Continued from my blog entry dated on 23 November 2018.

With permission from the students who wish to do their school project related to Deafness in Singapore, I decided to publish my answers to the list of common questions, which I needed to tweak here.

*Can you share your story with us? What is a day in your life like?
It is just a typical day of a part-time student, and a freelancer; achieving work tasks in the daytime, while attending classes in the evening. Occasionally, I teach sign language 2-3 times a week. I also perform upon the requests.

*Discussing employment issues that the Deaf community faces, what difficulties do you face when communicating with a hearing person?
I think deaf people should not face such difficulties in communicating with a hearing person. It is all because the mainstreamed society still lacks an awareness about deaf people. Partly, attitudinal barriers and communication systems could be another possible reason. It is not our fault as being Deaf (in the first place) to have such problems with them.

There are various ways of communicating; namely pen & paper, communication technology, sign language interpreting services, note-taking services, video relay services, etc. We keep on finding ways to communicate with people, but we all need patience and understanding from them.

Whether socialising, networking or working, I mostly communicate with hearing persons by writing on paper. If the hearing person knows Sign Language, I will be more than glad to communicate with this person.
If the hearing person meets me for the first time, and does not know how to approach me, I will guide him/her. In the meantime, I self-advocate.

I really admit here; I am much fortunate to be very proficient in English Language and Singapore Sign Language. So far, I face less difficulties in communicating. When I attend lectures, I need to have the sign language interpreter and/or note-taker with me. When they are not available, I will use the Otter.ai app, and this might be the last resort that I gotta turn to.

*The (research) studies have found that only one in 10 employers surveyed have positive attitudes towards hiring deaf people, and one in two admit they have no intention to do so. Have you personally experienced such prejudices, or have you heard of others being a victim of these prejudices?
I understand that prejudice is defined as perceived, biased opinions. Due to my deafness that could be a blessing in disguise, I couldn’t hear anyone who might say bad things behind my back. Unless someone is willing to interpret what’s going on, I will never have any knowledge. However, discriminatory behaviours could be seen, such as not using sign language or pen/paper (other communication modes) on purpose, setting a low wage (as an act of unfair treatment, merely for ‘compensation’), and shouting for a few times (even after having a better clarification at the first approach), or refusing to accommodate to our needs.

*What would you like to say to hearing people about such prejudices?
Hearing people often see us as “people who live in silence”, “people who are often lonely or depressed”, “people who are unable to hear” or “people who cannot speak”. The medical and charity models of deafness are adopted by these people to perceive us in a such way to compensate for hearing loss or deficiency.

This time, we need to reframe ‘hearing loss’ to ‘Deaf Gain’ as in the social model of deafness. The term, “Deaf Gain” was coined in 2005 to challenge those derogatory perceptions by the hearing people, as well as. Proposed by Dr. H-Dirksen Bauman and Dr. Joseph Murray, this notion “presents a response to contemporary waves of normalization that threaten the signing deaf community” (Legg & Sok, 2012), so it calls for an exploration of what it means to be human for equality and diversity. In other words, it reframes the idea of deafness into something positive, offering a diversity of experiences and perspectives that can benefit everyone (whether hearing or d/Deaf). Its examples are demonstrated in the provision of captions/subtitles, and baby signs for hearing mothers and their babies. Knowing Sign Language can be useful when communicating in a quiet place, like a library. Or signers can communicate with one another in far distances without having to raise their voices and disturb other people.

We are not here to be fixed by hearing people. It’s now a time for the hearing people to listen to us with their eyes and hearts, to embrace what we are in their lives, and to figure out ways to accommodate to one another in every environment. In a such way, prejudices could be possibly removed while making judgements about us.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.


TRUE/FALSE #QUIZ: Deaf people, as a whole, are good lipreaders.

Found at this link.

The answer is FALSE.

