Singapore’s National Library Board (NLB) has partnered with the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) to create a satellite digitisation centre, providing new learning and work opportunities for people with special needs. The Digital Services Centre (DSC), located at the Enabling Village in Redhill, Singapore, was opened in December 2015. Individuals with autism are employed at the DSC as Digital Services Assistants to digitise documents from the NLB’s heritage collections.
Fourteen individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder are currently employed at the DSC. Through this partnership, Digital Services Assistants have digitised more than 1.06 million pages of heritage materials for the library. This programme has extended the reach of archival content by making it digitally available to academic researchers and the public.
The NLB is an organisation that advocates for social inclusion and equal opportunities for all. The NLB worked closely with ARC job coaches to break down the scope of the digitisation process into achievable tasks, adjusting to the learning needs of their employees with autism. The structured training programme, which includes strong support from the job coaches and NLB, has helped to improve the performance output of the Digital Services Assistants.
The collaboration between NLB and ARC exemplifies the significant role libraries play as advocates for inclusive hiring. Through regular employment with NLB, the Digital Services Assistants have gained greater confidence in their ability integrate into the world of work and to contribute to the community.
One of the Digital Service Assistants, Soh Jun Yi, Mitchell, explained what he appreciates about his position at DSC: “I enjoy working with computers and high-tech machines. It’s what I’ve loved since I was young.” Li Xin Yang, another Digital Service Assistant expressed the benefits of his role: “Working gives me peace of mind. I can focus without distractions and improve my work skills.”
In recognition of the NLB’s commitment to inclusive hiring practices and outreach to people with special needs, the Minister for Social and Family Development presented the NLB with the 2019 Enabling Employers Leader Award.