on the bed, I can’t move, (though) can talk & see, but I cannot work," said Neo, a physically—disabled job seeker.

Neo can now look after himself and get around on his own.

Last year, he picked up IT skills at the Society for the Physically Disabled but is still looking for a job.

"I see a lot of people who are worse off than me, and I decided to carry on with my life. I hope companies’ bosses will accept (workers who are) wheelchair—bound, that’s the main thing. If they don’t accept this, those who are on wheelchair can’t (find) work," said Neo.

Neo’s dream is to open a bar that hires those who are physically—disabled.

"I was a bartender before, so I’m interested in this kind of jobs. (I hope to) give them a chance to support themselves and show that people with disabilities can work and lead a normal life," said Neo.

36—year—old Juraimi Jafar, who was born with cerebral palsy, is also working to land a permanent job.

He has never worked full—time and gets by with a $100 allowance as a trainee packer.

He knows he has to earn his own keep with a secure job.

He said: "If my parents (are gone), then I need to take care of myself. Otherwise, who’s going to take care of me."

Juraimi and Neo are among the disabled in Singapore who badly need a job.

While more companies have been tapping the Open Door Fund to make this possible, the numbers do not appear encouraging.

Only 79 companies have done so over the past four years.

"A lot of time, the misconception or the fear of not knowing how to react, how to talk to a person on a wheelchair, for example, or how to talk to a person who’s blind. It’s this poor understanding of how to relate to a person with disability," explained Chia Woon Yee, director of Technology and Vocational Training at the Society for Physically Disabled.

About 400 physically—disabled people have found long—term employment, thanks to the Open Door Fund. — CNA /ls