Lipreading is not an effective skill. It is not suitable for the faster mode of communication. Some words look the same on the lips/mouth, for example, MAN, BAN, PAN… Another example is I-LOVE-YOU, that might be possibly misread as COLOURFUL.

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DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

TRUE/FALSE #QUIZ: If a deaf person is having difficulty understanding you, talking louder helps.

Found at this link.

The answer is FALSE.
Shouting at anyone is considered rude; talking louder to a deaf person is no different. Find other ways to communicate with the deaf; writing helps. Hmm, learning sign language could be fun, and it will bring you unique experiences when interacting with Deaf.

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DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

TRUE/FALSE #QUIZ: Is Sign Language universal (the same in every country)?

Found at this link.

The answer is FALSE.
Yeah, Singapore has its own Sign Language. It’s called Singapore Sign Language. In short form, it is SgSL, not SSL (Shanghainese Sign Language). There is no official definition, unlike ASL’s. We still wait for our national body to make an announcement about its official definition. We had our community discussion in early 2019.

American Sign Language has its over 200 years of history. Our SgSL is established and developed since the early 1950s. It had its influences from SSL, ASL and SEE2 (Signing Exact English 2) because of national education policies and language policies. Now we develop our locally generated sign vocabulary for our local culture and food.

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DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

What I talk about when you ask me about my deafness (1/2)

Reblogged with permission from Alvan. I think I should follow the suit as I have been asked/questioned about it many times. However, this may be slightly different from him as he is renowned for being a writer, as well as a deaf advocate. Like him, I am another deaf advocate. I am identified as a Deaf arts & music practitioner here in Singapore.

*When and how did you lose your hearing?
LG: My deafness was discovered when I was two. Its cause still remains unknown. Even, my family members did not know how I became deaf. At that time, my hearing loss level was moderate-severe. Now, it has worsened to profound-severe. This deterioration in hearing loss does not affect me very much as this deafness is part of me. I am proud of being Deaf.

*How did you feel about wearing hearing aids? Have you ever considered the cochlear implants?
LG: I am comfortable with my hearing aids (HAs) at this moment. They do not mean to restore hearing; only to amplify sounds. I am not advertising any HAs here. Choosing HAs is upon the audiologist’s recommendations and the user’s preferences. I know my own preferences very well; this does not mean I can hear speech well. I can speak well, but I have a “deaf” accent. I got to know it through my experiences with many taxi drivers, and GRAB/UBER drivers. The drivers often asked me which country I come from. I replied that I was born in Singapore, and they told me I do not sound like a Singaporean here. They insisted that I might be from the Philippines, Malaysia or Thailand. I told them that I am Deaf…. or “Death” – I might pronounce it wrongly. After showing my HAs to them, they were surprised to know that I am Deaf! Some of them continued chatting with me to know more about deafness in Singapore. That’s another way of promoting deaf awareness to them!

Hmmm, I have considered not having cochlear implants. They are too expensive for me, especially since I am now an adult. I am not comfortable having any metal installed in my head. “Am I going to be another robot? That’s weird!” I thought to myself. Currently, I am okay with my HAs as I can take them off anytime as I wish. Instead of getting the cochlear implants for myself, I’d rather spend money on travelling and other useful/meaningful things, in order to enjoy the rest of my life.

Technology that enables deaf and hard-of-hearing to hear most sounds is ever improving. I think we should welcome that technology as it is meant to enhance/improve our everyday life. Now I explore communication technology, such as speech-to-text, as it helps improve my communication or social skills when meeting people at work.

*Would you like to share your journey or experiences when you were learning in school in a mainstream environment? What were your challenges when you were in school in a hearing environment?
LG: Before I entered my mainstream secondary school, I was enrolled in Canossian School for the Hearing Impaired (CSHI; now renamed Canossian School). I was happier there; we felt no different from one another. I still keep in touch with my schoolmates & classmates because we shared many similar experiences when we were very young. At that time, it was the transition period when we had to switch from using Singapore Sign Language to Natural-Auditory Oral approach (that requires us to speak in a natural environment). This did not benefit all of us; some of us received speech therapy till the teachers trained us through our graduation, while the others did not. I still remember some punishments – if we were caught using sign language, we would be fined 50 cents or be stood outside the classroom. Some teachers slapped us or hit our palms hard.

