Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Touch screen devices, the way forward!

It's such a wonderful feeling to know that today,the blind friends are aware on the importance of mobile devices such as smartphones which provide the link to connect them with the world. Breaking news updates, emails, video/audio communication, etc are now possible and accessible to the blind community.

The fear of touch screen phones without the conventional physical buttons seem to diminish and today, more blind folks are ready to accept change and know that their lives will be enriched with more assistive technology readily available.

Due to several requests for iPhone instructional training courses, I decided to hold a series of workshops, beginners to advanced users this year. Last Saturday, a 2nd workshop for blind iPhone users was held . A group of optometry student volunteers attended the workshop, interacting well with the blind folks. It was a first time experience for the studen. Volunteers in discovering about the iPhone accessibility features and learn too the methods employed by the blind in using the iPhone.

More challenging times ahead!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Another year came to a close and it marked my 9th year crossing the bridge from the sighted to the world of darkness. A severe bacterial infection resulted in sudden loss of sight in both my eyes. As an adult blind, the emotional struggles in overcoming the  acquired disability was quite a traumatic ordeal and sad to add that there were little help or support available to me at that point of time. I was fortunate to have a loving and caring family. Together, my wife and children supported one another in facing the tough challenges, helping me to adapt to my new life.

Awareness is still very much lacking about the help and support for people stricken with blindness. Both state authorities and non governmental organisations surely need to transform to reach out to those people in need of help and support. For adult blind, customised rehabilitation programs are needed to suit individuals so that they are able to regain their independence, dignity and assimilate back into society without facing discrimination and social stigma. It is sad to note that today, those becoming blind are often assumed to be incapable and a burden. Today, very few are aware of the Disability Act and Malaysia being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of persons with disabilities Act. Blind NGOs should be more aggressive in raising awareness to all for the betterment of the blind community, as the disabled groups are often been sidelined in areas of job opportunities, education and community development.

Accessibility  in public transportation, barrier free walkways, accessible information and disabled friendly amenities are still a dream for the local disabled community. This has created a barrier to the independence of the disabled and causing much inconvenience to the disabled and care givers. Over the past few years, I have participated in conferences and dialogues organised by relevant state authorities on accessibility issue. However, the feel good factor only stayed at the conferences. There's little follow up action in implementing the improvements proposed, not walking the talk so to speak. Examples can seen in the incorrect layout of tactiles installed, which pose a hazard to the blind. Often too, opinions are not seek from the blind before implementation of accessibility improvement projects.

Blind assistive technology devices and gadgets are out of reach to many blind. Computer screen reader softwares are expensive to purchase. Assistive technology for the blind is of utmost importance for the blind today. Many blind vouch that it’s their life saviour as the technology enabled the blind to be connected to the world and in some areas, the blind are able to compete on a level playing field, for example, online research and writing. Subsidies on purchases of such assistive technology tools should be given and waiver of the internet charges by the telcos so that more blind will be encouraged to pick up the important computer skill, thus  increasing their employment marketability. 

A strong voice for the blind and other disabled groups are needed to speak out for the rights and the needs of the blind and the other disabled groups. So far, we have not heard from the relevant authorities on its work on the improvement of quality of life for the disabled. The disabled community today need a dedicated government minister to look into the various issues and grouses to improve the quality of life of the disabled community, estimated to be 15% of our population. 

More challenging times ahead

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy new year 2016!

Losing one's sight as an adult is unimaginable to many as the traumatic experience is devastating.  It leads to deep depression to both the affected and loved ones.  This happened to me 8 years ago. I contracted a severe bacterial infection which resulted in my sudden loss of sight in both my eyes, infected both lungs and liver.

Accepting my new life and letting go of the past, a mammoth task for my family and myself.  It proved to be  a real life challenge. The strong love and support from family gave me the courage and confidence to cross the bridge from the sighted world into the world of darkness.

I have to re-learn everything in life that we all have taken for granted, walking, eating/drinking, making coffee/tea, etc. Music, probably is the least priority in my life then. However, I am glad I was proven wrong. I realised it has therapeutic healing effects soon after I got myself a used acoustic guitar and recently, a ukulele. My re-introduction to computer with assistive screen technology certainly helped to reconnect myself with the world again. Emails, internet surfing, social media connectivity all became possible and you tube became my teacher in learning how to play the guitar.  I took up the challenge to learn to play the ukulele, that is, self taught. My first time playing a ukulele was when I played on my daughter's piece while visiting her in London.

It's not as easy and straightforward as I expected in learning from hours listening to the teacher on you tube.  With lots of patience and determination I managed to strum and learn finger picking. I am pleased with my achievement so far and more learning to come.

I'd learned, too, losing my sight is just losing one of my senses. more importantly, I have not lost my vision!

Happy New Year!


More challenging times ahead!