Enabled Futures: Singapore 2016

Enabled Futures: Singapore 2016

21 selected Australian student being welcomed by the Australian High Commissioner Philip Green in Singapore to start their Enabled Futures Journey.
Twenty one selected Australian student being welcomed by the Australian High Commissioner Philip Green in Singapore to start their Enabled Futures Journey.

In January 2016 the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s New Colombo Plan enabled 21 Australian undergraduate students from three institutions, The Australian National University, RMIT University and the University of Canberra, to experience disability and ageing in Singapore as part of their studies.

Across the three universities, students came from Engineering and Industrial Design disciplines. Within their studies, some students have had started learning through ‘experiential’ activities, such as empathy suits that mimic the effects of ageing and assistive technologies.

In travelling this way, it forces you to consider accessibility and inclusivity of an environment, both physical and social, and in that way, gives you a better sense of awareness towards barriers of these – Stephanie Nguyen, Engineering Student from the Australian National University.

The learning journey began before the trip, with students working with us in a pre-departure workshop to learn foundational knowledge about disability and Singaporean culture, such as “Singlish”. Students then made the necessary arrangements for their ‘experiential’ part of the journey. Students elected to put themselves in the position of someone with a particular type of disability or an effect of ageing. Several students took the opportunity  to use a wheelchair for the majority of the trip, including flying from Australia. Travellers who use wheelchairs know that flying is not so straightforward when you are unable to use your legs!

Enabled Futures student Caleb taking on the opportunity to experience travel using a wheelchair
Enabled Futures student Caleb taking on the opportunity to experience travel using a wheelchair.

The schedule in Singapore was overflowing with a range of activities that aimed to enrich the experience for the diverse group of students. For some it was the first time being immersed in the world of disability and ageing. To kick off the in-country program, the Australian High Commissioner in Singapore Mr Philip Green hosted a welcome event for our students. His Excellency outlined the significance of the New Colombo Plan and Australia’s strong commitment to the well-being of our ageing populations and people with disability.

 

 

 

Over their time in Singapore, students experienced:

  • Singapore’s Enabling Village to understand Singapore’s ’Enabling Master Plan’ for disability and ageing services. They explored a range of assistive/enabling technologies and how universal design can make the physical environment accessible for all.
Enabled Future's student Danny trying out a wheelchair usable shopping trolley.
Enabled Future’s student Danny trying out a wheelchair usable shopping trolley.

 

  • A visit to a rehabilitation unit at a hospital to understand the medical treatments for people who have had strokes or spinal cord injuries.
  • A visit to the Singaporean Deaf Association and received  the opportunity to learn and gain awareness about deaf culture.
Enable Future's visit to Koo Teck Puat Hospital that has incorporated design to make it more friendly and attractive to the general public.
Enable Future’s visit to Koo Teck Puat Hospital that has incorporated design to make it more friendly and attractive to the general public.
  • How design thinking contributed to a more inclusive health system by visiting the new Koo Teck Puat Hospital.
  • Shared culture and joined in recreational activities (sports, singing, dancing etc) with students with disability from a Chaoyang special education school.
  • An understanding of elite sports for people with disability through knowledge exchange with local para athletes and toured human performance centres at SGSports
  • Being immersed in the startup world of social entrepreneurship and innovation. Students attended presentations by leading social enterprises and worked on Design Thinking activities to generate their own facilitated by local open innovation company Padang & Co.
Enabled Future's students working a design thinking exercise with facilitator Adam Lyle.
Enabled Future’s students working through design thinking exercises with local facilitator from Padang & Co. Adam Lyle.
  • Stories of migrant workers to understand a different perspective of a fast pace country. Students got the opportunity to share breakfast with migrant workers who were injured and gained a disability.
Enabled Future's Design Exercise
Enabled Future’s design workshop with students from Singapore and Australia.
  • Developing connections with local students across different institutions including National University of Singapore and Ngee Ann Polytechnics through a human centered design activity.
  • Delving deeper into the topic of empathy and how it can be applied in their own technical professions.
  • Taking a few steps back and looking at the global picture of Sustainable Development Goals, learnt tools to navigate and understand the complexity of our communities as we head towards more inclusive societies.

Ending the trip, our students brought all their newly gained experiences together and presented back to local partners, presenters and facilitators. There was a noticeable shift in the critical thinking of the students from when we first met them. This was an important shift that allowed them to analyse the complexities of disability and ageing in Singapore and Australia. This showed through the deep insights that the students presented, thinking beyond ‘band-aid’ solutions and targeting the root causes that would lead to sustainable change. One of the key topics that the students were inspired to presented on was ‘Invisible Disabilities’ such as a mental illness, a topic that needs more attention to, both in Australian and Singapore.

The Enabled Futures program started successfully in 2016, achieving the objectives of not only the New Colombo Plan and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia, but those of the three consortia universities. It also established a strong cohort of students who are inspired to contribute to building a more enabling and sustainable future for all. Furthermore, students made professional relationships in Singapore and established a foundation of knowledge that they can apply to their careers regardless if it is disability related. Continuous opportunities are being developed to channel their new learnings towards contributing to the rise of social inclusion through Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme and Singapore’s Enabling Master Plan.

 

Here are three short interviews with our students from the program:

Preparation will begin for the next round of Enabled Futures program to increase the impact with Singapore as well as extend the linkages in other countries of the Indo-Pacific Region.

We thank all of who contributed contributed to the program and the experiences of the students – The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Australian National University, RMIT University, the University of Canberra, the local partners in Singapore and our Enabled Team across the region.

Enabled Future's 2016 Program