Blog Archive

Deaf Grab Drivers – We can do anything but hear

Mr Steven Chong and Mr Aloysius Lee shares their experience driving with Grab.

A report from World Federation of the Deaf (2009) found that out of 93 national deaf organizations around the world, 31 of them still deny Deaf people of their right to drive in their country. allow deaf people to obtain a driver’s license in their country. 

Read what Grab has been doing to enable Deaf drivers here.
Click here for the Mandarin translation.

Yuogan’s Story

My name is Vasuthan Yuogan and I’m born deaf. I’m 21 years old this year. My mother passed away in a tragic car accident when I was three. Unable to accept the loss of my mother, my father drank and smoked excessively, and later developed lung disease. He was also diagnosed with depression when I was eight and was admitted to the Institute of Mental Health. He had no means and ability to care for me. Hence, I have been staying in the Boys’ Home for as long as I can remember.

I’m currently studying Facility and Technology at NITEC. My dream is to be the first Deaf person to succeed in the air-conditioning and refrigeration industry.

My humble achievements would not have been possible without the support of The Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf), as well as my teachers from the Deaf school. They gave me a sense of direction and helped me achieve every little milestone and goal in my life.

“SADeaf has encouraged me to stay strong and emphasised that I need to study hard not only for myself but also for my late mother. One day I will have a place to call home and start a family of my own.”

It’s important for Deaf children to receive essential support to reach their full potential. Please donate generously to SADeaf. Only with sufficient resources to cover the Association’s daily operational expenses, SADeaf can continue their work to run meaningful programmes to benefit and better serve the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community. This may help transform the lives of Deaf people like me so that I may better integrate with society

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My first time attending the Purple Parade

Jason Cayanan (centre of the photo wearing a Merdeaf signboard and holding a bottle of the Purple Tea sponsored by Asia Farm), a SADeaf intern from Republic Polytechnic, details his experience attending the Purple Parade 2019 for the first time. 

The Purple Parade. Sounds funky, doesn’t it? But it isn’t a dance party.

The Purple Parade is a big, big, yearly movement in Singapore, to celebrate the abilities & support the inclusion of people with special needs. This year, the event took place at Suntec City, outdoors, smack dab between Tower’s 1 & 5.

There will be a purple street parade in the proceedings, as well as the setting up of numerous purple stalls: selling toys or snacks, or challenging comers to a game of sorts.

Okay, so maybe it kind of does resemble a party. Not of dance, per se, but maybe of walking; shouting; tambourine-playing; waving about signs and banners; clapping; cheering; whistling; and (most infamously for me, at least) drumming.

Before the event, SADeaf made a video showing folks how to get to the event area, and posted it on SADeaf’s Youtube account.

Even before arriving at the venue, one could already see people in purple shirts gathering around in groups at the nearby Esplanade MRT, and within Suntec City mall itself.

And at the venue itself, it was flooded with participants. They were easily identifiable as participants, and not just people passing by, because they were all wearing purple.

Moving through the crowd was like wading through a flood at a Ribena factory. Almost everybody there wore some shade of purple. Some of them were more lilac than purple. Others were darker & newer-looking. Some of them had shades so warm that they looked almost maroon.

There were numerous stalls about, with purple name boards and fronts and sometimes even giving out purple items.

It was roughly around there that the SADeaf contingent first gathered. First, a few, then a lot. All of them wore purple, of course.

Boxes were dropped in, containing all manner of signs; banners; and sandwich boards displaying the meaning of different SgSL signs, all of them were also purple. Afterwards, we waited. People were loitering around, holding up signs, or a rod holding up a banner, or wearing sandwich boards showing all the different SgSL words  like “Hurry”, “Nice”, “Okay”, “Good”, and etcetera.

And then, the parade started.

The SADeaf contingent didn’t start moving though. Instead, waiting along on an invisible timing, they let other contingents of this plum parade pass by first.

And oh, what variety!

All types of groups participated, not just those that catered to the Deaf:  Health advocates carried around giant purple papier-mâché replicas of thermometers and syringes; an entire contingent of participants in wheelchairs rolled on past us, wearing masks and face paint and other stylish affectations;  a contingent marching for autistic people and other special-needs people with primarily mental differences; and even contingents from big-name banks like OCBC and Citibank.

The Citibank contingent had a particularly eye-catching group decoration, with each of their members wearing a  green-blue and white menagerie of twisted and tied-together balloons, their tips pointing to the sky. They all looked like a pride of colourful balloon-peacocks.

And then, it was time for SADeaf to move.

Following some invisible cue, the SADeaf contingent moved to the start point of our march. We were joined by a contingent from the Taylor & Francis Group and SADeaf’s ambassador – Grab, with them holding up their banner just a few paces behind ours.

