Thursday, December 31, 2009

Today's the Day.. 31st December 2009

Yes! This is it! Today's the last day for the year 2009! So, let's usher in the New Year 2010 with this thought in mind...Imagine a good way to start afresh this new year in re-defining the approach of looking at the inter-dependency of all beings in terms of Affinity in our community and our relationship with one another.
May each moment of the New Year give you and your dear ones real happiness, real peace and real harmony.

Happy New Year2010!

More challenging times ahead!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Choices and Decisions

`The positive energy vibrations in you enable you to evaluate, make and decide on the choices and decisions made. Ultimately, it will lead you to live a happier and a more meaningful life! Remember, you are blessed with the amazing power to tap this inner power within!!'...Yam TW

"What's happening?" I repeatedly asked myself when I got admitted into a hospital at Kunming, China, following a bout of diarrhoea, and blurry vision. The next morning, I woke up and was not able to see and it was the scariest moment in my life. I was totally confused not knowing if I could ever see again and unsure about my health problems then. Yes, it was in early January 2008, almost 2 years ago, that my life changed and so did my wife's. I could vividly remember in minute details those turbulent, emotional turmoil that gripped my life uninvited.

Endless negative thoughts constantly streamed through my mind at unbelievable rapid pace. I was not able to see but only hearing voices and I was in a state of total confusion, shock and despair! The emotional support from my family was second to none, especially my wife Hong and children. They were the most important factors that really helped me crossed the thin line separating life and the yonder. I knew then that I was not alone 'fighting the war' but I had my family with me going through the thick and thin of the new dark world. They were constantly by my side providing the moral and the emotional support. My thoughts started to shift focus, from myself to my family. I soon realised that I had to make a choice - to pick up the pieces and move forward or wallow in self pity and depression. More importantly, I had to decide to ease the pain and sufferings my family was going through, perhaps, the emotional pain was much worse than my own. I had to do something about it and started to think about the options, choices, decisions, etc. It was fortunate indeed that I was able to dig into my inner strength and made the right choices and decisions that enabled me to accept and come to terms with life.. it was indeed a challenging task to 'cross the barrier' and I had not looked back since. Soon, it will be two years since I last saw myself and my family. There is the one wish that I shall continue to make. This wishful thinking too, will stay forever etched permanently in my mind. Missed seeing the dogs too!

Making choices and decisions play an important role in our daily lives especially in mine. The power to happiness, the power to choose and decide on the new type of living skills, to adopt the assistive ICT skills, the freedom to socialise and interact with and among old and new friends, are among the wonderful aspects of life made possible thru' the process of making choices and decisions . So, I am glad that I was able to discover and tap into this power within myself. This certainly has helped me in providing the courage, the road maps and the inspirations to march on in life with positive strides.

More challenging times ahead

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2010!

'Tis the time of year to say bye-bye to year 2009 and Hello to year 2010! We will again, be eagerly looking forward to another new year with much enthusiasm and vigour. Another new blank fresh page to 'write down' passionately the Do's and the Don'ts, planning and hoping for improvements in our lives, right the deeds/actions of any wrong doings that were part of some shortcomings and putting our lives, etc, into better perspective. A better year ahead! Nevertheless, and without any doubts, it is always good and strongly encouraged to push ahead with great positive attitudes and strides, caution too must be exercised in doing so. The thoughts, having taken into consideration the critical factors, that will determine our future needs, requirements and 'impossible dreams' that we were told to dream at times. We are matured enough to be able to prioritise, set goals and more importantly, know what we want in life after all these years of life experiences.

It is wise, too, to take some minutes to sit back and reflect about the events of the current year and perhaps, this will help us to take stock of what we had achieved, what we need to improve and really want in the future, to strive for in the coming year and the years ahead. Do remember not to neglect our health, family and friendship as these are nature's ingredients, enabling us to live a happy and meaningful life..

On this note, I would like to take the opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to the MAB Cyber Club AJK members, the many 'unsung heroes/volunteers, and all the members, for their undivided support and the keen participation. Without these support, MABCC would not have been able to carry out successfully the planned activities during the course of the current year. Recognising too, the needs to meet and achieve the set objectives and goals, lots of hard work from all are still required over the next year or so.

Happy holidays to all!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2010!

More challenging times ahead, 2010 and forward!

Click the link below to listen to a favourite Christmas song of mine..

Friday, October 30, 2009

Father of the Bride speech

Venue: Hartwell House, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, UK
Date: October 24th, 2009
Occasion: My daughter's wedding

"Good evening. When my daughter told me I was required to give a speech as the father of the bride, I was a little reluctant at first as I am blind and will not be able to read from normal prepared notes. However, today is a very special occasion – my only daughter is getting married, so it calls for special effort on my part and I will try to do my best to say a few words.

The day when Wern-Yi was born she was a bundle of great joy to us and especially to my late mother. She was the happiest grandma in town. She had always yearned for a girl as she had 5 sons and no daughter. With Wern-Yi's birth she finally could proudly say she had a grand-daughter instead.

Because Wern-Yi was the only grand-daughter then, all the family members doted on her. Whatever she wanted she got. She was very 'manja', meaning she was spoilt. My wife Hong was the disciplinarian at home and on many occasions put her feet down to discipline Wern-Yi but the little girl just knew how to get her own way – through her father – me. This caused many disagreements between my wife and I on how to raise Wern-Yi.

Growing up Wern-Yi was very strong willed and stubborn. She was the one child that gave us the most heartaches and worries. Being a girl, of course, we worry over her safety each time she went out with her friends and coming home late. She would all the time assured us that she knew how to take care of herself and she did.

Wern-Yi may have her faults but she is one precious princess we love dearly. While she had her own spoilt ways, she's also a caring sister and daughter, always looking out for her younger brother. Whenever her mother had her days of rest in bed nursing her headaches, Wern -Yi would be the one to pop her head into the room to ensure mom is resting well and had a glass of water beside the bed. She would also be the one responsible in reminding the brothers of parent's special days, getting mom and dad birthday presents and cards, etc.

I lost my sight nearly 2 years ago. The moment she heard the news, she flew home from UK without hesitation. Her presence was a great comfort to her mom and me. She took charge in ensuring her Mom had her rest, her brothers took turns to take care of me while I was undergoing treatment in the hospital.

