Reflections from The Purple Parade

Singapore

I was in Taiwan the past week and so haven’t had the time to update this space. Before I left for Taiwan, I managed to take some time to attend this event called The Purple Parade.

Now I know the name sounds like it was a gay pride parade, it’s not. It’s an event that aims to raise awareness of disabilities in Singapore by inviting the public to celebrate abilities together with the various disability groups.

Games booths, food, drinks and ice cream stalls created a lively carnival atmosphere. Various organisations also had booths selling merchandise made by their clients. There were balloon sculptures, paintings, tee shirts, and many purple-coloured props on sale. In the centre of it all was this huge stage where the students and clients from the different disability groups and schools put up performances to showcase their talents. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong graced the event. So did a few other local celebrities, including TV actor Chew Chor Meng and singer Stefanie Sun.

Big, big event.

Yet it felt, to me, like way too much noise for too little results. But yes I do understand that my definition of ‘results’ may be quite different from that of the organiser’s.

So afterwards, I was talking to an early-intervention teacher from one of the special schools and wanted to know her opinion on such events. Was it effective in creating an inclusive society? Did she feel that it helped the public to better understand disabilities?

She felt that it was at least effective in raising awareness. This event gives the public an opportunity to interact with, or at least have a glimpse into the lives of, these individuals with disabilities. The platform for interaction has been built and all that is required of members of the public is to take that step in.

She then brought up ‘Light It Up Blue’, an annual event that raises awareness and support for autism. Volunteers station themselves along Orchard Road during the event to hand out leaflets on autism and are ready to explain more about it if passers-by are curious or interested to learn more. On one occasion, a burly male passer-by glared at her as she handed him a leaflet, told her that it was bullshit and proceeded to throw a whole stack of leaflets into the waste bin. That had got her all riled up and so for now, she is glad for anyone who is simply tolerant of these events.

What she shared gave me another perspective on the level of acceptance in Singapore. I suppose we still have a long way to go. Events like The Purple Parade are perhaps what is suitable now for a society like ours.

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