Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013

Another year closing…..

Another year is just about to come to a close. Like the so many people  around the world, it’s a time to relax, sit down comfortably, a time to reflect on the past year’s happenings and occurrences that had or could have impacted one’s life, predictions and resolutions that one had painfully thought of at the beginning of the year. Many have predicted the end of the world, 21st December 2012 and well, I am glad I survived the doomsday prediction which did not happen, smiles..

A Walk in the Kota Damansara Community
Forest to celebrate International White Cane Day 2012
 -  organised by Adult Blind Association

January 2013 will be my 6th year, since becoming a permanent member of the blind community. It’s likened to crossing the bridge from the sighted world to the fascinating dark world, not knowing what it has in store for me. I am really glad to have such a loving wife and my 3 kids who together, helped me to overcome the traumatising and devastating moments during those crucial months when I lost my sight due to a severe bacterial infection in early January 2008. Together as a family, we have not looked back but moved on positively ahead in life.      

 I  relearned my computer skills, regained my confidence and more importantly, became actively involved in advocating the blind community to speak out and stand up for their rights. As a result, I have taken up the challenging role as a volunteer chairperson of a blind computer users club, sit in a technical committee for facilities for the disabled and the elderly in a city council and speak at public events on issues affecting the blind community.

Golf competition in China - organised by
Hong Kong Blind Sport Association
Recognising the need to bridge the gaps and the missing links in helping the adult blind (newly blind adults), I have started a new organisation, Adult Blind Association of Selangor, to offer emotional support counselling, basic rehabilitation services and reaching out to those needing help, be it the adults who have  newly become blind or about to lose their sight.  The association will also offer help and support to the care givers

Another notable personal achievement which I am extremely happy is the official recognition and the registration of the first ever Malaysia Blind Golf Association. I must say that I did not even think that I could get back into this game of golf when I lost my sight back in 2008. Well, if there’s a will, there’s always a way

So, what will the new year 2013 bring forth? For me, I know I will be doing more advocating work and perhaps too, raising awareness on self advocacy to the blind community to start with, advocating for better access for all and last but not least, promote blind golf to the blind community and bring the game to the next level, that is, international level.     

 So Hello 2013....

More challenging times ahead!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

International White Cane Day Celebration

SPEECH BY YAM TONG WOO, organising chairman, WHITE CANE DAY celebration at the Kota Damansara Community Forest Park, OCT 13, 2012
Selamat Pagi Yang Berhormat Ms.Elizabeth Wong(Exco Kerajaan Negri Selangor), Dr. Nasir(ADUN Kota Damansara), Mr. Anthony Thanasayan(Ahli Majlis Petaling Jaya), Mr. Jeffrey Phang(Chairman, Friends of Kota Damansara), kawan kawan yang buta dan penglihatan terhad, sukarelawan sukarelawan, ahli ahli dari media, tuan tuan dan puan puan.
Dengan ini, izinkan saya berchakap dalam Bahasa Inggeris.
Blind & Visually Impaired and young volunteers being
 briefed before entering the forest
Good morning every one. I cannot see but I am happy to hear so many voices today as we come together once again to celebrate World White Cane Day which falls on October 15th each year. This day is celebrated all over the globe with activities to remind the sighted community that the white cane is synonymous with Blind and visually impaired people, in short BVIs, and promote their safety needs and celebrate their independence that can be achieved in spite of little or no vision.
Today, we are celebrating White Cane Day with a walk into the Kota Damansara Community Forest. This is the first time that many of us BVIs are tracking into this forest. It is definitely my first since I became blind 5 years ago. The walk give us the opportunity to be close to and enjoy mother-nature through touch, feel, smell and hear.
I would like to thank the Forestry Department who, so kindly, stationed their officers at strategic locations within the forest and patiently described the different species of trees, etc to the BVIs. I also would like to thank the Friends of Kota Damansara (FoKD) for being the location hosts today. We are also grateful that FoKD had the disabled community in mind as far back as 2007 when they build the ramps, the walkways, the canopy and even the toilet infrastructure. We are counting on you to implement your vision to create the first open access forest for all and we hope that MBPJ , forestry and the Selangor State government will extend the full cooperation to ensure that by the next celebration of World White Cane Day we will have tactile surface indicators, disabled friendly toilets with running water, and longer stretch of accessible walkways that will enable us to independently explore more of the forest.
I am also glad to know that many volunteers are here today to join in the celebration by walking alongside and learning how to guide the BVIs as they track through the forest. I hope all of you had a good time, especially the first timer volunteers. I am sure you will take home invaluable lessons on how the BVIs, given the opportunity, will try to live a life as independently as possible like everyone else with the help of the White Cane.
Let me share with you what the White Cane mean to me. I lost my sight 5 years ago, literally overnight. Walking without sight can be traumatic and a painful experience. My first present from a concerned friend was the White Cane. Since then I have never left home without it. It has become part of my life acting as my `eyes’. It gives me the confidence to move about independently and safely walking the line – the yellow tactile walking surface indicators on the pavements.
Listening attentively to the briefing by the Forestry officer
It is sad to note that many sighted people on the streets still do not know the significance of the White Cane. We hope by celebrating the White Cane Day, it will raise the public’s awareness of what the white cane symbolizes – independence and safety for the BVIs. So when you see a person walking with a White Cane, recognize the person is blind and cannot see you, so give way if you are walking and slow down or stop if you are driving.
Before I hand over the mike, I would like to take this opportunity to thank YB Elisabeth Wong for officiating this event, MBPJ for organising, sponsoring it and deploying their staff to ensure our safety and conveniences, Forestry Department and Friends of Kota Damansara for their support, the volunteers for spending their time with us, and last but not least give ourselves a pat on the shoulder for just being here today.
Thank you.
More challenging times ahead!..