It is not unusual to hear Wern-Yi screaming from her room when she was at home in Malaysia. I vividly remember the one time when she did that, we thought the roof had collapsed on her. Both her 2 brothers and I ran to Wern-Yi's room and found her standing on her bed and she was pointing to the bathroom – terrified. Guess what we found in the bathroom! A cockroach. Yes, Wern-Yi is scared of creepy crawlies and insects.

When Wern-Yi got the visa to come to UK for a 2 year stint, little did we realize that she would meet her beau here and now she is going to be settling down in London.

Jeremy first came to Malaysia last year. No doubt I could not see him but I could feel that he is a fine young man, well mannered, soft spoken and a man of few words…just like me. So when you get two men of few words together I guess you hear either little or no conversation!! And that was our first meeting. It was better during the second trip. We got to know each other better and happy to note that he was serious with Wern-Yi. I could not be more happy for my daughter. On this note I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Jeremy to my family. Our friends and relatives back home also wish to extend their congratulations to the happy newly weds.

For the old Chinese custom, when daughters get married they are considered to be outsiders to the birth family. In our case Wern-Yi will always be our beloved daughter, I am not giving her away but rather gained another son. Jeremy, I am happy to have you as my son-in-law.

Jonathan, Hilary, thank you for having Wern-Yi as your daughter-in-law. Wern-Yi has been a loving daughter to both of us and I am sure she will be likewise to both of you too.

To the newly weds, I have these words for them. As you embark on this life journey as a married couple, work the marriage and not allowing the marriage to work itself. Do not take each other for granted, keep your communication channels open at all times, respect and appreciate the love that you have for each other. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango, but I would like to add that the music accompaniment (extended family) is equally important to make the tango beautiful. So I wish both of you – `Pak Thau tol low' (in cantonese). Literary means – white hair till old, or simply put happily ever after.

It is always hard to let go of one's child especially my only daughter. I am going to miss her very much. But Wern-Yi need to be set free to start her new life with Jeremy. Jeremy, I hand over my daughter to you for your caring and loving. You will have to deal with her fears of creepy crawlies and all her screams. Good luck.

Last but not least, my sincere appreciation to all who are here today for your presence has definitely made this day a memorable and joyous occasion.

Thank you".

More challenging times ahead!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My daughter's Wedding

What a feeling!.. A mixture of sadness, happiness, love and the memory of the precious moments that would be forever etched in my mind and treasured forever. Yes, Saturday 24th October  2009, the day my daughter got married. As I walked my daughter slowly down the aisle, I was the happiest father of the moment and feeling proud, my only daughter tying the knot! A slight thinge of sadness though, my daughter the bride, leading and guiding her dad down the isle instead of me doing so. The ceremony started with the Deputy Registrar of Marriages welcoming everyonel in the room to the special occasion of the marriage of Jeremy Smithers and Wern-Yi Yam. We were invited to sit down and she began the proceedings to solemnised the wedding.
Backtracking a few hours, as we entered the main gates to this historical 17th century greystone building, my dear wife, Hong described to me in minute details about the beauty of the place. Large vast of green grasslands, trees standing majestically, leaves of brown, gold and red magnifying the colour contrast on this special autmn day. Another first perhaps, my daughter, the bride drivng us to her own wedding from London to Hartwell House, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. We had no idea about the wedding location and it was indeed a lovely surprise to arrive at Hartwell House, located 20 miles (30km) north of London.
As the Deputy Registrar continued her speech, all were listening to her and particularly myself, not missing out a single word and giving my outmost attention to the ceremony ongoings, so much so that I said , "Yep! that's me" instead of `I am' when the registrar mentioned in her speech if the father of the bride would be giving away the bride to her husband to be then. The ceremony proceeded with the traditional, customary taking of vows, exchanging of wedding rings and recital of poems. The final highlight of the ceremony was the signing of the weddng register book and it was a special moment for the newlyweds as it was witnessed by close friends and relatives of both families.
The cocktail reception following the ceremony was one that I truly enjoyed. The sun was out and a slight autmn cool breeze blowing whilst all the wedding guests were out in the garden mingling around, drinking champagne and lots of of photo sessions. A perfect day for the newlyweds! Both sides of the family got to know one another much better during the reception. Everyone was smartly dressed especially the men of the bride and groom' s family.  They were wearing the morning tail coat suits with the orange cravat.  When the newly weds joined the reception for the photoshoots with the family and guests, all were excited and I could hear cameras clicking away. 
Then came the annoucement - dinner would be served.
The master of ceremony whispered in my ears that she would be announcing the father of the bride would be giving his speech. I quickly took a sip of the white wine to wet my throat. What a wonderful experience to be able to speak about my daughter, sharing my thoughts and feelings. It was another public speaking in the dark. No doubt I could not see the happy faces in the dinning room but I could sense the warmth and frendly environment. Next, was the speech by the groom, the best man and breaking the English tradition, the father of the groom also delivered a speech. Great dinner, great speeches, great company; those were the ingredients that made the dinner event so memorable and enjoyable. Finally, coffee, tea and the wedding cakes were served in the drawing room where again, all guests mingled among one another, some sat down, some stood around the fireplace with the firewood blazing away, providing the warmth in the cold autumn evening. A night that was to be remembered by all.
Wow! I am a father-in-law! It was just like only yesterday Wern-Yi was a cheeky little girl, a bit of a spoiled brat, probaby my doing, and now she's the wife of Jeremy Smithers.  I missed not being able to see her in her beautiful wedding dress and the moments when she officially became Mrs Smithers. Nevertheless, I am still the happiest father, can't see but can feel and hear the beautiful ceremony.  What a memorable day!!!
More challenging times ahead!          

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Can't See, Can Tee!"

