Extracted from the Today paper dated 13 June 2019 at
Jun 13, 2019 06:00 am
Bowling coach Francis Liew picked up sign language in 2009 so that he could communicate better with the deaf bowlers that he is in charge of.
Liew, 53, also writes down instructions and uses an iPad app called Video Coach, which provides video slicing and playback, for gait analysis during training.
“The common mistakes are in their swings or footwork, which will affect the last movement before their release,” he said after a training session at JForte Sportainment Centre in Kovan on Sunday.
“This way, I can tell them their mistakes, so they can see and know, and make the changes.”
His methodology, combined with the athletes’ grit, brought Singapore success at the 1st Asean Deaf Bowling Championships in Manila two months ago.
Singapore grabbed six golds, three silvers and four bronzes to emerge overall champions, ahead of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Liew’s use of video technology during training was vital to their success, as playing back clips of their swings and footwork allows them to perfect minute details and build them into muscle memory.
Having a strong foundation gives the bowlers an edge during competitions, when they have to remove their hearing aids.
This makes it more challenging for them to maintain their balance and be consistent.
Women’s singles champion Kimberly Quek, 18, said: “My sense of balance is compromised. If you can stay in balance, then you can maintain accuracy and be consistent.”
The Singapore Sports School student also emphasised the importance of strengthening her core by going to the gym or running every morning.
Quek reaped the biggest medal harvest of four golds and a bronze. Her most memorable win was with doubles partner Adelia Naomi Yokoyama.
Yokoyama, 20, who often gets distracted when she competes without noise, agreed.
They were trailing Filipinas Maria Catalan and Katrina Locsin throughout the event.
With one game left, they were 65 pinfalls behind. However, Yokoyama and Quek managed final games of 195 and 230 respectively to pip their opponents by six pinfalls.
Yokoyama, who was the first Singaporean Deaflympics gold medallist when she won the Masters event in 2017, clinched two golds and three silvers in the Asean meet.
Vincent Chong also pulled off an upset when he won the men’s singles event.
Chong, 51, did not expect to win as he was competing against Malaysian Mohd Firdaus, who was fifth at the 2017 Deaflympics, while Chong was 58th.
However, he maintained a steady lead to finish first, 58 pinfalls ahead of Firdaus.
“Before the competition, my coach and team manager kept hounding me to win. So, when I went to the event, I had a lot of determination to achieve that for Singapore,” said Chong, who works as a masseuse.
Chong finished with two golds and two bronzes.
Singapore Turf Club president and chief executive Chong Boo Ching said: “As part of our continuous effort to contribute back to the community, we are proud to be the sponsor of the wonderful team from Deaf Sports Association, who have not only done Singapore proud on the international stage but also inspired all of us to pursue our dreams with perseverance.”
Quek, Yokoyama and Chong will next test themselves at August’s 4th World Deaf Bowling Championships in Taiwan, where about 200 athletes from 28 countries will take part.
Extracted from the Straits Times dated 18th June 2019
SINGAPORE – Mr Doraisamy Pillay brushed off his wife’s concerns when she noticed that he had difficulty understanding her.
The school counsellor, who was then 67, chose to believe he was merely inattentive, and ignored the advice of an audiologist that he would benefit from a hearing aid.
It was only four years later, in the middle of a counselling session in 2008, that he realised he could not understand what a crying student was saying as he could not hear her.
“It was a terrible shock to me. I couldn’t help her,” said Mr Doraisamy, who was soon afterwards fitted with a hearing aid.
But his reaction is only too common in Singapore, where just 3.3 per cent of people with disabling hearing loss choose to wear a hearing aid, said senior ear nose and throat consultant at Tan Tock Seng Hospital Ho Eu Chin.
In comparison, the United Kingdom has an uptake of 38.6 per cent, and Japan, 14.1 per cent.
Almost 10 per cent of Singaporeans in their 60s suffer from disabling hearing loss, which means they have difficulty hearing conversations in a crowded coffee shop, or during a family dinner when several people are speaking, said Dr Ho on Tuesday (June 18), in an interview with the press to increase public awareness of a preventable health problem.
Studies have shown that hearing loss is linked to dementia, and is in fact the most important modifiable risk factor for dementia, he said.
The reasons that link hearing loss to dementia are still being studied, but research shows as many as 25 per cent of cases of preventable dementia would benefit from treating hearing loss, he said.
His own study found that of the patients who had hearing aids fitted at the hospital between 2001 and 2013, 69 per cent were already suffering from at least moderately severe hearing loss. This is an issue of concern, he said, as it is harder to treat them.