Adult Blind Association of Selangor

Adult Blind Association, Selangor (ABA, Selangor)


Persatuan Orang Dewasa Buta dan Penglihatan Terhad Selangor (Adult Blind Association Selangor), a newly registered organization has been set up to focus on raising awareness about adults who are loosing their sight (Adult Blindness). the special needs in rehabilitation, emotional support and counseling to Adult Blind and their caregivers, and, more importantly, a support platform for Adult Blind and their care givers to come together to share and learn how to cope and manage the traumatizing acquired sight disability during adulthood years.  There are many causes of adult blindness and to name a few they are eg. glaucoma, retina pigmentosa, diabetes which are progressive.  There are cases where blindness came about suddenly like accidents, and like my case, infection.


Flashback, those agonizing and traumatizing, depressive moments when I could not see are still very fresh in my mind despite becoming blind almost 5 years ago, as a result of a severe bacterial infection.  I could still recall vividly, the difficulties that my family and I had to endure, `fight and crawl’ to rebuild our lives the hard way, so to speak. My wife, Hong, being a trained nurse, was the pillar of strength for the family during those testing times. We were almost devastated as we could not seek out such specialized counseling support services that could offer some degree of hope to both my wife, a care giver and myself, Adult Blind. As an Adult Blind today and living through it, I can attest that there are significant differences in rehabilitation needs for those who became blind in adulthood and for those who are born blind. `Crossing the bridge’ from a sighted world into the world of darkness is an experience which, I could describe in a few simple words, simply terrifying and probably the most scary moments in one’s life. I wished that there were more help and support services available then, which we could seek advice and guidance from.


Picking up the pieces and moving on with our new life, I have gotten to meet many adult blind friends who had similar stories to share.  Some of the stories were good but many were sad which brought tears to my eyes whenever I recalled those touching conversations I had with my adult blind friends and their family members. There is a real, urgent need to create awareness about this so called `acquired disability’ that could inflict any one of us at anytime at any time of our lives.  Disabilities such as becoming blind, becoming wheelchair bound, becoming hearing impaired are typical stories we read and hear almost daily, especially as age advances or one is struck with diseases that leads to disability e.g. diabetes.                     


As an active volunteer for the past couple of years, reaching out to the blind community, I have receive many requests from strangers seeking help and guidance in coping with adult blindness as a result of eye diseases, genetic, age related and accidents which can be most depressing and worse still, causing the family to break up. These are real possibility of occurrences today and tomorrow. Our society needs to be reminded, and to be  made aware about the need to provide the support services to offer the much needed help when needed at the crucial moments in one’s lives.


Adult Blind Association is set up with the aim to fill in the gaps which is currently lacking when a person loses his sight e.g. support and counseling for both the affected adults and their care givers who need to know how to cope and manage their love ones during the initial difficult period, provide immediate basic rehabilitation in terms of orientation and mobility within and around their own homes, the daily independent living skills to regain their confidence. 


Sad to say, in our society, the social and cultural stigma forces the newly blind adults to be confined to his/her own home.  There is an urgent need to reach out to these Adult Blinds to offer them hope and regain confidence to continue to live a fruitful life.  We hope to set up support groups, reach out to these people via the medical professionals, and through awareness initiatives. 


Adult Blind Association, Selangor need your support, financially or otherwise, to carry out programs such as home visits to the newly adult blinds, to provide them with tools - basic assistive and adaptive devices/gadgets to improve their independence in the daily living needs, and skills training e.g. basic orientation and mobility, technological training to equip them to become computer literate with the use of screen readers.


The end in mind is to enable a newly adult blind to accept and come to terms with his blindness and to be able to live as independently as possible with regained confidence, and for the caregivers to be armed with the knowledge to support and help their loved ones. 


If you can help in any way, or need more information, please contact mobile +6012 3053853 or email


More challenging times ahead!..




Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Adios Dear Friend

Adios Dear Friend

When I became blind I was fortunate to meet a few friends and became close with them over the short span of 4 years. It was from them that I managed to quickly grasp the basic rehabilitation skills, such as orientation and mobility, basic Braille reading skills and not forgetting hanging out at nearby coffee shops for tea breaks. One of them, Mr. Chan Chen, Francis, age 64, who loved `kopi oh kau’, extra strong black coffee, often send me motivational and inspirational text messages and we often too, engaged in intellectual discussion pertaining to life, health, social and even current political issues. I am sad as all this will be a thing of the past. Francis, left us on Aug 6. His sudden demise really shocked me and all the other local Brickfields blind folks who knew him.