"Good shot!" I heard my fellow flight members shouted excitedly the moment I hit the ball with my metal wood driver during the tee off at Hole 1.  Yes, the first blind golf event in Malaysia was officially launched on Thursday, 15th October 2009.  A total of 32 golfers (16 blind, 16 sighted) from Hong Kong, Australia and Malaysia participated in the afternoon's inaugral launch of the 9 hole golf game. The sound of my titanium driver clubface striking the golf ball echoed the 'sweetest music' to my ears.  A moment that I shall cherish for a long time to come.  A sport that I thought I will never ever play again after losing my sight in January 2008.
The customary pre-tee off flight members photography session at Hole 1 would certainly be  treasured by the four of us.  The same will go for the rest of the participants at their respective tee off holes,  simultaneously teeing off in the shotgun tee off format.  At Hole 1, the four of us standing tall and proud, perhaps too, putting up the broadest smiles, the widest grin, ever, whilst the cameras were clicking away.  Kim Mok - Captain of the Hong Kong Blind golf team, Ron Anderson - West Australian blind golfer/blind golf coach, Charles Chan - President of Happy Valley Lions Club, Hong Kong and humble me, the blind golfer, Malaysia, made up the members of flight no. 1 teeing off at Hole 1.  3 blind and 1 sighted playing a round of golf together.  Nothing could beat this, I dare say!  As for the other 8 flights playing, each flight had 2 blind and 2 sighted players.  All the blind golfers had a personal volunteer/coach to guide.  
The blind golf event started off with a special morning golf clinic session at the golf driving range. Golf ethiquettes, safety, correct techniques in swinging and hitting the golf balls, putting skills were patiently coached by the Hong Kong golf coach to all.  Ron was at hand to offer a few tips as well.  After the 'talk and talk' coaching and instructions, all the blind golfers and their respective assigned volunteer/coaches had the free practise at the golf driving range.  Full focus and full concentration were the order of the next few hours at the golf driving range.
The Putting competition held  was of intense rivalry among the sighted and the blind.  Each individual golfer was allowed 3 putting tries to hole the ball from a distance of 4 metres. For the sighted, they were blindfolded and thus, all were tested on the same level playing field, so to speak.  Needless to say, you could guess who the winners would turned out to be. 
The 'ambrose' format of play was adopted for the afternoon game. This format of play was to ensure all enjoyed the game as each flight would be playing as a team with the best ball played as the the final ball position for all to play their next shots. This would also speed up the game and leaving no excuse for others to say that blind golfers are slow and holding back the game for others following behind.
To make the friendly golf game more interesting for all, novelty prizes were given for the Longest Drive in the 3 categories, sighted, blind B1 and low vision B2/B3, Nearest to the Pin for the same 3 categories and finally the Best Mixed Team championship.  Every participant had a fair chance in the competition.  All completed the 9 hole game within the targetted time frame of 3 hours and from their voices and excitement, I knew all were exhausted but extremely happy as the topic of conversation heard over the next hours or so were on their golf experiences, the misses in putting, the one good shot of their game, etc.  Again, everyone had an enjoyable evening at the events function room with lots of delicious food, buffet serving style.  The highlight of the day, of course, was the giving away of prizes to the winners. I would say, all were winners, irrespective of whether one did or did not win any medal but one had taken the bold challenge to take the big step forward in experiencing golfing.  Kudos! to our Malaysian first timer golfers.
This golf game has certainly achieved the objective set.  It has created public awareness that the blind could play and enjoy the game, that the blind could play alongside sighted golfer friends, walk shoulder to shoulder and interact together.  More importantly, help to boost, enhance and empower the independence and confidence for the blind community.       
Certainly, a day to be remembered by all, particularly to the Malaysian blind friends.. Dreams turning into reality, many things in life is possible as long as we keep up the positive outlook and the positive vibes in us.  How about another round of golf, sighted and blind friends??
More challenging times ahead!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reaching Out.......

I am so happy to share. I have achieved my objective for my has reached out to others across the ocean - motivating and inspiring others experiencing with similar sight loss, particularly adult blindness. Yes, I certainly can say that today is a bordeless world, perhaps, one world one community in the making!!
Randy, my new blogger VIP friend, despite having lost her sight, is another inspirational role model to many others. I am pleasantly surprised and happy  she started blogging and I know I can learn a thing or two from her.
I did not realise that blind and visually impaired readers had difficulty in posting comments in my blog, when encountering the security checks, for example, 'word verification' requirng retyping of word shown to prevent spam, etc. Sighted assistance is needed and from my own experience, it's frustrating not to be able to tackle this supposedly simple task without sighted assistance. Since I was introduced to the WebVisum tool, allowing automatic capture  of word verification, thus, resolving this security check issue, I had assumed that others would have access to WebVisum or other similar tools. How wrong I was! I must apologise for assuming this. So, I must relook into my blog settings to make it more assessible for others, especially fellow blind and visually impaired friends to post opinions, thoughts and other comments.
Please check out .  I liked it! Keep up the good work!
More challenging times ahead!  .
Email from Randy below reproduced with consent granted ..
Subject: Your blog - I love it!

Hi there and friendly greetings,
I am so happy to have found your email listed on your blog. I have read every post and I can't begin to say how much I relate. I lost my eyesight on April 24, 2008 at the age of 29. Like you, I was incredibly depressed, and so missed my computer. We have a place similar to your MAB, called Saavi, Southern Arizona Association for  the Visually Impaired. I waited months before contacting them, as I just couldn't accept my fate. This time last year, my dear friend bought me a white cane. She knew once I actually had it in my hands, that I would make the call, and I did. I was put on a waiting list to learn Jaws, but I just couldn't wait. So in December, I bought an apple computer, because they all come standard with a screen reader, called Voiceover. I taught myself how to use it, and just started a blog last month. The reason I am emailing you and not commenting on your blog, is because I cannot get passed the word verifications in blogger. So I can't post on your blog, which makes me very sad. There are other security settings that a lot of us use, like the comment moderation setting, which sends comments to your email for approval. Users must have a google account or blogger account to comment, so it cuts way down on spam. With your IT expertise, you're probably aware of this, but I wanted to maybe suggest it, as I'm sure other blind people would love to comment, and might not be able to get past the word verification. I hope you don't find me rude in suggesting this. I have just been so sad that I can't comment and share my experiences in relation to yours. I was especially happy that you're playing golf again. I used to play billiards, and I miss it so.
Anyway, thank you for writing, and I do hope you keep it up. I am a follower, and look forward to reading in the future. Oh, and I am going to look into guide dogs for people in Malaysia. I am in training for a guide dog, and when I read that you might not have that option, I was deeply saddened. I'm going to see what I can find. You might be able to travel to a school and bring the dog home, but I'm not sure. I will let you know what I find.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Golfing in the dark..

