My Uncle – Singapore’s Champion for Human Rights and a Voice for the Disabled

My Uncle – Singapore’s Champion for Human Rights and a Voice for the Disabled

On 18th April 2014, I was in Singapore to celebrate my uncle’s 80th birthday. Over the years, my uncle, Ron Chandran-Dudley, received many awards, both nationally and internationally. His energy and devotion to protect the human rights of people with disabilities have led to major policy changes, thus improving the life of people with disabilities in the global arena.

Uncle Ron was born on 18 April 1934, After an outstanding academic performance at Raffles Institution in Singapore, Uncle Ron was accepted to study medicine in England. However a bad accident on the rugby field in 1952 left him totally blind, thus ending his dream of becoming a brain surgeon.
In 1953 as a 19-year-old, Uncle Ron became a volunteer for the Singapore Association for the Blind [now called the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped]. He distributed food, clothing and toys to the visually handicapped in Singapore. This raised a number of questions in his mind. He thought, “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?” He decided that things must change and he vowed to fight for the rights of the people with disabilities by educating the community to accept people with disabilities as viable members of society.

He enrolled for a degree in social anthropology at the prestigious London School of Economics(LSE). After his graduation, he returned to Singapore and he became the General Secretary for the Singapore Association for the Blind. Uncle Ron fought to give the blind a voice, and he did that by instituting policies stipulating that at least half of the association’s executive committee, as well as its president, be made up of the visually handicapped.

Uncle Ron also fought to have blind children remain 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. After spending five years at the Blind Association and bringing about major changes in Singapore, Uncle Ron left 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 dedicated his life in various areas of social service. He was involved in clinical counseling and counseling drug abusers. He trained after-care officers for the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association. Later he became vice president and volunteer counselor at the Singapore Association of Mental Health. He also served for many years as the president of the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped.

One of Ron’s major achievements in the global arena was his involvement in the founding of Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI). In 1980, Uncle Ron was a delegate at the Rehabilitation International 13th World Conference in Canada. At this Conference, Uncle Ron with 13 other 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. DPI is now affiliated with the United Nations and is funded by several international organizations. It is made up of people with disabilities who work to change negative attitudes toward – and policies that affect – the world’s 500 million disabled.

Uncle Ron was elected first chairperson of this organization and he tirelessly dedicated his time and energy 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.

Despite experiencing many setbacks in his life, Uncle Ron worked tirelessly to tear down barriers faced by people with disabilities. A day after his birthday whilst having a scotch with him, I asked him what was the secret to his success in bringing about positive change in the global arena. He told me it’s because of “GIFFY” – God, Immediate Family, Friends, You (referring to anyone he works with to bring about change in the world”.

I am proud of my uncle. Despite facing many challenges, he was never afraid to face these challenges head on. I have learned a lot from him.

Enjoy this video clip of him that was on TV a few years ago (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0T2twepn6w)

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One Comment on “My Uncle – Singapore’s Champion for Human Rights and a Voice for the Disabled

  1. I am so proud of him. He is more the a gentleman. May The Lord continue to be you strength. You are an inspiration to many.

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