Champion of the Disabled

Posted by under Public Forums on 11 December 2004

Think Centre is conferring the honorary Human Rights Award to Ron Chandran-Dudley - Singapore' s Champion for the disabled and famous human rights activist.

Human Rights Award 2004

Ron Chandran-Dudley
Champion of the Disabled

Ron's energy and devotion to the causes of the disabled is matched only by his sincerity, eloquence and warmth. Think Centre aims to confer the HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD to outstanding Singaporeans who have contributed to the promotion and protection of human rights. In 2001, he received the Public Service Award.

Ron Chandran-Dudley was blinded at 19, inspires all with a simple message that physical handicaps are not necessarily a lifetime of dependence.

Ron Chandran-Dudley was born on 18 April 1934, After an outstanding academic performance at Raffles Institution in Singapore, Ron was accepted to study medicine in England. He had planned to become a brain surgeon. In 1952, an accidental kick in the head on a rugby field impaired his vision.

April 1953, 19-year-old Ron Chandran-Dudley, make his way to the Singapore Association for the Blind [now called the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped]. Ron become a volunteer who distributes food, clothing and toys to the visually handicapped of Singapore.

Ron asked himself. Can we only offer the blind white canes, badges, food; clothing and medical care? Why can't we give the blind back their dignity? What about training them to do something useful so they can give up begging and learn to be independent? I must do something to change things, he vowed, to educate the community to accept disabled people as viable members of society.

He volunteered his services at the Singapore Association for the Blind and later enrolled for a degree in social anthropology at the prestigious London School of Economics(LSE). After his graduation, he returned to Singapore. Ron became the general secretary for the Singapore Association for the Blind. Ron gave the blind a voice, and instituted policies stipulating that at least half of the association's executive committee, as well as its president, be made up of the visually handicapped.

Ron developed a system that enabled blind children to live at home, attend primary school at the association, and then integrate fully into the regular school system at the secondary level. He paved the way for them to become full participants in society as telephone operators, clerks, insurance agents, teachers and proficient computer users, unlike the older generation who remained illiterate and dependent.Ron left the Singapore Association for the Blind after five years to study vocational rehabilitation counseling and psychotherapy as a Fulbright Scholar at the State University of New York at Albany.

In 1971 he returned to Singapore and, during the next ten years, branched out into other areas of social service. He counseled drug abusers and trained after-care officers for the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association and became vice president and volunteer counselor at the Singapore Association of Mental Health. Since 1980 he has been president of the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped.

One of Ron's major achievements is his participation in the founding of Disabled Peoples' International (DPI). Affiliated with the United Nations and funded by several international organizations, DPI is made up of disabled people who work to change negative attitudes toward - and policies that affect - the world's 500 million disabled.

DPI originated at the 1980 Rehabilitation International 13th World Conference in Canada when Ron and 13 other disabled delegates felt they were not getting an equal say in the decisions made by this organization of rehabilitation professionals. The 14 decided to hold the founding congress for DPI in Singapore the following year.

Ron was elected first chairperson of the international organization that was dedicated to bringing dignity to the disabled by enabling them to get the necessary training and education so that they can be responsible for their own lives. The DPI's message influenced the direction of policy for the disabled in education, employment and accessibility in a number of countries, including Australia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Canada, Sweden and the Philippines.

Ron also contributed significantly to the founding of Singapore's Vocational Assessment and Placement Centre (VAPC). A multidisciplinary assessment team, consisting of an occupational therapist, a social worker and a psychologist, assesses and evaluates the disabled client's skills and helps him find suitable employment. Since its establishment in 1984, some 230 people have been placed.

For years Ron has worked tirelessly to tear down architectural and attitudinal barriers. His message is simple: the disabled are handicapped only by their environment.

Sources and Relevant Links:

Reader Digest Read the full story from Singapore March 1988 issue

Think Centre International Human Rights Day UN Sec Gen Message

Think Centre International Human Rights Day Think Centre Message

Straits Times S'pore group marks Human Rights Day

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