A day to remember. Yes, my first visit to a golf course since the loss of my sight in January 2008!.  Another barrier crossed, another critical step taken in moving forward. This memorable outing will further boost and enhance my confidence in getting myself back into socialising, networking and back into circulation, so to speak!  
My dear wife, Hong, had to tag along as my caddie/coach, whilst too, guiding me along  as I walked and played  the 5 out of the 9 holes that I had planned for before the first teei off. The sun and the heat were starting to affect both of us. It must have been the lack of exercises of late that could possibily explained why we felt exhausted after walking the 5 holes,  Poor Hong had to lug the half set of golf clubs as I played the 5 holes,          
Stepping on and standing on the 1st hole Tee box was so much different from standing in the driving range Tee box. At the golf course, I could sense the wide open space around me unlike the driving range where I experienced the phobia feeling of being hit by UFOs (unidentified flying objects), as I could hear golfers hitting the balls nearby. In this case, balls all over the driving range. 
A brief Q & A, to get my bearings, mental mapping image layout of the hole, distance and the obstacles from the Tee box to the greens. Holding a firm golf grip on the driver and a couple of practice swings, I was then ready to 'officially' drive the first ball into the world of darkness.  The excitement and inexperience of playing blind golf resulted in me topping the ball and pulling it to the left and the ball rolled onto the rough patch!  It was frustrating and I stood on the Tee box for some moments to reflect why and how it happened, disgusted with myself for a poor start. Hong, did not managed to follow and keep track on the ball as it rolled into the rough hedge.. So, 'officially', I had a lost ball to start off.  What a start to my first ever blind golf game!  Much to my delight, the next several shots, I learned to relax, enjoy the game and I could feel my game slowly creeping back over the next few holes, notwithstanding some inevitable 'airshots'. Chipping and Putting were other challenges which I had to tackle and much more practice needed. Putting into the hole proved to be quite a challenge as I had to know and gauge the putting distance and the hole position, also taking into consideration the varying gradient on the greens. In order for me to putt into the hole after having made the decision to putt the ball into the hole, Hong had to move the pin within the hole to create some noise, enabling me to focus the hearing to locate the hole position.                
It was a good start in relearning and regaining the confidence in the game of golf, despite that it will be blind golf for me from now onwards.  Well, I shall have to walk several more rounds at the golf course before next week's first blind golf event to be played at the Bukit Jalil Golf course which I am participating together with some Hong Kong blind friends. 
More challenging times ahead!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Blind Golf

The first Blind Golf event in Malaysia will be held on Thursday, 15th October 2009 at the Bukit Jalil golf course, in conjunction with the International White Cane Day. Hong Kong will have 8 blind golfers participating in this inaugral friendly golf event.This event is organised and sponsored by the National Council for the Blind, Malaysia, NCBM. The success of this historical golf event in the making, will be an achievement and of great significance to me, personally. As the 'driver' for this golf project, so to speak. This historical day too, will be my first 'official ' golf game outing since the loss of my sight in January 2008. I am getting some jittery feelings thinking of the golf game. Images buzzing in my head : standing on the first tee box, looking out towards the 1st hole but not seeing.., looking down at the white golf ball but not seeing.. hitting the golf ball  without seeing it fly, only hearing the sound created by the golf woods/irons hitting the golf ball following a good shot. It will be an emotional and nostalgic moment for me standing alone at the first tee box, driver in hand and looking out at the world in darkness, and knowing fully well that the day is going to be a bright and a beautiful day for golf.
Preparations are in progress but there is still much to do from now until the big day. It will be a challenge for me to brief our local keen blind and visually impaired first timers about golf, the different golf equipment, basic golf techniques, golf rules, etc.    A couple of visits to the nearby driving range for practices, and perhaps too, a brief coaching tour to a local golf course will be of great help for the local participants as they are newbies to the game of golf.  No doubt I played golf when I was sighted before but in the present time it is a different ball game altogether.  A totally new experience golfing in the dark!!
More challenging times ahead!
Useful information for those keen to know about blind golf..
"Blind golf is an adapted version of the sport of golf created for blind and partially sighted players. While we think of golf as an activity requiring eyesight, that's not necessarily the case. The game is enjoyed by thousands throughout the world who have someone else be their eyes.

The International Blind Golf Association (IBGA) was established in 1997 at a meeting held in Perth, Western Australia. Today there are currently nine member countries in the IBGA: Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the United States of America.

The earliest record of blind golf is from the 1920s in the USA when Clint Russell of Duluth, Minnesota, lost his sight when a tire exploded in his face. He began playing blind golf in 1925, gradually increasing his scores until Clint managed to shoot an 84 for 18 holes in the early 1930s.

A match between two blind Englishmen and two Americans took place before the Second World War. Organized blind golf tournaments have taken place in America since the United States Blind Golf Association was established in 1947.

The first hole-in-one recorded by a blind or visually impaired golfer in a National Open was scored on September 15, 2004 by Jan Dinsdale, a B2 lady from Northern Ireland. It was on the 115 yard second hole at Shannon Lake Golf Club in Kelowna, British Columbia during the Canadian Open Tournament

Blind golf includes only minor modifications to the standard rules of golf.

The principle of playing is that blind or partially sighted golf players have a sighted coach who assists the golfer in describing distance, direction and characteristics of the hole, and helps with club head alignment behind the ball, prior to the stroke. From this point, the golfer is on his own, and it is her/his skill that determines the resulting stroke.

Other than the coach, there is only one relaxation to the standard rules: blind or partially sighted golfers are allowed to ground their club in a hazard.

Blind golf competitions are set in classes determined by the golfer's level of sight, using the same categories as in other branches of sport played by the visually impaired:

B1 No light perception in either eye, or slight light perception but inability to recognise the shape of a hand at any distance or in any direction

B2 From ability to recognise the shape of a hand, up to visual acuity of 2/60, and/or visual field of less than 5 degrees

B3 visual acuity between 2/60 and 6/60, and/or visual field of between 5 degrees and 20 degrees.