Francis, who was blind for most of his life, did not let blindness hinder his passion to help others, particularly, helping the adult blind. It’s due to his unselfish caring attitude that guided and led both my wife and I to be actively involved in helping the blind community, to improve their lives, offer emotional counseling and helping the adult blind individuals and care givers to learn to accept and adapt to the new blind world. Francis would often travel to other towns to visit blind individuals and spend time talking to those needed help and offer counseling in overcoming blind issue problems, etc. Now and then, he would introduce blind friends to me. It’s from such interactions that helped in my rehabilitation within a short period of time. He would share and discuss `case studies’ with me and together, we would devise strategies to help, at times, depressed adults, about to go blind due to eye diseases and other health problems that could cause blindness.

I could vividly recall the early days when we first met. Francis was a character, full of jokes and would keep us all in laughter, always reminding all that yesterday is history, tomorrow is anyone’s guess and today is now and what we make of it. One of his memorable classic tales about his early days, after relocating from Johore to KL for employment was this : he could not speak Cantonese and spoke only Hokkien. One day while ordering coca cola, he asked for a little salt to go with his Coca Cola. As he held up the glass of coke and asked the coffee shop owner for some salt, he said `yiam’ (salt in hokkien) and in response, the shop owner said “yam” (drink in cantonese). Francis repeated the same word a couple of times and this got the coffee shop owner agitated and scolded Francis, saying that Francis‘s probably is crazy for repeating the `yiam’ so many times. A kind and amused next table customer interpreted the dialogue and told the shop owner that Francis was actually asking for salt in Hokkien. The shop owner realized his mistake and quickly apologized to Francis and all burst out laughing. The lesson got Francis to pick up the Cantonese dialect and I am most amazed to find out Francis was gifted where languages and dialects were concerned. He was indeed multi lingual. He could speak Tamil, English, Mandarin and some Japanese . He could converse in Hainanese, Hakka, Cantonese and Hokkien dialects. His could put on accents from Scotland, Ireland, Cockney when speaking English. He told me he picked up this talent of mimicking from listening to the BBC World service and other short wave radio stations

Th other noble service which many blind folks would dearly miss is his hand brailled annual calendars. He had, over the years, personally hand brailled the 12 months calendar in Braille and he took pains to include the important dates for the blind, such as, school term breaks, religious festivals, and state holidays. He had insisted that I accept his annual brailled calendar though I told him that my Braille skills’s still very basic. The braille calendar will be a memory of Francis that will stay with me for a long time. I would not have the opportunity to learn Braille from him, an understanding that we had earlier on, that was, I coached him in learning the basic computer skills and he would coached me in Braille. I am glad that he did pick up some computer skills and he was able to read some e-books and operate his laptop to play his favourite CDs and DBDs.

Upon his retirement from the Malaysian Association for the Blind, some years back, other than the voluntary outreach activities, he was also a part time massage therapist and could assess and advice his customers about their health condition from his touch during a therapeutic massage session, another of his talents .

Francis had very vivid imagination and memory and I could rememember him telling me about his travels to Australia and Vietnam. He could describe in detail the places he had visited and seen, including an unforgettable scene, standing on the ridge of a cliff in Hanoi and looking out to Hainan Island, China, across the seas.

On a holiday to Australia, upon arrival at the immigration counter, an Australian immigration officer asked him, `You come to Australia `to die’(today) and he said, “No, I come here for a holiday” that’s Francis for you.

There were more than 50 blind friends who turned up for his funeral service at the Holy Rosary church, Brickfields and many of the blind friends walked to the church on the morning, braving the heavy morning rush hour traffic, risking their lives in crossing a couple of busy road junctions, just to be there in time to bid farewell to Francis and offer condolences to his wife, Cecilia and his only daughter, Patricia.

Farewell, my friend, Francis.

More challenging times ahead!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Inaccessible Hotel in a Liveable City

PJ, the city of choice Conference:

It’s truly heartening to listen to 2 renowned International experts talking about the importance of engagement, involvement and participation of all sectors of community, working together to realize a shared vision of a livable city for all. Yes, the message was clear, that is, the disabled community should be included and be actively participating. What a timely reminder to the local audience in the conference room. I knew then, I was in the right place and with the right people ie., town planners, architects, Residents Associations representatives, Local council members, NGOs and other state agency officers. I had to admit that I was initially hesitant to attend and thought I would probably just attend the first day and skip the next day. However, the conference was enthralling, so to speak, and I am happy that I marked a full attendance for the duration.