There was a purple stage set up at the site, with two Master of Ceremonies introducing each group or company, as their contingent passed by.

The parade didn’t involve just continually walking along, though. Several times, the participants were stopped and asked to smile for the cameras. In one instance, who appeared to be a construction worker on a boom lift, asked us to smile, as he took a picture of us from an aerial perspective.

There was also another moment, where we passed near an overpass. There was a big, white sign that said “LOOK UP”, for there were people on that overpass, pausing their day to look at the participants, many of them with their phones out and aiming at them.

The Master-of-Ceremonies mentioned yet another contingent, this one composed of the students and teachers of Republic Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic, and Temasek Polytechnic, all participating in the Purple Parade for the first time. I tried to crane my head, attempting to catch a glimpse of familiar faces. Alas, there seemed to have been a whole crowd of people in purple, between our contingents.

Also, the steel drumming was really, seriously loud for me. I could feel my eardrums rattling with every strike of the drum, so much so that I had to cover my ears for the rest of the march. 

On a more positive note, there were lots of people cheering us on. Even if we were just walking.

As the participants walked along, our path looped rapidly. They walked from the street outside, to the road under the cover of the mall. They were heading back. And as they were walking back, a whole bunch of people offered them a merry high-five.

And then, when you start thinking the parade has only just begun, it was over.

Back at the starting point again, the participants returned all out signs and banners and sandwich boards back into the boxes they came from. For all the cheer and expense on display, one would think the route would last longer than barely over an hour, and make us go even longer than the confines of one city block. It didn’t this year, but in the future, who knows?

The SADeaf Purple Parade 2019 contingent joined by volunteers, Taylor & Francis Group and our ambassador Grab. 178 participants marched in parade forming the largest contingent SADeaf had.
Click here for more photos.



Press Release: The Singapore Association for the Deaf signs MOU with Grab to empower the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community

  • SADeaf appoints Grab as SADeaf’s Ambassador, a testament to Grab’s contribution to the community.
  • Highlights of partnership includes Grab providing SADeaf beneficiaries access to new economic opportunities and SADeaf providing skills upgrading access for existing Deaf Grab driver and delivery-partners.

Singapore, Friday, 27 September 2019 —The Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Grab to appoint Grab as SADeaf’s Ambassador to form a partnership to promote Deaf awareness and make the Grab platform more accessible and inclusive for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Highlights of the partnership includes a public education campaign and Grab in-app feature enhancements to promote better communications between the public and Deaf partners, as well as skills upgrading opportunities for Grab Deaf partners. The partnership is also one of the many initiatives under Grab’s ‘Grab for Good’ social impact programme which aims to empower people in Singapore to benefit from the fast-growing digital economy and have more choices and opportunities to improve their livelihoods. 

The MOU was signed by Ms Judy Lim, Acting Executive Director for The Singapore Association for the Deaf and Mr Yee Wee Tang, Country Head of Grab Singapore, and witnessed by Mr David Phung, Head of Corporate Affairs, The Singapore Association for the Deaf and Mr Russell Cohen, VP for Regional Operations, Grab at an appreciation luncheon hosted by Grab for its Deaf and hard-of-hearing driver and delivery partners today. Grab was also appointed as SADeaf’s Ambassador for the Deaf, a partnership between SADeaf and corporates that fosters ongoing support and collaboration for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community, at the same event. 

“Grab believes everyone should have access to financial independence – regardless of background or ability. Through this partnership, we hope to empower more Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals by providing them with another source of income. Beyond that, we also hope to gain more understanding of their challenges and offer a friendlier environment for them to work in,” said Yee Wee Tang, Country Head of Grab Singapore. “We’re committed to inclusivity, and want to support these partners as they create a better future for themselves and their families. They inspire us every day, and it motivates us to continually design and build more products to enable more meaningful earning opportunities.”

Ms Judy Lim, Acting Executive Director for The Singapore Association for the Deaf, said “We are very happy with this collaboration with Grab becoming our Ambassador for the Deaf.  It has brought about employment for Deaf and hard-of-hearing drivers, creating independent living and financial sustainability for them. This has also been made possible through the use of Grab app where there is no need for verbal communication between the driver and the passenger. Passengers who take the ride with Deaf drivers are also being notified by the Grab app. There is even the dashboard at the back of the seat to tell you how to communicate with the Deaf.  This makes the ride very friendly and comfortable, helping passengers gain a better understanding about the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community.  We appreciate Grab for this very meaningful initiative.”

