Interview from Singapore (Part 2)

Interview with Jack Ho of Singapore Management University, Singapore, Part II
In Part I of the interview with Jack Yong Ho of Singapore Management University, we came to understand that some nations approach disability services in higher education without a comprehensive law that mandates services. In Part II of this interview, Jack explains how he became involved in addressing the needs of those with disabilities at his University.

While editing a University journal several years ago, Jack encountered a student with a disability who was struggling academically due to a visual impairment and also had some difficulty requesting accommodations. The student did not have any visible signs of disability so his request for services met with considerable skepticism.

Disability services was non-existent, and the student had needed to go all the way to the management of the university to get accommodations. Presenting the matter as an injustice, Jack wrote to the President of the University to provide more support and to formalize a process. Jack was then asked to form a committee to identify needs and to prepare a proposal on the matter. After nine months, he secured a budget for diversity and inclusion and Jack is now a member of the University’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and is its Assistant Director.

Jack explained that Singapore’s cultural context emphasizes pragmatism, so ideas that move issues forward must be feasible and results-oriented. Serving such a small slice of the population must be part of a broader effort, and Jack has expressed that the “main work is not to serve those who are marginalized but those who are part of mainstream groups to build a strong community and advance education so people become more receptive to the needs of people with disabilities.

With this kind of knowledge, it appears that many good things are happening on these fronts at SMU. Universal design is already incorporated in building codes, so they now enjoy a “new and most accessible campus.”

Jack is quoted on their website as follows: “Inclusive attitudes and behaviors are, by no means, a natural consequence of diversity. It requires learning, understanding and lots of practice. SMU's approach is refreshing because we often learn, talk about and celebrate differences. This appreciation for diversity gives each of us the latitude to be Different, and it adds a new dimension to what we mean when we say Discover A Different U.”

What is striking about Jack’s comments is the encapsulation of his own experience in what he has become and how he acquired a new role at the University to accomplish something very progressive. Through Jack’s concern and interest, disability services is now a clear process at the University. However, to make this happen required an approach that broadened the focus within the areas of diversity and inclusion. This appears to be a most effective way to move a university and perhaps, in time, a nation forward on issues of disability. To further this, Jack has been part of what is referred to as a “glue” series of presentations that has brought in local professionals and those from other parts of the world to talk about diversity and inclusion and disability. This series included our own Amanda Kraus, Chair of AHEAD’s Standing Committee on Diversity.

We are most grateful to have Jack Yong Ho as a member of AHEAD and also as the newest member of AHEAD’s Standing Committee on Member Development. With his visionary approach to disability issues through diversity and inclusion, we know that he will not only continue to contribute to his university and his country but now to the world.