Monday, September 28, 2009

New Research Aiding The Blind To See

Malaysia O Malaysia.. The rapid technological advances today have changed and impacted the lives of so many people, particularly the disabled. For the blind and the visually impaired, medical scientists and researchers, particularly from the west, are excited about the vast opportunities that can be explored and tapped in helping the blind to restore some level of sight. While it is important to create awareness in preventing sight loss among the rakyat(citizens), it is equally important too that more research work to be done in helping those already inflicted, blind due to various medical illness and causes. It is good to have modern assistive, both physical and ICT tools,  which undoubtedly will enhance the independence of those concerned in their daily lives. I believe there are several out there who could have some level of sight restored with assistance from the newly developed technology in the near future such as artificial retina implant, tooth implant, etc.. Perhaps, the related organisations(NCBM, MAB,etc) will consider engaging in more such exciting research dialogues with the local reputable universities and research institutions in carrying out such noble and important research projects. Interesting article extracted below for reading information..




From The New York Times:

Blindness first began creeping up on Barbara Campbell when she was a teenager, and by her late 30s, her eye disease had stolen what was left of her sight. Reliant on a talking computer for reading and a cane for navigating New York City, where she lives and works, Ms. Campbell, now 56, would have been thrilled to see something, anything.

Now, as part of a striking experiment, she can. So far, she can detect burners on her stove when making a grilled cheese, her mirror frame, and whether her computer monitor is on. She is beginning an intensive three-year research project involving electrodes surgically implanted in her eye, a camera on the bridge of her nose and a video processor strapped to her waist. The project, involving patients in the United States, Mexico and Europe, is part of a burst of recent research aimed at one of science's most-sought-after holy grails: making the blind see.

Some of the 37 other participants further along in the project can differentiate plates from cups, tell grass from sidewalk, sort white socks from dark, distinguish doors and windows, identify large letters of the alphabet, and see where people are, albeit not details about them.

Linda Morfoot, 65, of Long Beach, Calif., blind for 12 years, says she can now toss a ball into a basketball hoop, follow her nine grandchildren as they run around her living room and "see where the preacher is" in church.

"For someone who's been totally blind, this is really remarkable," said Andrew P. Mariani, a program director at the National Eye Institute. "They're able to get some sort of vision."

Scientists involved in the project, the artificial retina, say they have plans to develop the technology to allow people to read, write and recognize faces. Advances in technology, genetics, brain science and biology are making a goal that long seemed out of reach — restoring sight — more feasible.

"For a long time, scientists and clinicians were very conservative, but you have to at some point get out of the laboratory and focus on getting clinical trials in actual humans," said Timothy J. Schoen, director of science and preclinical development for the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Now "there's a real push," he said, because "we've got a lot of blind people walking around, and we've got to try to help them."

More than 3.3 million Americans 40 and over, or about one in 28, are blind or have vision so poor that even with glasses, medicine or surgery, everyday tasks are difficult, according to the National Eye Institute, a federal agency. That number is expected to double in the next 30 years. Worldwide, about 160 million people are similarly affected.

"With an aging population, it's obviously going to be an increasing problem," said Michael D. Oberdorfer, who runs the visual neuroscience program for the National Eye Institute, which finances several sight-restoration projects, including the artificial retina. Wide-ranging research is important, he said, because different methods could help different causes of blindness.

The approaches include gene therapy, which has produced improved vision in people who are blind from one rare congenital disease. Stem cell research is considered promising, although far from producing results, and other studies involve a light-responding protein and retinal transplants.

Others are implanting electrodes in monkeys' brains to see if directly stimulating visual areas might allow even people with no eye function to see.

And recently, Sharron Kay Thornton, 60, from Smithdale, Miss., blinded by a skin condition, regained sight in one eye after doctors at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine extracted a tooth (her eyetooth, actually), shaved it down and used it as a base for a plastic lens replacing her cornea.

It was the first time the procedure, modified osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis, was performed in this country. The surgeon, Dr. Victor L. Perez, said it could help people with severely scarred corneas from chemical or combat injuries.

Other techniques focus on delaying blindness, including one involving a capsule implanted in the eye to release proteins that slow the decay of light-responding cells. And with BrainPort, a camera worn by a blind person captures images and transmits signals to electrodes slipped onto the tongue, causing tingling sensations that a person can learn to decipher as the location and movement of objects.

Ms. Campbell's artificial retina works similarly, except it produces the sensation of sight, not tingling on the tongue. Developed by Dr. Mark S. Humayun, a retinal surgeon at the University of Southern California, it drew on cochlear implants for the deaf and is partly financed by a cochlear implant maker.

It is so far being used in people with retinitis pigmentosa, in which photoreceptor cells, which take in light, deteriorate.

Gerald J. Chader, chief scientific officer at the University of Southern California's Doheny Retinal Institute, where Dr. Humayun works, said it should also work for severe cases of age-related macular degeneration, the major cause of vision loss in older people.

With the artificial retina, a sheet of electrodes is implanted in the eye. The person wears glasses with a tiny camera, which captures images that the belt-pack video processor translates into patterns of light and dark, like the "pixelized image we see on a stadium scoreboard," said Jessy D. Dorn, a research scientist at Second Sight Medical Products, which produces the device, collaborating with the Department of Energy. (Other research teams are developing similar devices.)

The video processor directs each electrode to transmit signals representing an object's contours, brightness and contrast, which pulse along optic neurons into the brain.

Currently, "it's a very crude image," Dr. Dorn said, because the implant has only 60 electrodes; many people see flashes or patches of light.

Brian Mech, Second Sight's vice president for business development, said the company was seeking federal approval to market the 60-electrode version, which would cost up to $100,000 and might be covered by insurance. Also planned are 200- and 1,000-electrode versions; the higher number might provide enough resolution for reading. (Dr. Mech said a maximum electrode number would eventually be reached because if they are packed too densely, retinal tissue could be burned.)

"Every subject has received some sort of visual input," he said. "There are people who aren't extremely impressed with the results, and other people who are." Second Sight is studying what affects results, including whether practice or disease characteristics influence the brain's ability to relearn how to process visual signals.

People choose when to use the device by turning their camera on. Dean Lloyd, 68, a Palo Alto, Calif., lawyer, was "pretty disappointed" when he started in 2007, but since his implant was adjusted so more electrodes responded, is "a lot more excited about it," he said. He uses it constantly, seeing "borders and boundaries" and flashes from highly reflective objects, like glass, water or eyes.

