I have travelled to Asia more in the last 4 years that I had ever before. Having a partner who is originally from Malaysia is probably the main reason why. 

I must admit I didn’t used to like travelling to Asia very much. Don’t get me wrong because Asia is a truly fascinating place. It’s bewildering and blows my mind how diverse the region is. I would love nothing but to go exploring but wheelchair access in most parts of a typical Asian city is so very limited. It’s pretty much impossible to go anywhere without assistance. 

And I really like my independence. 

It’s no wonder that people with disabilities are rarely seen out in public areas in Asia. Here is where we are largely considered “charity cases” and/or should be protected in the safety of home. 

When I was contacted by the National Council of Social Service of Singapore and invited to speak at their “We Are Able!” conference last month, I was truly pleased and excited. 

Singapore committed to do more for people with disabilities and ratified their agreement with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) last August. It was basically a promise to create an inclusive Singapore for persons with disabilities with full support from the government and the Prime Minister himself. 

That’s a pretty big deal. You see, I have learnt that when the government and/or the Prime Minister says “Do it” in Singapore, it gets done post haste. 

Over the weeks leading up to the conference, I was given a lot of information and preamble to Singapore’s vision. It was more academic than I am used to but clearly a vision of creating what we have in New Zealand. 

It would be so wonderful if other countries in the region would emulate Singapore. I say that not only from the point of view of a person with disability but also that our population is ageing. Our parents, friends, relatives and ourselves are needing more accessibility. 

I met some incredible people at the conference in Singapore; young people trying to live a normal life despite disabilities and those dedicated to making this vision come true. They are all inspirational in my eyes. 

Trust Singapore to pioneer an effort like this in Asia. Good on them.