Thursday, July 12, 2012


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!


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