With Ms. Morfoot's earlier 16-electrode version, which registers objects as horizontal lines, she climbed the Eiffel Tower and "could see all the lights of the city," she said. "I can see my hand when I'm writing. At Little League games, I can see where the catcher, batter and umpire are."

Kathy Blake, 58, of Fountain Valley, Calif., said she mainly wanted to help advance research. But she uses it to sort laundry, notice cars and people, and on the Fourth of July, to "see all the fireworks," she said.

Ms. Campbell, a vocational rehabilitation counselor for New York's Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, has long been cheerfully self-sufficient, traveling widely from her fourth-floor walk-up, going to the theater, babysitting for her niece in North Carolina.

But little things rankle, like not knowing if clothes are stained and needing help shopping for greeting cards. Everything is a "gray haze — like being in a cloud," she said. The device will not make her "see like I used to see," she said. "But it's going to be more than what I have. It's not just for me — it's for so many other people that will follow me."

Ms. Campbell's "realistic view of her vision" and willingness to practice are a plus, said Aries Arditi, senior fellow in vision science at Lighthouse International, a nonprofit agency overseeing her weekly training, which includes practice moving her head so the camera captures images and interpreting light as objects.

"In 20 years, people will think it's primitive, like the difference between a Model T and a Ferrari," said Dr. Lucian Del Priore, an ophthalmology surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, who implanted Ms. Campbell's electrodes. "But the fact is, the Model T came first."

Ms. Campbell would especially like to see colors, but, for now, any color would be random flashes, Dr. Arditi said.

But she saw circular lights at a restaurant, part of a light installation at an art exhibition. "There's a lot to learn," she said. Still, "I'm, like, really seeing this."



More challenging days ahead.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Emotional support for people losing their sight

Browsing the internet today, I chanced upon an article relating to a research study in the UK. This research study focussed in the need for emotional support and counselling for adults who have lost their sight. The issues highlighted pertaining to the concerns, fears, loss of confidence and difficulty coping with the new life, etc. The research study article extract copy can be read below. 
While reading the article, it dawned upon me that the research described what I went through 21 months ago when I lost my sight. Much to my regret there was no professional counselling services available from the various related support organisations in our country then. It was through my family's sheer strong love and undivided support that contributed and played the vital role in helping me to come to terms with my new life.  My determination and proactive attitude pushed me to make things happen and not waiting for things to happen. Certainly, there is still much to be done to help the new adult blind in our country to cope and adapt to the new life as it lacks professional counselling and support groups. There is a need for more local research studies to understand and to provide the much needed emotional support to those who have recently lost their sight or to those who are about to lose their sight due to various eye ailments, etc. There is also a need for support groups to counsel the caregivers as well as they too need to understand how to care for the loved ones who are blind or becoming blind.
Extracted Article
The need for emotional support for people losing their sight is great but the question of how best to provide it is under researched, underfunded, and remains seriously neglected, says a new study published today.

The study (1), commissioned by sight loss charity Thomas Pocklington Trust and carried out by researchers at the University of Reading, describes the emotional trauma of being diagnosed with sight loss as potentially devastating. Yet, while there is clear evidence of a need for emotional support, there is very little information on how best to provide it. Today, the charity calls for research to evaluate the effectiveness of current services, including counselling and rehabilitation, as well as other available kinds of support.

"Not enough attention has been given to the emotional impact of sight loss," says Dr. Angela McCullagh, Research and Development Director, Thomas Pocklington Trust, "but research shows that panic and distress can lead to
depression. There's a clear need for emotional support and an urgent need for work to establish the best ways to provide it."

Using a systematic review of literature the research team accumulated and updated evidence from previous studies. This was combined with a survey of counselling services for people with sight loss in the UK, as well as interviews with people with sight loss. The team found that adjusting to sight loss was like the stages of bereavement. Participants reported initial feelings of panic and distress, followed by devastation and depression, before finally coming to terms with sight loss. This is because sight loss dramatically changes a person's way of life, cutting short activities that bolster feelings of self-worth and quality of life. Not being able to drive was a major blow, adding to a general loss of independence that was a big factor in the onset of depression.

The survey found that sight loss particularly increased the risk of depression among older people. In particular, adults of working age and above were more likely to suffer
mental health problems and a reduction in their quality of life and social functioning.

However, the study found little published evaluation of how best to deal with this emotional trauma. What did exist were mostly published pilot studies by academic researchers and client satisfaction studies by voluntary organisations. From these and further interviews it was clear that:

- Although the practical and mobility support provided by current services was important, rehabilitation played only a minor role in improving emotional well-being and reducing the risk of depression.

- The very real issue of loneliness among people with sight loss was under researched. Participants reported that having to give up their job, or having acquaintances who couldn't cope with their sight loss often led to the loss of their friends. Emotional help came from family and friends, along with voluntary groups who organised welcome social contact. Counselling and group-based courses were helpful since they provided both information and peer support.

"There is currently no real understanding of the most effective way to deal with the emotional impact of sight loss," says McCullagh. "Properly funded research and a real commitment is essential if local services across the UK are ever to provide the emotional support that could ward off depression in those with sight loss."

1. The study "Emotional Support to People with Sight Loss" was commissioned and funded by Thomas Pocklington Trust. It was conducted by the University of Reading. Based at the Institute of Health Sciences, the principal investigators were Professors Margot A Gosney and Christina R Victor, and the postdoctoral research fellow was Dr Samuel R Nyman. From 11th September the study Findings can be seen at
More challenging times ahead!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Public Speaking in the Dark....

“Good morning!” I said to the attendees at the Elderly Club gathering at the Malaysian Association for the Blind. As I was walking to the front of hall I was told by one of the committee members that there were about 50 people in the audience. “We are all here today because we chose to come, thus, starting off my talk about choices and decisions in life, leading to the other interesting topic on ‘How cars work’. Yes, I was a guest speaker at the event. I accepted the invitation to give a talk and I knew that, to me personally, this was going to be a test and a challenge, as part of my personal rehabilitation program in regaining my confidence in public speaking following the sudden loss of my sight in January 2008.

“How am I going to prepare and remember the contents of my talk; how am I going to gauge the reaction and response from the crowd?” I simply could not find an answer to it and it got me quite concerned over the few days prior to the event day. Nevertheless, I told myself that the show must go on and I would just have to be my normal self and speak from my heart and perhaps, engage the crowd in the talk, making it an informal and a 2 way channel ‘dialogue’.