My struggles started in a secondary school. I had a few deaf classmates, however, we were often isolated. We relied on lipreading only; at that time, we were not aware of our needs – having a sign language interpreter or a note-taker. We did not interact much with the hearing classmates. (READ MORE)

Now, I study a BA in Sociology with Communication at SUSS. I engage sign language interpreters and notetakers to cope better with my lessons. I wish this could happen earlier when I was in the secondary school, and I believe with this access, I could excel better in my studies.

*When did you learn sign language?
LG: Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) was my first language; I acquired it at CSHI since my enrolment at the age of 6. I then learnt the English Language. I learnt to speak with the assistance of speech therapy for almost 13 years. I do not speak SgSL with my family members; mostly I speak in broken English with them.

I learnt more about SEE2 when I was accepted to become the sign language instructor with the Singapore Association for the Deaf. I taught SEE2 there for 8 years. After that, I established ExtraOrdinary Horizons and I now teach Singapore Sign Language to the public. I also give private tuition in SgSL. Anyway, I have studied sign linguistics online (on my own), and attended a few workshops in Singapore and Malaysia.

*Do you think it is necessary/important/better that children with hearing loss learn to sign?
LG: I agree with Alvan; he has mentioned that “it is important for deaf children to acquire language at the same rate as hearing children, and have the same access to language”. As part of ableism, the ability to speak (verbally) is an additional plus-point for Deaf. However, it is not comfortable to make such judgements that might lead to comparisons.

As the World Federation of the Deaf advocates in its mission, every deaf child has the right to Sign Language. Some people may think signing may be a hindrance to speech development; this is actually not true. Still, whatever it takes deaf children to excel, I need to emphasise that language is essential in the early acquisition, let it be signing, speaking or other approaches used. At this moment, I have been tutoring deaf children. They have different needs, and they are different learners. I can tell you based on my experiences, though I am not qualified enough…LANGUAGE FIRST; cognitive development is very essential, so it should start at a very early age.

*How did you appreciate music, especially with your hearing loss?
LG: I learnt music since very young. When I was ten, I was chosen to play in the deaf percussion band, and at that time, that band was being established by a first-timer band instructor who had no experience with the Deaf. I then learnt more about mallet percussion. Actually, musicality comes from you. With my deafness, I still had some of my residual hearing. This varies among different deaf people; some hear better than other counterparts. Musicality means the sensitivity to, and knowledge of music. I rely on seeing, feeling and interpreting music most of the time. I am different from others you might name; Azariah, Beethoven, and Evelyn Glennie. We have our different experiences with music. Unlike them, I did not acquire much of music since very young. Partly because of my deafness. It is really amazing for me to carry it on till now.

Being in the deaf percussion band was really fantastic. Really FUN! When I entered the mainstream secondary school, I was chosen to be in the concert band. Again, by the same teacher. I was assigned to perform the solo song, “Happy Mallets” at that time. I felt more competitive as I knew I was different from hearing musicians. So, I went to the National Library to read up more on music. My parents couldn’t afford to buy me the piano, so I drew many bars, just like the xylophone. I imagined playing bars on these papers virtually. It was not easy for me.

After my poly diploma studies, I resumed my percussion studies. I obtained ABRSM Grades 6 and 8 in Percussion (with Merit) (within 10 months) in 2017. Now I am a member of the Purple Symphony, the only inclusive orchestra of talented musicians with or without special needs. I am the only deaf musician there.


DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

Apocalypse Later

Time and again, I’ve been asked variations of the following questions pertaining to my deafness. It could be in casual or academic settings (as the ones below are), but they’re at heart the same questions. And after the latest, why not make it public? Next time anyone asks.. here you go. (And there will be many next times.)

