The disability inclusion movement that began four years ago at Hong Lim Park crossed a major milestone in 2016, as more than 10,000 people joined the Purple Parade, clad in purple and walking together to show support for those with special needs.
The Purple Parade is a movement that champions equal access to education, jobs, transport and social networks for people with disabilities and special needs. In 2015, 7,000 attended the event.
Held this year at Suntec City for the first time, the event was at its most visible in its four years of running, with participants packing the Raffle Boulevard atrium all the way to the Fountain of Wealth circus.
Carnival booths lining Temasek Boulevard provided numerous distractions to passers-by and participants alike, offering games and event-exclusive merchandise to raise funds for various special-needs charities. Shoppers wearing shades of lavender and mauve could also be seen thronging the mall, as retailers offered discounts to anyone walking in while dressed in purple.
The focal point of the parade was the concert stage next to the Fountain of Wealth. From the afternoon till sunset, the stage showcased various inclusive acts: The Purple Symphony, Onwheels Dance Group, ExtraOrdinary Horizons, Redeafination, and talents from various mainstream as well as special schools. As the sun set, the purple-lit landmarks of the Marina Bay area, such as the Singapore Flyer and Millenia Tower, providing a remarkable backdrop as the festivities wound down.
Valerie Chan, 19, a participant from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, said, “I volunteer regularly to broaden my social circle and really enjoy talking to people to understand their special needs. I think over the years, Singaporeans are more open to inclusion but more work needs to be done to further raise awareness as people won’t understand and accept if they are not aware.”
Desmond Tay, 45, who was part of the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Singapore’s contingent, said,“I’ve been attending the parade since it started. The people’s spirit has definitely grown stronger, like how Singaporeans’ attitude towards us has improved.”
Standing on stage with the Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who was the guest of honour, offered shared his vision for advancing disability inclusion in Singapore. “The next challenge is employment: people with special needs, special abilities in the workforce.” He said more employers have to step up to employ the young men and women who leave special schools.