Archive for the ‘18 Exploring Disability Studies’ Category

Editorial – “Exploring Disability Studies in Singapore: Reflections on methodology”

Kuansong Zhuang, Victor

Image still taken from the video, Some Sit on Earth, which tells of Disabled Peoples’ International Founding in 1981. The image has a table, where 5 men are seated. The background has a large sign saying Disabled Peoples’ International First World Congress 30 November – 4 Dec 1981, Singapore. Ron Chandran-Dudley, the Singaporean founder chairperson, sits on the extreme left. [1]

As a field of study, disability studies has in the last thirty years seen increased interest and exponential growth in academic institutions in Britain and America. However, disability studies is very much nascent in Singapore despite our common shared origins in the international disability movement. What then does doing disability studies mean and how would it look like in Singapore? (more…)


Read Full Post »

“My experiences and perspectives on the lack of empathy in psychiatry”

Nurul Fadiah Johari

Amidst the growing interest in public discourse on mental health and emphasis on fighting stigma towards mental illness, we see a dominant type of narrative emerging – one where the patient receives psychiatric treatment and regains a “normal” course of life. While this narrative is useful in challenging the idea that mentally ill people cannot lead normal lives, it often fails to examine other more fundamental issues. These include questions of what mental health, madness and recovery mean, especially through definitions which may not agree with the dominant paradigms of psychiatric treatment and recovery. In this article, I examine my own experiences of receiving psychiatric diagnoses and treatments, as well as my interactions with mental health professionals. (more…)

Read Full Post »

“Being d/Deaf in Singapore: A Personal Reflection of Deaf Culture and Identity”

Phoebe Tay

At the top of the picture is a sign that says “Singapore Sign School for the Deaf”. Above the English words are Chinese characters. The people in the photo below the sign make up a class of Deaf students. Some are sitting and others are standing.

“SEE is good for learning English because it includes all the grammatical aspects of English such as past tense. SgSL is broken English just like Singlish![1]


“No! SEE is not a language but a system/code. SgSL is a true language!”


I vividly recall the summer of 2016. I attended the Singapore National Deaf Youth Camp that occurred from May 20 to 22, 2016 as part of my 7-week internship at the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf). Through observations and my interactions with the camp participants, I realized that a hybrid of different languages and manual communication systems were being used by different individuals in Singapore to communicate with one another. These included Singapore Sign Language (SgSL), American Sign Language (ASL), Pidgin Signed English (PSE), Signing Exact English II (SEE-II) and spoken English. It was all very fascinating to observe. (more…)

Read Full Post »

“Universal Design: Beyond the exclusive “Barrier-Free” labels”

Fiona Tan

Seeing red: an unfortunately all-too-common sight waiting for someone, often not a wheelchair user, to emerge from the universal bathroom.
Image shows the door of a universal bathroom. It is closed, presumably with someone using it.

Staring at the red keyhole intensely as if willing it to turn green, several sarcastic quips had formulated in my mind. Perhaps I would enlighten the emerging non-disabled person that the symbol on the door meant that it was for wheelchair-users, not simply a caricature of a person who is well-endowed in the pelvic region.[1] After ten minutes during which no one had emerged or entered the empty toilets nearby which unfortunately had doors too narrow for my wheelchair to pass through, a person emerged without any visible walking difficulties. My throat constricted. I was reduced to wide-eyed glaring, which had the same impact on the emerging figure as my earlier intense staring at the keyhole – none whatsoever. (more…)

Read Full Post »

“Cripping the Church: A Personal Reflection on Disability and Religion”

Jacqueline Woo

Image is a screenshot from a special needs ministry at a Church in Singapore featuring the words on the left “Special Needs Ministry, 8.30am, Every Sunday, Auditorium 4-7 (Faithfulness)”. On the right of the words, a boy in a blue t-shirt kisses the forehead of a lady.

It is often assumed that a writer on the topic of disability would have had a deep and intimate experience with the human condition, whether personally, or through a loved one in the family or a circle of close friends. For me, it is indeed the case.

I have a neurological movement disorder, characterised mainly by strong involuntary movements, since the age of three or four. It started with a limping gait and frequent grouses of fatigue, along with a puzzling strain on my vocal cords. As medical check-ups and tests went underway, my family and I began to realise that this was no ordinary fleeting condition. Instead, it would have profound and chronic implications on every aspect of my life in the years to come. (more…)

Read Full Post »

“Looking at ‘d’ art: Fab or fad?”

Alvan Yap

I have a disability; in fact, it’s “official”, as evinced by my transport concession card with the SG Enable logo on it. For years, I held an editorial job; in fact, I worked on fiction and poetry books, which presumably pinned me squarely in the literary arts field. Yet I do not remember having ever encountered or entertained the notion of “disability arts” until last year. In fact, I had never thought about it.

So am I part of the disability arts community? How is disability arts different from mainstream arts anyway? What value can disabled artists bring to the larger arts community? Is there a disability arts movement in Singapore in the first place? Well, I don’t really know. Still, after giving it some thought, let me discuss disability arts as a layperson, albeit one who has dipped various toes into assorted arts puddles – as a writer, editor, dramaturg and photographer. (more…)

Read Full Post »