Today, some 50 Deaf driver and delivery-partners are earning an income on the Grab platform in Singapore. The year-long partnership will allow Grab to better understand the needs and challenges of the local Deaf community, which will be used to build solutions and advocacy programs to serve them better. 

It also serves to further strengthen the commitment towards specific initiatives that can best provide income and welfare opportunities for the Deaf driver and delivery-partners. Both parties are collaborating to provide the following support:

  • Providing access to new economic opportunities. For Grab to facilitate SADeaf beneficiaries who are keen to be driver and delivery-partners on the Grab platform. In an industry-first move, Grab will also reduce the commission rates (contributed to the platform for every ride) by 50% through a rebate scheme for existing and new Deaf drivers who are members of SADeaf.
  • Providing access to new economic opportunities. Grab will facilitate the onboarding process for SADeaf beneficiaries who are keen to be driver and delivery-partners on the Grab platform.
  • Promoting skills upgrading. SADeaf will provide skills upgrading access through existing programmes for existing Deaf Grab drivers and delivery-partners.

Members from the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community are encouraged to sign up as a member with SADeaf to take full advantage of the benefits.

As part of its commitment to do more for the community, Grab had earlier conducted focus group discussions with its existing Deaf driver-partners to get their feedback on how Grab can provide them with a better driving and delivery experience. Based on their inputs, Grab will be implementing the following product, platform and process improvements in the coming year:

  • Customised Feature Support on Grab
    • Message prompts to passengers and customers informing them that they have been paired with a Deaf partner, advising them to use the GrabChat feature to communicate.
    • Turning off the call function for Deaf and hard-of-hearing driver-partners. This is to prevent passengers from attempting to call their driver-partners and to communicate via GrabChat feature instead.
    • Sticker Identifier attached to the driver’s headrest to inform passengers on the right way to communicate with their drivers.
    • In-car flip cards to further facilitate better non-verbal communication between our driver partners and passengers, covering typical requests and concerns such as directions, air-con temperature, toll fee exclusion in fare. For GrabFood delivery-partners, a set of visuals have been developed to allow easy access through the Grab delivery-partners’ mobile phone.
    • In-app communication guides on how to interact with Deaf driver-partners
  • Enhanced training and onboarding materials with local subtitles and sign language to ensure smoother registration for Deaf partners.
  • A public education campaign to promote better communication and empathy between partners and passengers, address misperceptions and raise confidence in the Deaf driver-partners’ abilities to do their job. This includes educational videos on hand signs so the public can learn to communicate with the Deaf community.

Teo Hang Keong, a Grab Deaf driver-partner in Singapore, said, “I have a full time job as an intelligence data analyst, but it is not enough to support my family. Driving part-time for Grab to supplement my income has been helpful, as I am also planning for my retirement.” 

When asked about his experience as a Grab driver-partner, he shared “The passengers I come across are very understanding, and they do not doubt my driving skills just because I am Deaf. Some of them are even able to communicate with me using sign language, which really makes my day!”

Deaf Can Drive: A Ride with Peter – Grab x Our Grandfather Story

Ever met one of our Deaf driver-partners? This International Week of the Deaf, get to know Peter Ho a little better – and learn how to sign "thank you"! 💚#GrabForGood #IWDeaf2019

Posted by Grab on Thursday, 26 September 2019

Peter Ho, another Deaf-driver partner in Singapore, shared, “I have been driving since I was in my 20s. My dad told me to get a driving license as driving is a useful skill that would come in useful in the future. I like driving because I get to meet and interact with new people from different parts of the society. I also hope they gain an understanding and patience with people with disabilities.

I enjoy sending them to Changi Airport, and helping them with their luggage. While driving can be tiring at times, my sons know that I do it for them and that’s what keeps me going.” 

About Grab

Grab is the leading super app in Southeast Asia, providing everyday services that matter most to consumers. Today, the Grab app has been downloaded onto over 152 million mobile devices, giving users access to over 9 million drivers, merchants and agents. Grab has the region’s largest land transportation fleet and has completed over 3 billion rides since its founding in 2012. Grab offers the widest range of on-demand transport services in the region, in addition to food and package delivery services, across 339 cities in eight countries. For more information, please visit grab.com.

About SADeaf

Established in 1955, the Singapore Association for the Deaf (SADeaf) has been serving the Deaf and Hard-of-hearing community for the past six decades. SADeaf is a member of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), and is supported by Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and Ministry of Education (MOE).

The association is also affiliated, internationally, to the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) and, locally, to the Children Charities’ Association (CCA). SADeaf will be celebrating its 65th Anniversary in 2020. For more information, please visit saDeaf.org.sg

Media Contact
Mr David Phung, Head of Corporate Affairs, SADeaf, david@sadeaf.org.sg, 9105 5048