EL TRANSLATION: Two “assistants” are required for each class. Deaf social entrepreneur obtained a degree at the age of 41.

Released on 4 May 2021 at 4:48pm
Article written by: Pan Xiaojun

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Lily Goh is in a black graduation gown, and she wears a graduation hat. She has three parrots; a Lutino (pure yellow) Cockatiel on her left shoulder, a Sun Conure on her left hand, and a green Indian Ring-Necked parakeet on her right hand. Taken at a beach.
CAPTION: Lily Goh is the only deaf person in the 2020 graduate of the Department of Sociology and Communication of the School Humanities and Behavioural Sciences of Singapore University of Social Sciences.
IMAGE: Isabelle Lim (issyshoots), Deaf Professional Photographer

Deaf since childhood, the social entrepreneur decided to enrol in a university to better understand deaf studies, taking two “assistants” with her to every class, and finally obtained her first university degree at the age of 41.

Discovered to be deaf at the age of two, Lily Goh has dedicated herself to promoting deaf culture over the years, and ExtraOrdinary Horizons, the social enterprise was set up in 2011 to help deaf people better integrate into mainstream society.

In an email interview with 8 World News, she noted that she was interested in learning more about Deaf studies, which is very much a part of sociology, and decided to enrol in Sociology with Communication program in the School of Humanities and Behavioural Sciences in Singapore University of Social Sciences. She is also the only deaf person to have graduated from this course in the past.

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Lily Goh sits on a bench, wearing the graduation gown and hat.
IMAGE: Isabelle Lim (issyshoots), Deaf Professional Photographer

SUBTITLE: The class needs to be accompanied by an interpreter and a notetaker.

As a life member of the Singapore Association for the Deaf, Lily Goh is always accompanied by an interpreter and notetaker arranged by the Association whenever she attends classes. They mean a lot to her, especially when it comes to sign language interpretation.

“They incorporate the beliefs, values, and lifestyles of deaf people into the interpreting process so that I can understand better. Due to my deafness and the world I live in, I am not exposed to most things related to mainstreamed society.”

As most of her classmates are unaware of her condition, she also explains why she needs an interpreter and notetaker.

In addition, Lily Goh is grateful to three other tutors who are very patient with her. “One of them knew sign language, but she was not very proficient and could not communicate with me smoothly. She took a lot of effort to explain to me the requirements of each essay so that I could (make my essays and assignments) better.”

Two other tutors had also stayed after class to help her with her tutorials.

SUBTITLE: New World, New Experience

Lily Goh admits that navigating between work and campus has not been easy on an emotional and financial level. She describes sociology as being closer to the auditory (hearing) world, which is almost completely different from what she has experienced in life.

“Sociology has been really eye-opening and has helped me to better understand the world of mainstream societies around the world, as well as my own (deaf) world.”

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: On the grey background of the ExtraOrdinary Horizons logo, Lily performs (signs) her music.
CAPTION: Lily Goh promotes deaf culture through music and sign language.
IMAGE: Instagram/lilygoh.artsmusic

In terms of inclusivity for deaf and disabled people in the country, she believes that progress is still slow. “Not many people are willing to accept deaf people and give us a chance. They have a psychological fear of working with deaf people, especially when it comes to communication.”

She believes that what she learns through this course will help improve the way she advocates and allow her to present her views better.

SOURCE: https://www.8world.com/news/singapore/article/suss-graduate-with-hearing-impaired-1466551



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.

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

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew (1923 – 2015)


In memory of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, our Founding Prime Minister of Singapore. Thank you for contributing to our Singapore Story and making us what we are now. You are our greatest Old Guard – our best Leader of Singapore! May he rest in peace…

Today, we sent our deepest condolences to his family.

EO Horizons’ Second Overseas Achievement: ASEAN Festival of Disabled Artists 2014

Last December, ExtraOrdinary Horizons went overseas upon the invitation to perform at the ASEAN Festival of Disabled Artists 2014 in Myanmar as our second achievement. Lily was excited to represent Singapore for the first time to showcase unique deaf performing arts in percussion and song-signing.

Organised by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement and Myanmar Independent Living Initiative (MILI), the ASEAN Festival of Disabled Artists 2014 was the first festival for people with disabilities in Asia to present their different performing arts forms & styles, ranging among music and dance. Also, the visual arts exhibits were showcased. It was proudly supported by the Japan-based Nippon Foundation. Many participants in 10 countries and 168 artists with disabilities attended the festival for 7 days.

On the first day, Lily and her volunteer-friend, Aaron arrived at Yangon, Myanmar. They received a warm welcome with open arms from two staff. They were then brought to the Yangon International Hotel for rest. The next day, they visited the Mary Chapman School of Deaf that is located quite near to the hotel. There were a lot of interaction between them and deaf students. If time allowed, Lily wished she could share her inspiring experiences with their deaf peers. She hoped they will never give up on achieving their dreams.


Lily performed at the Opening Ceremony that was held at the Myanmar International Convention Centre (2) in Naypyidaw on 3 December 2014. Its opening ceremony was the most important event to MILI! It aimed at changing perceptions on disabled and promoting awareness on their amazing arts.


She went to meet the group of Deaf drummers from the Nippon Taiko Foundation. They were delighted to meet again for the second time. Before this festival, they met in Cambodia for the SPOTLIGHT – an Asian Festival of Inclusive Arts in 2008.


At Yangon, the festival continued on 5 December 2014 to celebrate the abilities of the disabled. She performed several items in mallet percussion (xylophone) and song-signing: Flight of the Bumblebee, Happy Mallets, Alla Turca, Crying in the Rain, Let It Go (Deaf Version). The closing ceremony marked the success of the festival on 7 December 2014. The MILI was greatly applauded for their hard work, courage and grit, despite their small number of staff working for this festival. Amazingly, it was their first time making it happen!