The conference was held at a newly completed hotel that offered modern conference amenities and facilities. The hotel design architects, however, had not given a thought that the disabled, being part of the community, also do attend conferences or as hotel guests. Both my wife and I were disappointed to discover the lift was not talking! No tactile to guide the blind and no hazard/warning tiles at strategic and possible hazard areas. It was simply unimaginable and unacceptable in a newly completed hotel that’s supposedly to welcome all hotel guests, both home and abroad. Another shocking irresponsible action by the cleaning staff was, converting the toilet for the disabled into a storeroom for their cleaning equipment and tools. Social attributes and attitudes were clearly lacking despite the grandeur settings of a nice looking hotel.

During the morning tea break, I had to join the long line of queue and also noticed that my wheelchair bound friends were also having difficulty in getting refreshments. My wife had to seek the cooperation of the hungry crowd to kindly make way for the disabled and informed the hotel service staff to organize an area for the disabled to enjoy the tea break. It was a similar experience during the buffet lunch break, where the blind had to rely on my wife to bring the food to them as there were no prior arrangements made to offer assistance. However, the service staffs were quick to assist the blind when informed about the needs. It was a great positive change and feeling on the next day. There were no issues to inconveniences, and the service staffs, including the conference organizers, were most helpful, be it at teatime, workshop session participation, and not forgetting the sumptuous lunch. Also, it’s nice that other conference participants interacted with the disabled at meal times to share their viewpoints. I know for a fact that from now onwards, the disabled guests coming to this hotel will certainly be warmly greeted and accorded good and caring service by the hotel service staff.

More challenging times ahead!

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Looking back, I considered myself fortunate that I was able to tap on my inner strength, and coupled with family support and love I was able to overcome and accept my sudden loss of sight as a result of severe bacterial infection in January 2008. This life changing experience widened my scope of vision in seeing the good, bad and the ugly sides of life. Fortunately, there’s more of the good. I am happy to have befriended many new friends, including wheel-chaired bound, blind and visually impaired and the very much lesser known group, the Deaf-Blind!        
I was quick to realize the importance of assistive ICT which helped me move forward in my new life’s journey following the traumatic experience. I had to re-learn using the computer with the screen reader technology, enabling the text to speech functions, thus, giving access to the blind to use the computer. I started an internet chat list for the blind to come together in the chat room, share and exchange experiences, etc. It was, indeed enlightening that I got to know a few Deaf-Blind friends from the list. I was moved to learn about the life’s challenges brought on by their additional disability; deafness on top of blindness.

Choo Kim Yoon, 44, blind, started his primary education at the Princess Elizabeth School, Johor Bahru. “I live at Salak South New Village in Kuala Lumpur with my mother and brothers. I lost my eyesight at the age of 3 due to high fever. I became partially deaf at the age of 16 due to unknown illness “ Choo said. Despite the deteriorating hearing impairment and through sheer determination, he completed his Form 6 education at the St. Johns Institution, Kuala Lumpur. He continued on and did a stint at the Gurney Training Centre, Malaysian Association for the Blind where he learned Braille, computer skills and obtained a certificate in stenography. Choo said “My current occupation: slotting appeal letters into envelopes, raising funds for MAB.”

Choo lamented “living with multiple disabilities is really tough and challenging. Unable to see and hear properly make communication with other people the foremost problem. People are not always willing to talk with you if you cannot hear them the first time. They don't always have the patience to repeat things to you, instead they will keep raising their voices and shout to you. When people behave in such a manner, it cut off every possibility to establish a friendly conversation with a deaf-blind person like me”. As a result of this negative attitude amongst the people in the society, the deaf-blind community are regretfully neglected and shut out of so many precious benefits which the other parties enjoy, including many potential employment opportunities. “I am thankful to God though because not everybody exercises such a mistreatment against a deaf-blind person like me. There are still open-minded people in the society who are willing to befriend and help me in every possible way. For instance, my close friend at work, learned to communicate with me by the means of finger-brailing. He assisted me in my job and also helped to buy my lunch as well as other materials such as batteries for my hearing aids.”

“NGOS serving the blind, and the government should work hand in hand to create awareness amongst the public of the specific needs of the deaf-blind community. Our specific needs should be recognized and attended to accordingly. There should not be barriers to prevent us, the deaf-blind persons, from participating and contributing actively in all programs that is aimed toward enhancing the quality of life. We must work together to break the communication barrier by implementing a standard sign language that is acceptable and accessible for both parties. One of the potential methods can be the Lorm tactile sign language which is widely used in developed countries and has recently been converted into computerized format. The govt. should provide financial assistance to the deaf-blind individuals who need to purchase such high-tech communication device. At the same time, the govt. must supply high quality hearing aids to the deaf-blind persons and not merely the low-cost ones. In addition, the govt. must realize the importance of computer access to the deaf-blind community, hence must supply subsidised or free Braille display devices to the deaf-blind persons that will enable us to venture into internet business or become creative freelance writer. In short, we, the deaf-blind persons should not be excluded from the fast development in technological access in this country.” Choo’s parting shot, “help us to become fisher men and not merely eater of fish supplied by other men.”

