Youths with Disabilities Promote Inclusion in Schools | SPD - Singapore

Youths with Disabilities Promote Inclusion in Schools


Joshua and Zi Lin, founders of Team Alluvial.

Joshua Ong, 22 and Teo Zi Lin, 21, first got acquainted through the Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Foundation Scholarship for Persons with Disabilities in 2016 which was administered by SPD. Joshua and Zi Lin were among the three award recipients that year. The two of them became friends after a few conversations, hitting it off almost instantly.

Joshua and Zi Lin’s personal journey have not been easy. Joshua was diagnosed with Juvenile Open-Angle Glaucoma when he was in secondary school, which resulted in severe vision loss in both eyes and many trips to the hospital for surgeries. Zi Lin, on the other hand, had a high fever when she was 8, which affected her hearing and speech development.

Sharing their experiences as individuals with disabilities, they talked about issues that they care deeply about – greater social inclusion for people with disabilities, changing the attitudes of the general public towards the special needs community, and the need to increase the public’s confidence in interacting with those with disabilities.

An opportunity to work together and advocate for inclusion arose earlier last year when they were both invited to join our Youth Development Programme (YDP).

YDP is a training and mentorship programme that we introduced, with the full support of APB Foundation, to nurture a new generation of youths to champion disability causes. The year-long programme, which started in February 2017, aims to enable and empower youths with disabilities to give back to society. It comprised training to equip participants with disabilities knowledge and technical skills such as project planning, pitch, and budgeting. The programme also included the execution phase where participants were guided by mentors to implement projects that help enhance inclusion in the community, with a seed funding of $3,000.

Joshua and Zi Lin, who are currently studying at Nanyang Technological University and National University of Singapore respectively, decided that the YDP was an excellent platform to put their thoughts into action, and thus, Team Alluvial was conceived. They secured the $3,000 seed money and won an additional $1,500 in bonus to fund the project.

A blind simulation exercise done for some of the staff from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Team Alluvial looks to bring experiential learning to the public by allowing them to experience daily life as a person with visual impairment, through the use of simulated activities using blindfolds and specially modified glasses, and to understand the proper etiquette when interacting with a person with disabilities. Through workshops that run for two hours per session, the team wants to create an impact amongst the public and to re-shape the landscape of social inclusion. The ultimate goal is a more inclusive Singapore for people with disabilities.

The team carried out their first outreach session in Hougang Secondary School with close to 30 students. While their current focus is to raise awareness for people with visual impairments, the duo hopes to expand their scope to other disability areas such as hearing impairments and physical disabilities. Two sessions were held with a class size of 20 and 15 students for the first and second session respectively.

Over two sessions, close to 30 students from Hougang Secondary School got to know more about the disabled community.

“What started off as a simple idea to spread disability awareness has materialised into a project that has great potential to grow and impact more people. Being able to witness and support Zi Lin and Joshua’s project has been nothing short of exciting,” said Ms Rachel Loh, SPD’s social worker, who has been working and aiding Team Alluvial since its inception.

In 21 December last year, they did a blind simulation programme for the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Engaged to equip and allow the staff of the Public Service Division of the PMO, Team Alluvial planned and executed the programme which involved mobility training and a blind navigational experience. Close to 25 staff from the PMO participated in the course in a single session which lasted for two hours.

Close to 25 staff from the PMO attended a one-day workshop organised by Team Alluvial.

“We hope that Team Alluvial can promote awareness regarding the inclusiveness of people with disabilities through the cultivation and empowerment of inclusive minds. Our programme takes a holistic approach, which allows participants to dive right into life as a person with disabilities,” said Joshua.

The closing ceremony of the Youth Development Programme (YDP) was held on 3 March 2018 at the National Library of Singapore. It celebrated a year-long effort of our youths (such as Team Alluvial) to enhance inclusion. Through these efforts, the youths have demonstrated boundless creativity and tenacity.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Team Alluvial or to be a volunteer, please contact