Now, when I was handed the microphone, I was told that I could sit down comfortably on the chair while giving the talk. I chose to stand as I knew from past experiences standing would make me more at ease and relaxed. Moreover, this would provide me freedom to ‘walkabout’ and checked the reaction and response from the audience during my talk. I shall always remember the first few moments, standing and looking out in the dark, despite knowing fully well that the hall was bright and well lit up. Standing tall while sharing my experiences with this special group of friends, I was looking and glancing all over the hall, not seeing faces but hearing voices. When I started to introduce myself, I could hear the silence and this gave me the signal that the crowd was giving me their attention. With confidence, I shared my first topic on how I had coped with my loss of sight, and going forward with life during the past 12 months, making choices and decisions, relearning new skills and making new friends.

During the talk it dawned on me than I did miss seeing the body language and facial expressions/reactions of the audience as this would normally helped me to amend or add more ’juices’ to my talk. Standing while giving a talk, also allowed one an authority over the audience and taking charge, so to speak. I was glad that I made the decision to speak from my heart and my talk proceeded well.

Being a graduate of Automotive Engineering, I was able to share some information on cars with this group of blind audience who will not have the opportunity of steering a car in their life. It was a challenge for me to explain in the simplest layman’s terms about the car’s technical descriptions, how the car engine work, etc. It was certainly an eye opener for the audience, even for the sighted volunteers, as I was told later. I had to be on the same wavelength as the audience in order to explain and more importantly, get them to understand, appreciate and learn some basic facts about cars in general. I could hear all the oohs! and aahs! I was moved by these sounds of positive engagements, indicating the audience attention to my talk. The intelligent questions asked caught me by surprise as they were from people who had never driven before. I was very glad to have answered all the questions to their satisfaction.

At the end of my presentation, gauging from the excitement and response from the audience, I knew that I had done a satisfactory job, my first public speaking in the dark, an art that still has to be fine tuned and lots more to learn. Personally, this invaluable experience is another milestone in my quest of moving forward in life. Another barrier crossed, another skill relearned.

More challenging times ahead!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Meetings in the dark!..

“Alright! Let’s begin with a roll call” I said to the recently elected Cyber club committee members of the Malaysian Association for the Blind, MABCC, as we sat down comfortably in the meeting room for the first official meeting. Yes, I was chairing the first official MABCC meeting and was conducting the business of the day, so to speak! The new Cyber club committee was elected at the recent Annual General Meeting held in late March 2009. I was elected as the Chairman for the 2009/2010 term. Now, back to the roll call, it was important for me to know the respective exco member by names and their sitting positions. This would definitely allow and enable me to picture the overall scenario in the meeting room. It too, has always, been my good cultured habit to always look at the persons I am talking to, and vice versa. So despite having lost my sight, I would continue to do the same..a totally new experience.. chairing a meeting in the dark!..

Admittedly, I was a bit nervous and unsure if I was able to chair/conduct my first ever meeting in the dark, without the luxury of having any written notes, visual aids and to top it off, a meeting with a committee of seven visually impaired members. It was truly a challenge and a case of full focus and concentration game that had to come into play!

The meeting proceeded with interesting sugggestions and creative ideas thrown in for the brainstorming cum meeting session. The key objectives, to assist and promote IT literacy among the blind community through various programs/projects targeted for the year were highlighted and discussed. Another important task agreed then was to set up an internet chat forum to keep all members posted and updated about the happenings of the MABCC. Undoubtedly, the chat forum would help create a virtual platform and a cyberspace ‘meeting room’ enabling the MABCC blind community to come together to highlight and discuss IT related issues, learn new technology, exchange information, etc. Since the launch of the MABCC Googlegroups chat forum in June 2009, there have been positive responses and active participation from several members.

“Hello, are you still here?” I coolly asked, noting that there was a total dead silence in the room when I was halfway briefing and delegating the tasks and roles of each committee member, the rules of engagement that needed to be adhered to by all MABCC members. My quiet concern was..”Hope the elected secretary would be able to remember and jot down all the issues highlighted and discussed in the meeting as she would be preparing the meeting minutes for follow up action in the next scheduled meeting” I said to myself.

Now, fast forward, a month later.. Again, we sat down for the another monthly meeting, the secretary passed around the copies of the past meeting minutes for all to refer. Well, the minutes were in Braille! My Braille literacy had yet to come of age, still learning the ABCs of Braille, so I had to rely on the secretary to read out the agenda for the meeting, the various matters arising that needed follow up, etc. This inconvenience got me to quickly put on my thinking cap to think of alternatives, etc and perhaps, initiate another new format suitable to all. “Yes! Let’s go ‘paperless’ I said, explaining that we need to move with the technological advances and utilize all the assistive tools available to help us along. So, the minutes for the next forthcoming meetings were circulated to all via electronic mails and I had it downloaded into my mobile phone and was able to read it during the meetings if required, apart from the notebook screen reader being used at the meetings.

Fast forward again, Another initiative plan mooted was the online meetings via Skype conferencing which has progressed well since. There were some minor hiccups initially but now, it’s a breeze. The committee could come together and have a online meeting from the comfort of one’s home..

More Challenging times ahead!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Accessible iPhone 3GS

The touch screen technology has come a long way since and has certainly created excitement and impact in the area of accessibility, a common talking point among the blind community in this modern technological era. My initial highlighting of this iPhone discussion in a local blind community chat forum has certainly ruffled the feathers of some members of the community who have had mixed reactions. At the pace the access technology innovation is progressing, the skeptics may soon find themselves left behind. However, there are still others, like myself, who have vocally voiced the opinion that, sooner rather than later, this technology would be available to the blind community, and that, like it or not, we will have to adapt to it.
The recent release of the new iPhone 3GS, Apple has released not only the most powerful in its line of iPhone handsets to date, but also the worlds first gesture-based screen reader mobile device, as well as the first screen reader that relies solely on touch screen user input. VoiceOver, first available for the version of OS X that runs on modern Macs, has been integrated with the iPhone with elegance and style
Recently too, I had the opportunity to be among the first few visually impaired persons, to have a first look at this remarkable iPhone 3GS, just a few days after it was launched locally. My first look and personal brief review of the device is as follows:

"I had the opportunity to 'test drive' this latest iPhone today at NCBM, National Council of the Blind, Malaysia. The iPhone was brought in from Singapore by the New Straits Times, NST and together with Moses, Ms. Wong and the NST journalists, the iPhone was the topic of discussion, particularly in the area of accessibility to the blind community.