Louis Prem Kumar, 48, has this to say.  “I am a blind masseuse working in Shah Alam, Selangor and also a musician. I realized my hearing started to slowly fade away at 9 years of age.  Then at age ten I started using hearing-aids. About my blindness, the early symptoms of blindness began at age 7 but I continued studies at a sighted school till 14 and had to take up Braille due to vision loss, unable to read print.” Louis completed his Form 5 secondary education at the St.Johns Institution, Kuala Lumpur. He furthered his skills training at the Gurney Training Centre, MAB for one and half years.

Louis said, “My daily challenges: due to my poor hearing, I find it difficult to communicate with people in noisy environments such as busy roads, and big gatherings.  It also drowns my confidence in crossing roads on my own.  Being deaf-blind also kept many people away from knowing me because I could not hear and communicate with them easily. My current employment is as a masseuse. Some clients do not want to take the chances to try my therapy.  They will try after much persuasion and only after they know I am a sociable and friendly person.  It is difficult to go shopping and doing banking on my own due to my additional disability.”

 Louis’ wish list, “Well I feel that the NGO and GOVT could assist us with providing financial aids to enable us to purchase the high tech hearing aids to assist the hard of hearing blind individuals. In cases where hearing loss is extreme, they could assist us with supplying technology such as Braille displays or Braille style computers. The NGO and GOVT could also employ the Deaf-Blind in handwork jobs that does not need much of communication such as packing jobs or even serve at blind societies where Braille is a means of communication among the blinds concerned. The public could also come forward to help the deaf blind in crossing roads, getting into the LRT, Monorail trains and the Commuter trains.”

 More challenging times ahead!


Q&A :  A session with a curious teenager:

Question:  Do you listen to the beeping traffic light before you cross the road? Or do you use white canes (mostly) ?
My reply: The white cane acts as `my eyes' whenever I travel out of my house. Yes, the beeping audible sound from the traffic lights helps me in deciding when to cross the road but I still have to rely on my hearing to make sure that there is no oncoming traffic, motorbikes, etc. However, many traffic lights here are not fitted with the audible sound systems and also, there are some faulty ones and not being repaired.

Question:  Do you have an assistance dog (meaning a guide dog)?
My reply: To date, there is no guide dog for the blind here in Malaysia. I am exploring the possibility of forming a guide dog society and hope to introduce guide dogs for the blind in the coming months. I have 3 companion (pet) dogs at home, Joyful, Lady and Prosperous.

Question:  Do you know if Malaysia has `braille tiles' on the foot path?
My reply: You mean tactile guiding blocks.  There are tactile guiding blocks, mainly in KL city areas, in and around transportation hubs, etc. More tactiles are being installed, particularly in public facilities and amenities as the authorities are fast becoming aware about the needs of the blind community.

Question:  How do you feel about people who can see while you can't?
My reply: Have not thought about it. As you will soon learn, all people are only interested in themselves, so, probably, that's why I am concerned only about my self when I am out in the open, making sure I am listening to the sounds and noises

Question:  Do you feel sad? Or grateful because you can feel improvement in your other senses?
My reply:  Sad?.. no, because now, I do not pre-judge a person by one's looks, clothing worn, etc, that is, not judging a book by it's cover. Yes, my other senses do get enhanced over time and this amazes me as I can `filter out' unwanted noise during conversation, enjoy the good food taste and listening to good music.

Question:  Do you feel special now that you are sightless?What does your friends and family think about your blindness?
My reply: My family are happy and proud that I am able to pick myself up within a short period of time, adapt to a new world and life. More importantly, my family got closer, realising the need to be supportive of each other in terms of emotional and love in times of need.

Question:  Do they help you in daily life?
My reply: As said, family's emotional support and love plays a crucial role in my adapting to my new life despite being a new learning experience for all.

Question:  What is the most difficult thing to do when you cannot see a single thing? Do you remember steps in your house? (like : four steps from the living room is to the toilet.. ) Or do you use other blind tools? Please tell me the tools you use in daily life.
My reply: Initially, I have to relearn everything in life and insisted in doing things/chores on my own so, counting the steps helped. Fortunately, we human beings, do have the built-in survival instinct and inner strength. My memory improved and I could remember the landmarks when moving about in the house or outside. The white cane is the most important tool aid used. There are several home gadgets which are available but I don't use them, for example, liquid leveller which enable me to know when the cup is full when I pour water into the cup. Another gadget is a electronic labeller which, enables me to `audio label' any things that I'd like to remember, such as title of DVDs, medicine bottles/packs, etc.

Question:  What is your first impression when you heard the doctor or someone say that you are blind? What is the first thing that rushed through your mind? Did you create barriers during the first few days of sightless eyes?
My reply: Never thought it would be permanent then.  However, when the doctors mentioned the sight loss was irreversible, it was the darkest moment in my life and my thoughts were on my family and how they felt, probably, worse off than me. I was in pain for sometime, physical pain in my eyes and emotionally very down, just like falling into a bottomless pit.   