* When and how did you lose your hearing?
>> Was diagnosed at age 8, in primary 2, during an MOH checkup in school. Failed the hearing test. Was then sent to the children’s clinic at Outram for a more advanced test and proceeded to flunk that too.

* How did you feel when you had to wear hearing aids?
>> Memory is fuzzy now. It’s more than 30 years since I first started using hearing aids (HAs). I vaguely remember being self conscious about wearing them and also disliked the sounds…

View original post 1,363 more words

Eulogy from Mr. Lim Chin Heng


With permission from Mr. Lim Chin Heng, I shared his eulogy here on this blog:

“I would like to put my eulogy in honour of the late Mr. Peng Tsu Ying, our Pioneer Deaf Educator, and my inspiring teacher & mentor. Mr Peng and I are both born in the year of Tiger.

At my age of 4 in 1955, Dad brought me to somewhere or a hospital that I always cried loudly. Upon arrival at Singapore Chinese Sign School for the Deaf that was established by a deaf couple, Mr & Mrs Peng Tsu Ying, at Charlton Lane, off Upper Serangoon Road in 1954. I was so shocked to see so many deaf children signing with their deaf teachers.

Mr Peng, the founding principal, was a well-built body and good-looking man with cheerful smile. He showed me a big book with pictures of animals and pointed at a picture of cow, using both “Y” signs to touch the sides of head. When my eyes were widened, this was my first one word I learned, comparing with hearing peers who already learned nearly 900 words.

From 1955 to 1967, I had been growing up with Mr Peng who helped teaching and guiding me before I left for USA. I had watched him struggling, fighting and running his school as he was shorthanded. He used his writing skills in Chinese and English language as powerful weapon to advocate our deaf education rights.

Before his Chinese Sign Section of Singapore School for the Deaf was phrased out, SADeaf sent him to represent Singapore to the 7th World Congress of the WFD in Washington D.C. USA in July-August 1975. I helped guiding him on the tour of Washington D.C. area and introduced him to a number of prominent deaf scholars, especially A/Prof. Frances M. Parsons who travelled globally promoting Total Communication Approach (TC).

Upon his return home, he made a lengthy report dated 3 September 1975 and recommended the SADeaf Executive Council to invite A/Prof. Parsons to give an inspiring lecture on TC Approach here. He and I saw the need for the implementation of TC Approach with American Sign Language and how together it has been a vital instrument in the successful education for deaf children in Singapore.

Mr Peng was a great mentor to me and other deafies. For that, our families are indebted to him and his family.

Let us take our hats off to the late Mr Peng Tsu Ying.”

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

Short Autobiography: Mr Lim Chin Heng

We’re glad to share his short autobiography (with his permission) on our blog for Singapore Deaf Heritage. Written by Mr. Lim Chin Heng on his Facebook, here are his 20 facts:

Fact 1
In the year of Tiger, I was born under the care of Nanny at my two semi-detached houses at Rose Lane, off Tanjong Katong Road. Totally stoned deaf since birth. The cause of deafness is mysteriously unknown. None of any illnesses during my mother’s pregnancy. None of any deaf relatives. None of any deaf genes from old generations!

My family lived near Kallang Airport (now Singapore Sports Hub). Aeroplanes (old models of 1940’s) flew up/down and to/fro. One day, a powerful huge airplane flew low over my house and its sound was very noisy like thunders. My parents walked quickly to their master bedroom and surprisingly saw that I slept sweetly on my baby bed. Dad thought the baby was so brave. Later on, my deafness was discovered.

