The Disabled in Singapore: Second Class Citizens?



6.30pm:      Registration (outside Tembusu College Multi-purpose Hall)

6.50pm:      All to be seated in Tembusu College Multi-purpose Hall

7.00pm:      Dr Kelvin Pang, Master of Tembusu College, will introduce the Tembusu Forum

7.05pm:      Professor Tommy Koh, Rector of Tembusu College, will introduce the topic and speakers

7.15pm:      Ms Cassandra Chiu

7.30pm:      Mr Edmund Wan

7.45pm:      Ms Ang Bee Lian

8.00pm:      Question & Answer session with students

8.50pm:      Concluding remarks by speakers and Chair

9.00pm:      End of forum



Ms Ang Bee Lian has many years of experience in policy making, programme design and service operations with a focus on services in the social sector. Trained as a social worker, she also has a Masters in Social Policy & Planning from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Ms Ang is currently the Director of Social Welfare and Director-General Social Welfare (Designate) at the Ministry of Social and Family Development in Singapore.

Ms Ang held senior management appointments in the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, and the Ministry of Social and Family Development. She was the Chief Executive Officer of the National Council of Social Service from 2007 to 2013. Among the distinguished leaders in the social sector, she seeded and developed some of the policies and programmes that were key to the growth of Singapore’s social sector.

She has been instrumental in bringing statutory social work services to a higher level of professionalism, and with wider community involvement and participation. She was a visiting expert at the UN Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in Tokyo in 2002. She was also awarded the Outstanding Social Worker Award in 2000, the Public Administration Medal (Silver) in 2002 and the Public Administration Medal (Gold) in 2018.

Ms Ang is a teacher and trainer for social work and social services. She is also a much sought after mentor and was conferred the Leader Mentor’s Award in 2003, by the Global Leadership and Mentoring Congress in Singapore. Her insights on the current social sector issues are available at: . They have been published into two books titled Letters to Social Work Students (Volume 1) and Social Insights (Volume 2).

For the forum, Ms Ang will be sharing on improving the life of persons with disabilities, supporting their caregivers and building a community that is more caring and inclusive.


Ms Cassandra Chiu is a Singaporean Psychotherapist, Social Advocate, and Author. Ms Chiu manages The Safe Harbour Counselling Centre and works with individuals experiencing Depression and Anxiety.

Ms Chui was the first woman to use a Guide Dog in Singapore and is known for her advocacy when the social environment was not quite ready. The challenges she faced led to her passion in advocating for and creating equal opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. Her vision as a person living with blindness is to change what it means to be disabled in Asia for the individual, the community and society.

Ms Chiu has been interviewed by various media outlets, and regularly writes about disabilities. Her works have been featured on The Straits Times, 50 Years of ASEAN and The World Economic Forum’s Agenda. Her book A Place for Us, a narrative nonfiction, was launched in March 2019.

Ms Chiu is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, Social Innovation Park Fellow, and a recipient of The Singapore Woman Award.

For the forum, Ms Chiu will share on experiences of persons with vision impairment, and how the disabled can partake in a first class life in Singapore.


Mr Edmund Wan is currently the President of the Handicaps Welfare Association (HWA), an Executive Member of Seletar Hills Estate East Neighbourhood (SHENC), and an alumni Council Member of the North East Community Development Council (NECDC). He is also a Board of Governance (BOG) Member of the Methodist Church of Singapore (Chinese).

Prior to joining the social service sector in Singapore, Mr Wan worked for 28 years in the banking industry, first as the Vice President of Citibank, and as the head of MIS (Management Information System) and Information Technology Center, overseeing north and south Asia. His last position was Senior Vice President of Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation.

Mr Wan contracted polio at the tender age of one and has always shown a great passion to help the disadvantaged. He decided to leave the corporate world in the early 1990s to help the disadvantaged, despite a sharp drop in career perks and remuneration.

Mr Wan retired from the Spastic Children's Association of Singapore (SCAS), now known as Cerebral Palsy Alliance of Singapore (CPAS), as its Executive Director. He then joined the Singapore Association for the Visually Handicap (SAVH) in early 2007, to help in the running and managing of the Association.

As an advisory member of the BCA Universal Code of Access, Mr Wan works to update, promote and ensure compliance of our built environment with the recent updated Code. Edmund is also very experienced with the Code of Governance in the social service sector. In fact, he was involved when the Code was first drafted, then introduced to the sector.

Mr Wan was awarded the NGO Leadership & Excellence Award at the CMO 6th Asia Conference on 5 August 2016. The HWA was awarded the Governance Award in 2012.

Apart from helping to uplift the lives of people with special needs, as encapsulated in the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Person with Disabilities (UNCRPD), Mr Wan advocates for healthy living and counts swimming and brisk walking as part of his other routine. Mr Wan is married with one son.

For the forum, Mr Wan will address the following:

Inequality and disparity exist everywhere, regardless of race, religion, skin colour, qualifications and even our place of birth or citizenship.

Those with disabilities cannot move ahead if we consider ourselves as second class citizens, and give up our hopes and aspirations. We are the citizens of Singapore and we should aspire to fulfil our dreams together. The 50-year history of the Handicaps Welfare Association is witness to many such efforts and achievements.

We should never feel or view ourselves as a “second class” issue. It will not help us move forward positively, if we feel this way.



The Tembusu (Fagraea fragrans) is a large evergreen tree in the family Gentianaceae. It is native to Southeast Asia. Its trunk is dark brown, with deeply fissured bark, looking somewhat like a bittergourd. It grows in an irregular shape from 10 to 25m high. Its leaves are light green and oval in shape. Its yellowish flowers have a distinct fragrance and the fruits of the tree are bitter tasting red berries, which are eaten by birds and fruit bats.