Question:  And the most curious thing I would like to ask you is: How do you see this email? Someone read it for you? What are you using to read this email?
My reply: I am using the assistive technology, screen reader called JAWS. This allows the text to be converted into speech, thus, reading out loud whatever I select the line or words to be read or type. Technology has revolutionise the lives of many, including the blind. Many blind people uses mobile phones with talking softwares installed and are also computer literate. I use the iPhone which has its built-in voice over screen reader. For computing, I am now switching over to Apple Mac from the common Windows used by the many blind and all other sighted people.     

More challenging times ahead!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Admittedly, losing my sight in year 2008, due to a severe bacterial infection, it has been a life changing event, having to relearn practically everything for example, simple things like walking, eating and drinking, which comes a second nature to all. However, I noticed that I have become more observant to the surroundings and the happenings around me. Blindness has not stopped me from traveling and visiting places of interests, local or abroad.
Recently, on a trip flying out to the UK, at our Malaysian airport, people in general or the airport officials, as always, turn a blind eye to offer any assistance to us, my wife Hong and myself. My wife has to push the trolley luggage, and guiding me through the airport and queuing in line to check in and at the immigration. Many a times, I do wonder if it is sheer ignorance or just not having any caring attitude that stop people from coming forward to ask if we needed help. I need to be cautious all the time, not to push the baggage trolley into the waiting passenger in the queue in front of us while moving forward towards the counters. It is always a relief to finally be seated in the plane.

Arriving at the destination, London Heathrow airport, it's a total different experience despite the airport being a very busy airport. The airport staff would quickly approach both my wife and I to enquire if we require assistance and would guide us to the fast track priority lane to clear immigration, etc and even enquire if we need further assistance to retrieve baggage from the carousel.

As a member of the MBPJ OKU Technical committee for the past couple of years, I have been involved in many access audit of accessible facilities for the disabled. Checking out the accessible toilet for the disabled at Heathrow airport, it brings back fresh memories about the similar toilets back home in KLIA airport, the frustrating moments where the doors of the toilets were difficult to close and open.. I had to lift and my wife had to pushed/pulled the door to escape from the cubicle. I do wonder how the individual disabled person, alone, get out from the toilet. He/she would be stuck inside the toilet!

Traveling around London with the underground tubes during peak hours could be a challenge for the disabled but to me, it was quiet easy. Service staff was always around and did not hesitate to approach us to enquire if we needed assistance to get on to the train platforms. People were all over the station, rushing in and out, just alike any other cities around. The caring attitude of the passengers on the train did touch me in many ways. People quickly got up and offering seats to me and even for my wife. Along the train journey, it did occur to me to question why such attitudes are lacking in our own society back at home, civic and moral education shortfalls?

It was heartening to note the elderly and disabled did not stay at home. They traveled on buses and trains, going shopping and moving around, unlike our disabled in Malaysia. Their public transportation are accessible and on time! The curb level and bus floor are almost of the same level, so much so I did not realized I was on the bus until my wife informed me. There are always seats allocated for the people with special needs and there is a space for parking wheel chairs and strollers. Our local public transportation has much to learn and catch up. Just imagine a blind person waiting for a bus, and not knowing whether the bus is turning up or not!

Whilst the local authorities are aggressively pushing for better access facilities for the disabled community, especially in public areas, amenities and transportation, this is certainly laudable but little has been done to educate and raise awareness to the public about the social attributes which are equally important, if not, more necessary in understanding the needs of the disabled community.

I had the opportunity to travel on budget airlines to Glasgow and Dublin. I was happy to note that special attention were given to people needing assistance e.g. in wheelchair, the elderly and like me, the Blind. We were always given priority to board and wheel chair bound passengers boarding the plane using ambulift.. There was no additional fees impose for special assistance.

On the return journey home, while queuing at the check in counter I was surprised to hear a fellow Malaysian airline staff on duty at the Heathrow airport enquiring if I needed any special assistance. Again it was a breeze through the immigration and custom lanes via the fast track lanes for special people like me.

On board the plane, both my wife and I were taken aback by the warm and caring attitude of the cabin crew too. This was in contrast to the outward bound trip from KL to London. I had almost forgotten the 'turning the blind eye to the blind’ which we experienced traveling from KL to London. I could recall vividly, there was unexpected air turbulence while I was in the plane’s toilet and an announcement was made to return to seats and fasten the seat belts. I quickly exited from the toilet to find a friendly voice calmly telling me that he would guide me back to my seat. The air steward has gotten my wife to return to her seat and he waited for me despite the doing a rock n roll due the air turbulence experienced. Kudos to the crew of MH 3 for their caring attitude.

Puzzling till now, is there a different SOPs practiced by our airline, that is, indifference to the disabled persons traveling out from home shores and disabled persons traveling home from abroad. Perhaps, our airline staff need to adhere to the guidelines enforced by the UK authorities, for example.

On a happy note, I was pleasantly surprised to find out there is now a special immigration counter for the elderly and the disabled at the KLIA arrival hall and thus, a step forward in making life for the elderly and disabled more convenient after long hours on the airplanes.

Still, there is still no improvements in the doors of the toilets for the disabled at the KLIA arrival hall.

More challenging times ahead!