Dr Ho also cited the National Health Survey of 2010, which found that 73.2 per cent of people with disabling hearing loss did not think they had a problem. He said people should not wait until they perceive the hearing loss themselves to seek help, and should consult a doctor once their family and friends start noticing it.
There are various reasons patients are reluctant to embrace hearing aids, one of which is that they feel it is stigmatising.
Some think that hearing aids are “very noisy”, and they should “wait until they really cannot hear” before getting one. But the issue is more complicated than that, said Dr Ho.
He explained that the complaint about noisy hearing aids has to do with how the brain perceives sound.
Human brains are naturally programmed to tune out background noises, such as traffic, or the hum of the air-conditioning.
However, as one’s hearing deteriorates, the ears no longer detect such sounds. This causes the brain to “forget” how to tune out background noise.
When patients finally get hearing aids, they are once again able to detect the sounds but have lost the ability to filter them out. This leads to the perception that hearing aids are “noisy”.
Dr Ho said this problem gets worse the longer someone who has hearing loss goes without a hearing aid, which is why one should not wait until things get “bad enough” before seeking help.
Patients are also concerned about the price of hearing aids, which cost around $3,000 on average for a pair, according to Dr Ho.
However, there are means-tested government subsidies available under the Senior’s Mobility and Enabling Fund which can greatly defray the cost.
Mr Doraisamy refused to have one because he associated it with illness, and none of his older brothers had hearing problems.
But the incident in 2008 was a wake-up call.
“That’s when I realised – if I wanted to continue working, I’d better get a hearing aid,” he said.
The hearing aid he has in each ear has “completely changed” his life for the better.
He said: “Before, I had a lot of misunderstandings with my wife as she had to raise her voice. My grandchildren would shout at me so I could hear and get scolded for being disrespectful. I didn’t want to meet friends because I was afraid I couldn’t socialise.
“But now I look forward to meeting people, I’m much more self-confident. I got my life back.”
Fellow patient Robert Nah, a 66-year-old former trader, shared his sentiments.
“People think wearing a hearing aid is inconvenient but it’s actually a solution to your problems,” he said.
Dr Ho thinks more patients would come around to wearing hearing aids if they were aware of the link between dementia and hearing loss.
He said about half of his elderly patients who were initially reluctant to get them were happy to do so after learning about the link.
He added that a “massive education effort”, both for patients and doctors, is necessary as the connection between hearing loss and dementia is still not common knowledge.
“A lot more can be done,” he said.
Extracted from the Straits Times dated 12 May 2019
Wong Kim Hoh – Senior Writer
Haben Girma, the first deaf-blind graduate from Harvard Law School, is sitting in the living room of the US ambassador’s residence in Singapore, giving me a crash course in communication.
Nervous about committing a social faux pas, I’d used “hearing and vision-impaired” to describe her disabilities.
The disability rights lawyer says: “Hearing and vision-impaired focus on loss and limitations. They are also longer words. Blind is shorter and to the point, deaf is shorter and to the point. They also don’t have the stigmatising word: impairment. I would prefer deaf-blind.”
But she adds that the disabled community is big and diverse.
“So, there are blind people who prefer to be called legally blind or low vision or partially sighted. There’s no right or wrong way. My choice is be honest and direct and use the easiest word,” the 30-year-old adds.
Miss Girma is talking to me with the help of an interpreter who uses a keyboard to type my questions which are then transmitted to a Braille device on her lap.
She responds by speaking clearly, in full sentences pregnant with wit and humour.
“There are different types of hearing loss,” she explains. “My type is rare. I have low frequency loss and high frequency hearing. So I trained myself to speak in a higher voice, which allows me to hear some of my speech sounds.
“Throughout my life, teachers have been helping me so that I pronounce words correctly. I’ve also had public speaking courses. All of these things contribute to what you are hearing right now,” says Miss Girma, who was in Singapore recently to speak at an event organised by the Singapore Committee for UN Women.
Poised and articulate, the accomplished young woman – named by former US president Barack Obama as a White House Champion of Change a few years ago – is the third of four children of a lab technician father and a nursing aide mother.
Her mother, a refugee from Eritrea, grew up under the shadow of the Eritrean-Ethiopian War and fled by foot to Sudan in 1983 when she was 16. Her father is an Ethiopian living in California.
Miss Girma grew up in the San Francisco Bay area.
“I was lucky. The Bay Area is the heart of the disability rights movement and there were lots of activists advocating for greater change,” she says, referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life.
“By the time I was born, all these changes were in place. There were curb cuts on the streets which make it easier for wheelchairs to get on and off the sidewalk. By the way, physical access is good in a lot of the buildings here in Singapore, including MRT stations,” says Miss Girma, whose elder brother is also deaf-blind.
