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 yamtw05@gmail.com


More challenging times ahead!..