Wesak day, an important day in the Buddhist calendar, marking the birth, enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha. Buddhist devotees, throughout the country, young and old and from all walks of life, would throng the hundreds of Buddhist temples located in the country to honour and pay their respect in commemoration of this significant event.
My sudden loss of sight in January 2008 as a result of a severe bacterial infection had not deterred me from joining the thousands of Buddhist devotees all over the world, coming together on the day to celebrate wesak day. Both my wife, Hong and I, made it a point not to miss attending this annual historical event. However, for some strange reasons, we have been visiting a different temple over the past 4 years on wesak day and, coincidently, 4 years since losing my sight.

This year, we visited a temple located in Petaling Jaya and partly, as invited guests to an event to commemorate the day, representing the National Council for the Blind, Malaysia. We arrived at the temple at about 9.00am, the temple and its vicinity were already abuzz with people and vehicles. Patience reigned the day, despite the heavy traffic congestion, there were no horn blaring and many volunteers were around to direct the vehicles to the designated parking slots. It was quite a long walk for both my wife and I. we had to walk past the special approved makeshift stalls alongside the road to the temple building. Surprisingly, I did not experience people knocking or bumping into me as we squeezed our way through the large enthusiastic crowds and my white cane leading the way. This is a far cry away from the common bad experiences ,in shopping complexes and malls, people “love” to bumped into me despite my white cane in full view and worse still, no words of apology was offered nor attempts made to retrieve my fallen white cane at times following the “knocks.” There were many helpful volunteers strategically placed to assist the devotees and I truly felt like a real VIP (very important person) and not a VIP (visually impaired person) during my time at the temple. I wish more persons with disabilities would be able to experience and share the joy in attending such events. Everyone, irrespective of age, gender and creed, truly display care and compassion on the day and so much so that I wish everyday will be a wesak day for the persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities should be encouraged to join in the day’s celebrations, a good opportunity in getting the persons with disabilities to assimilate into mainstream society, an important proactive action, that is very much lacking in our society and is badly needed. I have attended earlier specially designed functions where persons with disabilities are gathered together and feted with delicious food and given goodies to bring home and this event would be held, not on the event day, but on a different day, an exclusive event, so to speak. The experience of the actual celebration would be clearly missing and missed. Moreover, there will be no shortage of volunteers to help out if the persons with disabilities are encouraged to be engaged on the day, a day of celebration for all.
On accessibility, there is still much room for improvement and as I walked up the steps into the temple, I asked my wife if she noticed any accessible facilities such as ramps and hand rails for the elderly, etc . “None that I could see” she said. Well, I know that there are no tactile pathways for the blind to access the temple independently. I hope the relevant temple authorities would look into the accessible needs and plight of the persons with disabilities, build and construct acccess facilities at strategic locations, thus, enabling the persons with disabilities to enter the temple premise proper to fulfill their religious rights just like all others. I do find the experience of peace, silence and self awareness simply exhilarating, Not forgetting the delicious vegetarian food served and myself sitting and eating lunch together with the devotees and guests. Perhaps, you might think I felt good to be the only blind guest at the vent, well, I really wished more persons with disabilities, blind, wheelchair bound, for example, should be invited and encouraged to attend and share the joyous experience on the historical day itself and not on other days which would not have the unique essence or magic of the day.

More challenging times ahead!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

UK Travelogue briefs

Left KL on a warm and dry Tuesday, 22 May on a MAS direct non-stop KLLondon flight. Bumpy flight due to several air turbulences encountered. Arrived London Heathrow airport on the the same evening, 7 hours difference. Warm sunshine upon arrival and fine weather lasted for a few glorious days.

Up in Scotland on 6 June for a few days over the jubilee weekend. Cold in Helensburgh but had a splendid time staying near the hills overlooking a loch. Took a scenic train ride to Oban.

Visited Eastleigh, Hampshire , 2 days back. Stayed in a quaint old English cottage, 500 yrs old!

Visiting Dublin today. Blogging on the go, waiting to board Ryan Air flight to Dublin from London stanstead airport.

More challenging times ahead!

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I attended a talk, entitled"Universal Accessibility to Ubiquitous Services: Supporting the Everyday Life of People with Restrictions." This special accessibility talk was organized by UUID (Universal Usability & Interaction Design) SIG, Faculty of Creative Multimedia, Cyberjaya.

It was indeed a privilege to meet the speaker in person, a renowned accessibility expert, Professor Julio Abascal from Spain.  I invited some of my fellow blind friends and also a couple of wheelchair-bound members from the MBPJ OKU technical committee. Together with the university students in the lecture room, all of us listened attentively to what the Professor had to share, particularly on the accessibility research work done in Europe .

Ubiquitous computing offers stimulating chances to assist people with disabilities and elderly people in managing everyday activities at home. Smart environments aim to support people, providing them with information for their tasks and security warnings when safety issues may arise.

Professor Julio continued to cite how computer technology and interfaces developed can provide better secured protection and monitoring of the elderly and the disabled living, either in community nursing homes or living independently on their own. Devices and sensors installed could help monitor the safety and health of the individual, say, if he or she has a slip and fall, an alert could be triggered to a medical control center.