She attended mainstream public schools in Oakland.
SEIZING THE MOMENT
Always optimistic but not always practical. I wanted to travel, to try everything and to experience as much as possible.
MISS HABEN GIRMA, on living life to the fullest.
“I went to class with non-disabled students but for an hour each day, I attended a blindness programme where they taught us Braille and technology like how to travel around the Bay area by myself.
“Once a year, they would take us skiing or river rafting. The idea is that if you could take a blind kid skiing or river rafting, you are teaching them that they could do anything,” says Miss Girma, who is also an avid advocate for assistive technology for the disabled.
School was easy. What was hard were naysayers telling her parents that she was not going to achieve much in life. “They would say: ‘Oh your poor daughter. She is not going to do anything. She is never going to college, get a job or get married.’ Society creates these barriers. And my parents had to resist these negative expectations.”
Her parents had faith that she would do well and told her to work and study hard. She also had a lot of support at school.
“I’ve been successful because there were also people who said: ‘Yes, you can.’ They’d made science accessible and gym class accessible,” says Miss Girma, who went to Mali to help build a school when she was in high school.
Not that she didn’t have her share of insecurities.
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“Growing up, you’d get all these messages on books, TV and from the community that your life didn’t matter. I wanted to matter, so I’d try to hide my disabilities.”
She wouldn’t read a book in public because Braille books would betray the fact that she was blind.
“But doing that meant I had no access to books. So I learnt to resist societal expectations… I embraced my insecurities a little bit in high school, a little more in college and fully in law school.”
Today, she has her own definition of disability: disability means the opportunity for innovation.
She has always been an adventurous soul.
“Always optimistic but not always practical,” she says, with a smile. “I wanted to travel, to try everything and to experience as much as possible.”
With a grin, she recalls wanting to be a cowgirl when she was seven.
But until two years ago, she was always saddled with riding instructors who would hold the horse and not let her gallop, something she badly wanted to do.
“Two years ago, I had an instructor who said: ‘Of course you can gallop.’ And she let go of the horse and let me have full control,” says Miss Girma, who also loves to surf and do the salsa.
Incidentally, she stresses, deaf and blind people can be cowgirls. “You can learn to ride a horse using your voice and physical communication. There are blind people working on farms. It’s absolutely possible.”
Like her parents told her to, Miss Girma worked and studied hard. She was valedictorian of her high school and had glowing references from her teachers.
But working hard was not enough to get rid of barriers.
Although she wanted to study mathematics and computer science at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, she came up against professors who were less than helpful.
“I asked questions and one professor told me to ask someone else. It was frustrating.”
Rather than expend effort and energy constantly arguing with uncooperative professors, she decided to switch to anthropology and sociology where the lecturers and tutors were more welcoming.
“I picked my battles. It was a personal choice. I asked myself how important it was to major in computer science and maths and I decided it wasn’t that important,” she says.
Mind you, she’s no pushover.
In a speech she gave at the Perkins School For The Blind some years ago, she spoke of how she requested her school cafeteria to e-mail her the menu each day. She did not want to settle for whatever was dished out on her plate.
But the manager didn’t keep to the bargain, e-mailing her only occasionally. When she complained, he told her the cafe was busy and she should be appreciative. “I explained that Title III of the ADA requires businesses to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities. If the cafeteria refused to do this, I would sue.”
That prompted not only an apology but also the dutiful daily dispatch of the menu.
Looking for a job after graduating proved just as frustrating. Her impressive resume often led to calls for interviews but landing a job was a different matter because firms couldn’t get past her disabilities.
Putting on her advocate’s hat, she says: “In the United States, 70 per cent of blind people are unemployed. And in Singapore, only 5 per cent of disabled people have employment. So a lot of hardworking, talented and brilliant people are not getting employed because employers put up barriers. We need employers all over the world to remove barriers.”
Miss Girma decided she had to do something different to get a job.
“Just getting good grades is not enough. I learnt about disability rights advocates, people who use the law to create change. And I decided to become one of them so that I can minimise discrimination against people with disabilities,” she says.
That’s how she ended up at Harvard Law School.
Her eyes widen with mock disbelief and she lets out a loud laugh when I ask, without thinking, if law school was “love at first sight”.
“What’s your excuse?” she says chidingly.
Sheepishly, I tell her she is so articulate and engaging I forget she’s deaf and blind.
Law school, she says, was not always a walk in the park. Studying contracts and legislation could be tedious and it took a while before she got to disability rights.
But her classmates were amazing. Ditto the school, which gave her unstinting support. “Harvard wanted me there and said: ‘Let’s find a way to make this work’.”