My personal brief reviews about the iPhone 3GS:

General featureand Physical outlook:

The iPhone has a large screen which covers almost the entire length and width of this palm size phone. The large screen offers the distinct advantage for the 'touch and tap' modes and functions providing greater flexibility/mobility around and about the screen. There is only one key button at the bottom of the screen device, the Home key. However, the advantage of the large screen size has its negative side too. For a person with a small hand or palm, for example, some ladies, to hold such wide bodied phone may not appear to be comfortable.


The moment one touches the screen with the tip of a finger, the response from the screen reader is instantaneous. reading the word, menu list, folder name, etc. Similarly, in learning to use and operate any other newly acquired gadget, one needs to spend time exploring and familiarising the various modes and functions available on the phone. The female synthesized speech did not sound audible or clear at times, particularly certain pronounciation which will not be an issue after some time However, the phone's audio sound quality test drive today was somewhat disappointing, a bit of distortion from its built in speaker. It is simply amazing that one can just use one's finger to touch and activate the various modes and functions, making and answering calls, creating and sending out text messages, surfing the internet, etc.

This phone is a marvellous technological creation. In spite of only having a short and brief 'test drive' of this latest iPhone, I will definitely like to have one once the price becomes more affordable."

Since then, the New Straits Times press has published the full article and I was pleased to learn that there was a video clip on it too. Please follow the link below to read the NST article.

More challenging times ahead!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Walking tall alone

Yes, walking tall alone, proud with my achievement. Following my last posting `a morning train ride’ I felt such a great sense of achievement. This inspired me to move forward, that is, to grow out from the ‘baby steps’ learned so far. It was time for me to crushed the ‘fear barrier’ of walking alone, time to learn to walk tall, independently with confidence. ‘Just do it’ and ‘Walk the Talk.’ Hence, for the past couple of weeks, I stayed focus, shifted into the aggressive gear mode in improving and upgrading my O&M (Orientation and Mobility) skills to the next level in achieving my goal of becoming independent as much as I possibly could.

“Ready for today’s morning walk?” Peter M coolly asked me as he turned up for our appointment at MAB, Malaysian Association for the Blind. Peter M, in spite of his hectic schedule, had agreed to allocate more time in my O&M training lessons. He patiently walked with me, stopping several times to explain, describe the surroundings so that I could register a clear mental image or picture in my mind. This mind mapping skill was important for me to know as it would help me to visualize and allowing me to focus and be aware of the potential danger spots during my ‘walk alone walks.’ Peter M reminded me that there was no need to rush and he started to show me how to walk safely to a nearby destination and he would increase the walking distance as the days go by.

“OK! I am ready” I said to Peter M who had told me to walk to YMCA’s main gate and he would be following from behind but not shouting instructions this time round. However, he would keep me under observation from a distance. As usual, with my ole’ faithful white walking cane guiding me, I started to walk out from MAB’s main administrative office, to the main gate and began my walk to the intended destination. Like all the earlier walks, extreme focus and concentration had to come into play. I reminded myself to stay calm, utilize my sharpened hearing sense and mind mapping skills and more importantly, enjoy the walk. I could hear the traffic noise, differentiate the source and direction of the noise. This actually helped me to orientate my bearings and walking direction. At the same time, probing the tiled walking tracks along the pavement with the white cane for guidance also kept me on the right track. Suddenly, I realized I could not hear Peter M’s voice since I walked out from MAB gate. `Has he deserted me, and literary left me to manage on my own?’ I asked myself. To console myself I was hoping he was somewhere around. I continued with my walk. The most scary and challenging part of the walk to me was the traffic lights junction. It was located at the cross road intersection and I had to cross over to the opposite side to continue onwards to my destination. My ole’ faithful slowly guided me to the end of the pavement and to check my position I had to `square up` i.e. stood against the pavement with my heels touching the kerb. This would mean I would be facing the opposite pavement. Squaring up also would enable me to walk straight across to the opposite side when I had decided it was the right time to cross. I had to really focus, listened to the traffic noise, making sure the vehicles are not moving. Unfortunately, the traffic lights warning buzzer was not working. So I had to be cautious. I could feel my heart beating fast and began to sweat while making the decision to cross or not to cross the road at the opportune time. As I coolly started to walk across the road, I could hear the vehicle noise on my right, indicating the vehicle was stationary and the traffic light was in the red mode. The short walk across the road seemed like ages, and I was so relieved when I reached the opposite side, albeit a bit out of alignment. I had veered off course almost to the road but luckily at the edge of the pavement. I heaved a sign of relief and stopped for some moments to catch my breath and re-checked my bearings in relation to the destination. “Not too bad,” Peter M’s voice was heard and in all honesty, I had forgotten all about him during the exciting moments when I thought I was all alone in the world crossing the intersection. What a relief to hear his voice. I then proceeded to walk along the pavement, and had to avoid some morning food stalls located near a backyard morning market. Well, at least some of the food stall operators were kind enough to warn me or help me to divert away from their ‘danger spots’ that is, the tables and chairs placed along the walking tracks and footways. Again, I had to cross the one-way street to get to the YMCA main gate. This crossing was not as scary as the former at the traffic lights. I had to remember to avoid walking into the street lamp post that stood out like a ‘sore thumb’ in the middle of the tiled walking tracks, just outside the YMCA gate. Peter M had warned me of this obstruction earlier. “What a walk,” I said to myself. After a few minutes of cooling down and a chat with Peter M, I turned around and walked back to MAB, without hearing Peter M’s voice again until we finally arrived at MAB’s office. The return walking trip was equally exciting with me getting jittery at the traffic lights crossing again. I had to stand, wait and made sure that I was safe and confident before crossing. Again, it felt like ages just to cross the road at the traffic lights. I was mentally exhausted and my shirt, too, was totally drenched with sweat. More importantly, I was a satisfied walker! Certainly, I shall be looking forward to more of such independent walks, which I strongly and truly believe, will prepare and equip me with invaluable skill to face the challenges ahead.

Phew! More challenging times ahead!