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Fact 2
At the age of 4 in 1955, Dad brought me to somewhere. Upon our arrival at Singapore Chinese School for the Deaf that was established by a deaf couple, Mr & Mrs Peng Tsu Ying, at Charlton Lane, off Upper Serangoon Road, I was shocked to see so many deaf children signing with deaf teachers. Mr Peng, the principal, showed me a book with pictures of animals and pointed at a picture of cow, using both “Y” signs to touch on the sides of head. This was my first one word I learned, comparing with hearing peers who already know nearly 900 words.

Fact 3
My classmates were Chinese Malaysians and needed to stay at Mr Peng’s hut houses as school residents. After school, they talked with each other in their dormitory rooms. During snack time in afternoon, they listened to Mr Peng’s storytelling on current affairs or Deaf world matters. Sometimes at night they watched knowledge movies in a big classroom as Mr Peng got a movie projector and movie film reels on free loan from U.S. Embassy. I was so envious of their learning opportunities while residing at Mr Peng’s school building.

Fact 4
As a home commuter, I came to school by riding the American-style big car with the Malay chauffeur. My schoolmates admirably looked at me like a prince. During recess time, the chauffeur served me with the snack and drink. I was very naive and ignorant. By 1pm, I always went home. At home, I did not have opportunity to learn something new and loved to play marble balls and home-made games with his siblings and cousins. My knowledge was so shallow. At school, I was unable to follow what my classmates communicating very actively.

Fact 5
At the Chinese Swimming Club, many young deafies, both oralists and manualists, gathered there. My friend warned me not to mix with them closely because they were gangsters, led by an oralist who was badly influenced by his hearing elder brother. I saw one gangster collecting money pledges from them. It was heard that the purpose of money pledge is to cooperate and help with each other financially when necessary. But something seemed fishy. Lately, they ended up dividing into 2 groups (one led by oralists while the other led by manualists) due to miscommunications.

Fact 6
In November 1960, the Singapore Sign School for the Deaf (SSSD, renamed in 1957 as requested by SADeaf) celebrated its first graduation ceremony. The Secretary of School Management Committee angrily spoke out against SADeaf in favour of the Singapore Oral School for the Deaf (SOSD) be given a whole school building first. Those newspaper reporters were there. The big highlight on newspapers roared over Singapore in the following day.

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Fact 7
Dr Goh Swee Keng, Director of Social Welfare Department, took prompt action by paying a visit to SSSD. He inspected around the premises of the school in poor condition. He pushed SADeaf to look into a better solution for both deaf schools to be merged into a new school building.

Fact 8
In March 1963, the SSSD moved from Charlton Lane to Mountbatten Road and was merged with SOSD into the new building, namely Singapore School for the Deaf (SSD). There were 2 separate sections, namely Oral Section and Sign Section. The Sign Section had 7 classrooms on the 2nd floor and the Oral Section had 13 classrooms (3 on 2nd floor and 10 on ground floor). At that time, I was in Pr. 4 class with my 5 classmates.

Fact 9
The students of both sections were not allowed to integrate together during recess time and they had to separate at the different period. For the Sign Section, a prefect waved a green-coloured hand-flag along the corridor for recess time. At the end of recess time, I waved a red-coloured hand-flag outside the school hall.

Fact 10
The students of the Oral Section looked down on the students of the Sign Section and made fun with them by pointing at open mouth and waving open hand (insulting them “can’t talk”). The Oral Section was more superior than the Sign Section because they had auditory and speech equipment, 2 sound-proof rooms and well-trained Oral teachers. The Sign Section had nothing except sign language (free of charge).

Fact 11
In November 1965, I was the only one graduate of the Sign Section of SSD. Public secondary schools in Singapore did not accept any deaf students due to no deaf access facility available. Consequentially, my family wanted me to go to USA for higher studies.

Fact 12
Before going to USA, I received the private tuition in English from Mr Peng at my home for 19 months. One day, Mr Peng brought him to Singapore Motorsports Club near Paya Lebar Airport. Learned from Mr Peng who bravely communicated with hearing club members by using a pen and papers like voice and sound. The importance of writing skills is for our Deaf’s survival needs.