Among other things, the school provided her with materials in digitised and Braille formats, voice transliterators who narrated discussions which were fed into her earphones in class and even interpreters at networking events.
Her exam scripts were in Braille and her scripts, typed out on a computer, were graded anonymously.
“They didn’t know which was mine. Everything was very fair.”
She did well enough to earn a Skadden Fellowship, which paid her two years’ salary to do public service work.
It helped to cover her work at a non-profit law firm, Disability Rights Advocates, which files suits against employers who violate the ADA and other civil rights Acts.
She spent 21/2 years at the firm and worked on several cases. A memorable triumph was representing the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) against digital library company Scribd in 2015.
“People paid about US$9 to get unlimited access to their library but blind individuals who wanted to read books hit a wall. It was not programmed for accessibility. Scribd said the ADA did not apply to an online business,” says Miss Girma, adding that Scribd eventually settled and agreed to work with NFB to make its website more inclusive.
The lawyer has since moved on to training and speaking.
“I do presentations for companies and organisations that want to choose inclusion. It’s better to choose inclusion rather than wait to be sued. By making your business accessible and inclusive, you also reach more people,” she says, adding that there are 1.3 billion people with disabilities in the world. Collectively, they make up a market worth US$8 trillion ($10.88 trillion).
In addition to training, Miss Girma is also a speaker who has given talks all over the world. Her latest accomplishment? Authoring Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law, which is due out in August.
“On the surface, it is about my life story. But the message is about inclusion and what we can do to remove barriers out there.”
Some people, she says, might dismiss her story as exceptional.
“They will say: ‘She’s just super. Most won’t be able to do what she does’.”
But that is not true, she insists.
“The reason I’ve been able to do everything I do is that there were teachers and employers who said: ‘We believe in you and want you to contribute to our organisation and workplace.’
“My story is not the exception. There are lots of people with disabilities who are talented and brilliant. It’s up to society to remove the barriers so that they can contribute.”
Correction note: This article has been edited for accuracy.
Four hard-of-hearing individuals – a boy going for ear surgery, a teenage athlete rising in her bowling career, a young dancer, and an accomplished pianist – let us into their lives to understand the challenges and misconceptions of the world of the deaf.
Four-year-old Dylan is scheduled for an ear implant surgery that could change his life forever, and his parents are filled with trepidation. Kimberly is a rising bowler from the Singapore Sports School who is competing at the biggest national tournament for the abled. Roseanne breaks new barriers for her community as a deaf dancer. And Dr Azariah is an accomplished performing musician who is coping with ongoing hearing loss.
The series is a quiet study of their everyday lives and struggles, as well as their triumphs and observations. The episodes are accompanied by a special soundscape to draw us closer into their world, and to appreciate what it is that they really hear.
Watch all the 4 episodes below:
A passionate and experienced sign language interpreter, Teo Zhi Xiong shares his journey in SADeaf with Digital Senior.
SINGAPORE – Thirty minutes before each show of the ongoing production Not In My Lifetime?, ticketholders are invited to a tour of the stage, which includes feeling the puppet props and a model of the set design.
This touch tour is designed for the blind and those with visual impairments, who also receive headsets to listen to audio descriptions of the action on stage.
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SINGAPORE – More help is at hand for Beatty Secondary School students suffering from hearing loss.
A new Hearing Loss Resource Room called D’Connect has been set up to cater to their learning needs.
The room’s resources include air-conditioning for noise reduction, a smart TV for visual learning, movable furniture and partitions so students can change seating arrangements easily and a sofa set that they can use during counselling sessions.
Beatty Secondary School is designated by the Education Ministry for students with hearing loss.
President Halimah Yacob officiated at the opening of the room on Friday (Feb 22) and noted that it was important to help students with special needs integrate into the mainstream schools.
“Integration is good for them because it helps to create self-confidence; it helps them to acquire competencies and skills which are needed when they go out to work,” said Madam Halimah.
“But for integration to take place in schools, it is important that there are investments – in resources, and particularly in training teachers who are able to deal with students with special needs.
“Creating an enabling environment for the students with special needs show that they can develop, learn with the other students (and) that’s really important.”
Ms Barbara D’Cotta, a special needs teachers from SADeaf is featured during the Budget Speech. Find out about her story at https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/special-needs-teacher-grateful-for-healthcare-benefits.
Stephy Hg lost her sense of hearing after a high fever when she was young. However, it did not stop her from living her life in a positive manner. 8 years ago, she even became a make-up artist. Although she faced many challenges in life, she believes that “I can do it too!”
Click on the video link: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1922915817825885&t=174