Professor Julio further shed some insights into some of the current and what’s coming next in the world of accessibility. A mobile device could be linked via interface to the ATM kiosk to allow a disabled to handle one’s banking transaction and thus, accessible to the blind, little people and persons in wheelchair. Here, at home, it is a shame that, the local ATM kiosks are still “out of bound” to the blind as all the ATMs are not accessible and worse still, the blind are not allowed to own ATM cards by certain banks.

A universal remote device that could benefit disabled persons, such as enhancing their independence, indoors or outdoors, is currently undergoing prototype testing. A person in wheelchair or a blind person could, for example, use the mobile device to activate the lift’s control panel buttons remotely when one’s in a lift, switch on/off lights and other electrical appliances and electronic gadgets.

It is laudable that Professor Julio is so passionate in his research work and quest to help improve the lives of the elderly and disabled. He reminded all that Europe has a large aging population and thus, accessibility issues are a concern to all. Perhaps, we need to take heed of Professor Julio’s remark as we are fast becoming an aging society too. There are, certainly, much to catch up locally, in terms of research and development in accessibility. The present accessible facilities and amenities are still very much lacking.

It is comforting to know that Multimedia University is undertaking research work in the field of accessibility  . This is definitely a positive step forward in making a difference to the lives of the elderly and the disabled!                             

More challenging times ahead!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Let your voices be heard! Know your rights! Speak up!

My thoughts and my wishlists for the year 2012..


A year of action, paradigm shift for all with the ultimate goal in mind, that is, making a real difference to the lives of the blind and the partially sighted community. An important year too, whereby the community will come together, join hands and stand united, making  their voices heard loud and clear. Today, it's time for the community to impress upon the NGOs/relevant authorities about our needs and not waiting for others to decide what the blind and partially sighted community need. Who is in a better position to know our needs other than ourselves?.. So, borrowing from the well known World Blind Union's slogan, "Nothing about us without us." A timely rallying call reminder that the blind and partially sighted are also human beings with equal rights.


The much pacifying phrase, "assimilation to main stream" still, sadly, remains a `feel good' talking point without dedicated action plans. The UN convention resolution for persons with disabilities act which Malaysia is a signatory, has not made much positive impact to the disabled for the simple reason, half measured commitments and exclusions of penalty clauses.


NGOs, in keeping up with changing times and rapid technological  revolution, need to be more pro-active and be more effective to stay relevant as leaders and champions for the blind community. More educated and blind professionals, either born blind or adult blind, should be given the due respect and likewise, respect them for what they are, look at their capabilities, not their disabilities. To many educated and professional blind and partially sighted, blindness is considered an inconvenience. More of such persons need to be included in decision making and management roles. A good opportunity for NGOs to walk the talk, providing equal career opportunities while simultaneously, advocating and championing equal rights.


Blind NGOs need too, reach out more effectively to the newly blind young and old, parents of children being born blind or progressing going blind and offering professional counseling  which is badly lacking. NGOs need to employ professional counselors and not turning away those requiring assistance, regardless of age and background. NGOs need to develop systems or revamp their systems to quickly rehabilitate the blind to get them back to the mainstream society. Perhaps, a long term plan, such as a 5 year plan to help the blind and partially sighted should be highlighted to all, a yardstick in KPI measurement of NGOs achievements and ultimately, this helps to garner better financial support from the public.


NGOs need to be pro-active in advocating for improved accessibility needs, such as access to public transportation hubs, public amenities, access to technology, etc. All blind NGOs need to employ and have qualified accessibility experts to help in making more public locations as barrier free environment with suitable access facilities for all.            


Assistive ICT technology, continues to revolutionise the lives of the blind and partially sighted community. Its vital importance in enhancing the independence and empowerment of the community by opening up more windows of opportunities in career choices and making the community a K-economy community cannot be ignored today. NGOs and government blind schools should make ICT a compulsory subject in their syllabus for the education and rehabilitation programs. Efforts too, needed to either lower or subsidise the high costs of the assistive devices which are beyond the reach of many blind and partially sighted community.


Truly, an exciting year for the blind and partially sighted. A year where their voices will be heard.


More challenging times ahead!  




Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dragon Year message

A brief Dragon year message to a friend..
We have all gone through the life's challenges and hopefully, we are ready and well equipped to tackel the life's next tasks along the unknown journey path. More importantly, we must recognise that yours and mine, etc are different and therefore, there is no need to compare nor envy others who, supposedly, are more successful in our eyes, etc. At the end of the day, we all will return "home" and the only thing that we will bring along is the experience gained and not any physical nor material things to the other world.      
Must be the maturing age getting me to relook and turning to spiritualism for answers/guidance in the next exciting phase of my life's journey.  
So, another year of challenges and my take, let it come and let it be. I cannot change the world but I know I can change myself and make 1 or 2 others happy and for me, this is fine. Lesson learnt too, others do not remember me for what i'd have done or said but will remember how i make them feel, be it good or bad..
More challenging times ahead!