Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Blind Golfing Handa Singapore experience

It was a great feeling and honour to be invited to participate in last month's Handa Singapore classic, held at the Singapore Orchid Golf and Country Resort. A timely opportunity to create more awareness about blind golf in this part of the world. There were 3 blind golfers involved, an Australian, an Englishman and myself, a Malaysian at the inaugral Asian Tour event. All three of us represented the International Blind Golf Association and we had fun time playing with blindfolded professionals to test our golf skills against the professionals. Several golf professionals from many different countries around the world participated vying for the coveted Handa Singapore Classic Asian Tour championship title.

Standing on the 1st Tee box was very nostalgic, bringing back memories of the times when I tee-off with sight. Now it is teeing without seeing. At the same time with the many media journalists, photographers and the Television crew around got me very conscious about my first attempt in teeing off at the tee box.

Click the link attached to see the highlights showing the blind golfers pitting their skills against the blindfolded professionals.

More challenging times ahead!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Braille art? ...Braille as art?

Envision: Braille As Art is an installation art exhibition in collaboration between Singaporean Artist Susanna Goho-Quek, Kenneth Quek and Malaysian Artist Phillip Wong, with the objective of encouraging the visually impaired to enter an art gallery and to appreciate the artwork through touch, listening and imagination. It is also to encourage the sighted to experience art through sight, sound and touch.

Braille art?.. Braille as art?.. I still could not figure it out in my mind what it's all about. Having accepted the invitation to visit the first of its kind exhibition here in Malaysia, I was really looking forward to solve this mind boggling mystery.

I have forgotten the massive traffic jams in KL city centre during the peak hours on a hot Saturday afternoon, Hong behind the wheels, patiently inching towards the destination, Star Hill Plaza, right in the smack of the city. Hong was grumbling at the traffic snarl and I was deep in thought challenging my mind trying to imagine what Braille art is or Braille as art.

"Hello! Welcome to our gallery." The hosts and us had a brief exchange of pleasantries as I was led to sit in a comfortable Chinese antique royal chair. A picture frame was handed to me and asked if I could figure it out from my touch and feel. My first impressions.... no idea at all. All I could feel was some soft fabric, gel like substances, cut, arranged and glued in places. The only thing I was certain and sure was the picture frame but not the contents within, despite the tactile arrangements. "I give up," I said, my face blushed with embarrasment. Hong, took my hand, helped to glide my finger over the tactile pieces again and giving me hints and clues. "Wow! it's a flower with large petals" I said confidently. Yes, it was a sunflower and smaller ones on the canvass. Following that 'humiliating' and humbling experience, I was handed a thick book to review next. The artist explained that she spent 3 days, practically no sleep nor rest over the period in creating this Braille art form. Again, on each page, tactile pictures were carefully set out and as I ran my fingers over the picture, it somewhat got easier and I could figure out quite correctly some of the pieces. Another important guide was the braille text descriptions to the picture which helps the blind to visualize the composition of the picture. Alas! my Braille skills are still at a preliminary stage and therefore, I was again handicapped but not for the blind who are braille literate. So, with Hong's `audio' assistance, I could interpret the pictures as the words were read out to me.

Next, I was led to the gallery proper, through black curtains as it was supposed to be pitched dark inside. This was for the sighted visitors to experience what the blind visitors experience. The art frames were hung on the walls, like the conventional art galleries and I had to touch and feel the Braille art, all in Braille dots. Again, my limited Braille did not help much and I was struggling to read the words of the poems. Unfortunately, no tactile pictures to help out. As I struggled through the touch and feel experience of the Braille art, my mind transported me back to the art galleries which I had the opportunity to visit when I was in Paris, a few years ago. The difference between now and then, no touching of paintings then, but now I could touch the `artworks' as I walked along in the art gallery. I could feel my brains sweating as I was put to this mammoth challenge.

"What made you do this, Braille art" I asked Susanna, the artist. She added that she had also written several poems and had books published. It was by chance that she got this creative idea. She was walking past a blind person along the city one day and it hit her that her book was not accessible to the blind and this got her to ponder. She got her poems to be transcribed into Braille for a start and the rest just followed.

That was my first visit (hopefully not the last) to an art exhibition after I have lost my sight. Did not envisage going to an art gallery but thanks to Susanna she has opened another door of experience which I thought was closed to me since becoming blind.

More challenging times ahead!

2010 Top 30 Vision Impaired Blogs Award Winner

I was pleasantly surprised when I received the news of the 2010 Top 30 Vision Impaired Blogs award presented by Medical Billing and Coding recently. Here's how the letter went:

Dear Yam TW,

Congratulations! Sarah here, and your blog, MyBlindSight, was determined to be one of the best blogs to exude overall brilliance. And so, it has received our 2010 Top 30 Vision Impaired Blogs award presented by Medical Billing and Coding!

You can see your name amongst our winners here at: www.medicalbillingandcoding.org/top_vision_impaired/#MyBlindSight

Winners were chosen through a scoring system that included Internet nominations, which came from your reader base!

If you choose to accept or decline the award, please let me know. Please do not hesitate to call or email if you have any questions. Many questions can be answered at www.medicalbillingandcoding.org/top_vision_impaired/about/ ,bloggingawards.org/about/, or bloggingawards.org/disclaimer/.

Again, Congratulations, and I hope to see your badge soon!

Sarah Johns 4252294915

More challenging times ahead!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Budget 2011 - there but not there yet

Perhaps Mr Prime Minister did hear some of my thoughts relating to my wish list on ICT benefits for the visually impaired. However, there's still much to do to meet the needs of the blind community.

Here are some of my first impressions on the recently announced Budget 2011

1. With the abolishment of sales tax on mobile phones and the waiver of import and sales tax on broadband equipment, this will benefit the blind community as the blind has grown to be dependent on technology in their daily activities, both social and in their career. However, the costs of assistive and adaptive technology, an additional add-on requirements on top of computers and mobile devices, are still expensive and beyond the reach of many. The government should include subsidy on such assistive and adaptive technology which could be the the barrier in becoming tech savvy for the many visually impaired people . Also, the broadband and telco service providers should be given incentives to encourage more blind individuals to become IT literate and the result of this could have a far reaching positve impact to the digital economy, providing career opportunities, less strain on the social welfare, etc.

2. The 1 Malaysia training program should include training for the disabled, especially in the field of ICT enabling the disabled to have an opportunity to compete with others on a level playing field.

3. The multi media development corporation, as stated, would be training more ICT graduates. Similarly, the training should also be extended to blind trainers/instructors, who then, could be the trainers for the disabled community as they themselves, would understand and know the special training needs of the blind. This will churn out more IT specialists among the blind and thus will be in a better position to contribute to the country's transformation to a high income earning economy.

More challenging times ahead!