Fact 13
Mr Peng, an ace driver as reported on newspapers, took me out to various motorsports competitions held in South Buona Vista Road, Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim, and Old Upper Thomson Road. Mr Peng’s Lotus 7 sports car was parked at the cement floor of my house. During the F3 Singapore Grand Prix race day, I was Mr Peng’s pit crew to show time board to Mr Peng driving past him. Learned a lot about various kind of car machinery from Mr Peng. (I am the F1 racing car fan now!)

Fact 14
At the age of 16 in September 1967, I left Singapore and flew to New York City. Met my cousin and my brother’s American business friend at the airport. Took a 3-hour drive up to the American School for the Deaf (ASD) in West Hartford, Connecticut state. This famous school is the first oldest school in USA (established in 1817). ASD is two years older than Singapore that was found in 1819.

Fact 15
Upon my arrival at ASD, my jaws dropped when I looked at the front of the beautiful and huge school building with a window tower. The high school principal introduced me to three foreign students (2 from Iran and 1 from Guam). I could not catch their names fingerspelling too fast and instead, wrote on papers with each other as I did not know ASL. I joined in Grade 10A (sophomore) class with 8 Americans and 1 Guam. I was the only one Chinese student at ASD. There was a Japanese boy as a senior student. Got a bit homesick there because of the different way of life, especially the American food and cold weather.

Fact 16
During my 3-year study at ASD, I got much inspired by many Deaf role models ~ Deaf teachers, Deaf sport coaches, Deaf driving instructors, Deaf dormitory counsellors, Deaf parents, Deaf leaders, etc. Actively involved in sports ~ a member of American football team for Fall/Autumn season (Sep-Nov), wrestling/basketball team for Winter season (Dec-Feb), and track & field team for Spring season (Mar-May) and club organizations ~ a member of Arts and Science Club, secretary of Athletic Club, treasurer of Class of 1970 and Junior National Association of the Deaf.

Fact 17
In May 1970, I broke a long record by making my history of being the first foreign student to win the Top Student Award plus 5 other awards at ASD’s graduation ceremony. All audiences watched speechless at me, receiving awards non-stop up/down on the stage. My late 3rd brother and Lee Poh Pin, the SSD graduate of 1967 witnessed there with much joy and pride.

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Fact 18
During my 5-year study at Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C., I felt much inspired by Deaf role models and strong Deaf Leadership on the campus. Actively involved in sports ~ member of cross country team (Fall of 1971-1975), track & field team (Spring of 1971-1975) and club organizations ~ treasurer/secretary/president of International Students Club and chairman of financial emergency sub-committee/business manager of Spring Carnival/treasurer of Greek fraternity. It nurtured an interest within me to be involved in the college community. Participation and involvement in all activities also brought about an awakening and motivation within me to strive for leadership and sometimes too a feeling of being a fighter or collaborator for some of the causes that I stood for. I owed it all to the Gallaudet University.

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Fact 19
After volunteering at SSD and SADeaf during my 3-month summer holidays in 1974, I made up my mind to give up my thoughts of getting settled in USA and returned back home for good. My good friends were shocked to know of my decision and organised a surprise farewell party for me. They gave me a token of friendship ~ a wooden American eagle with their signatures on its back. It is now hanging on a wall of my home.

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Fact 20
Upon my return home, I saw the need for the implementation of Total Communication and American Sign Language (ASL) and how together it has been a vital instrument in the successful education for deaf children in Singapore.

By implementing the right pedagogical approach and carrying out Deaf Leadership Training, I fulfilled my greatest desire to bring out the best in every deaf child and is instrumental in leading so many outstanding deaf students to fulfil their potentials.

“Don’t forget that 5 out of 1,000 are deaf and it is a very small percentage (0.5%) of population in every country, so our deaf leaders are rarely very precious. Let’s come forward to help grow more Deaf Leaders and build the Deaf Nation.”