The power of shared perspectives - Service-learning reflections from a skills training initiative supporting Persons with Intellectual Disabilities

This conference paper presents the reflections of Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) students and the staff members of their Community Partner organisation, relating to their experiences in a Service-Learning initiative supporting the employability and self-advocacy of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (PWIDs). In Singapore, PWIDs face discrimination in the job market due to a lack of awareness and understanding from the general public. Hence, the students-led service-learning initiative The Levelled Field (TLF) was set up to provide a safe space for PWIDs to develop in-demand skill sets for better employment opportunities. Through its pilot run, PWID youths were tasked with creating several employment-related deliverables using Canva, a popular graphic design software. The core objective of TLF is to provide skills training to support the employability and self-advocacy PWIDs. Additionally, TLF aims to execute the principles of service learning in which students contribute their time and resources in meaningful service activities, while promoting the students’ academic learning, personal growth, and civic responsibility. A post-pilot survey of ten students and three staff members from the Community Partner organisation was conducted to gather their reflections for a thematic analysis. The Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle (KELC) served as the theoretical framework for formulating the survey questions.

The analysis revealed three major themes: (1) Development of understanding for PWIDs; (2) Appreciation for community-based learning and the value of service; and (3) Attitude towards inclusive employability.

Students and staff shared the general consensus that PWIDs demonstrated the potential of learning the relevant in-demand skills. Journeying with TLF, the students and staff learned to appreciate how to serve the community meaningfully by learning to address on-the-ground needs. The reflections would be considered as TLF designs its second run, amplifying the success factors which are aligned with the major themes revealed. Ultimately, their shared perspectives had, in turn, spurred TLF to recognise the importance of having an inclusive employment environment in Singapore — leaving no one behind.

Keywords: People with Intellectual Disabilities (PWIDs), Community Engagement, Experiential Learning, Employment, Self-Advocacy

Tags:Diversity and Inclusion

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