LIVING IS EASY WITH EYES CLOSED
BY ONG JOEY & YEONG YAO TING
PHOTO BY ONG JOEY
Out of 275 voluntary welfare organisations in Singapore, one is dedicated to the visually handicapped. The Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH) is a national voluntary welfare organisation. They promote the needs, interests and aspirations of the visually impaired by helping them acquire new skills and gaining self reliance. The association provides service to visually impaired residents in Singapore who are either certified blind or have low vision. It comprises of clients who are entitled to a range of services provided by the association as well as members who are proposed by other members. The SAVH ranges from services such as social work, skills development programme, vision rehabilitation programme, accessibility, low vision clinic and the white cane club. Providing jobs even for the visually impaired, no one is forgotten and everyone is given an opportunity to contribute and be a part of this community.
PHOTO BY ONG JOEY
TYPE AND FEEL. Mr Tan Wee Lian, Senior Brialle Transcriber at the SAVH is using a braille typewriter to translate a mathematics textbook for visually impaired students. He runs his finger over the brialle letters as he types to check for errors. 1
PHOTO BY YEONG YAO TING
THE ONE AND ONLY. The Brialle Typewriter is a valuable asset to the association, as the SAVH is the sole transcriber of textbooks into braille in Singapore. A tedious task that requires a meticulous worker, Mr Tan Wee Lian is an expert at this and works faithfully on the task at hand. 2
A home for many to be involved with daily activities, SAVH equips its members with skills needed to communicate with others. This is so that they are able to “integrate further into the mainstream of the community” said Mr Tan Guan Heng, president of the SAVH. In the Braille Production Unit, Mr Tan Wee Lian, a senior braille transcriber in his late fifties, is visually impaired and has been working here for over thirty years. He transcribes school textbooks into braille for visually handicapped students, with the help of a volunteer reading out the content to him. “It takes about six months to complete one textbook,” says Mr Tan, as he is currently working on a mathematics textbook, which in his opinion, is more challenging than english textbooks. Mathematics and science textbooks have to include graphs and diagrams which are done by the volunteers using recycled materials to create tactile diagrams for the blind. The process is tedious as it requires the use of a special machine and heat to compress the diagrams.
“I enjoy working here, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here for fourteen years.” MR JOHN TAN, 55, MASSEUR AT SAVH
SKILLED HANDS. Despite his visual disability, Mr John Tan have been providing his valuable service for 14 years, since he lost his eyesight to a regenrative eye disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa. The SAVH employs the visually impaired who are able-bodied, and trains them to become qualified masseurs who can provide massage services and earn a living.
PHOTO BY YEONG YAO TING 3
SING AND DANCE. As retro music plays from a mini CD player, Mr Lim Teng Kui, 55, moves to the beat and sings along to his favourite english song. SAVH serves about 2,500 visually impaired, providing a gathering place to socialise and pass time.
PHOTO BY ONG JOEY
Mr Tan explained that when translating a Mathematics textbook, it has to be typed manually after the graphs and diagrams are created by the volunteers, so that it will not overlap. English textbooks, however, can be typed into the computer and be translated into braille codes using a special software, which will be printed out using a braille machine. Mr John Tan, 52, is a part of the mobile massage team comprising of qualified, visuallyhandicapped masseurs who provide massage services. He came to the association after losing his mechanical engineering job when his eyesight deteriorated. As he shared about his experience at SAVH, he expressed, “I enjoy working here, otherwise I wouldn’t be here for fourteen years.” The SAVH has provided him with the means to support himself and a skill that allows him to provide a service despite his disability. One of the more lively patients that bring much joy and laughter to this place is
Mr Lim Teng Kui, 55, who has been at the centre for thirty-three years. Everyday, Mr Lim comes to the centre to involve himself in simple works like wood craft for the SAVH craft store which sells handmade crafts like wooden baskets by the members. This bubbly man, at his age has the energy of dancing and singing to his favourite songs. His visibility definitely does not prevent him from living each day joyfully. SINGAPORE ASSOCIATION OF THE VISUALLY HANDICAPPED (SAVH) Address: 47 Toa Payoh Rise, Singapore 298104 Tel: +65 6251 4331 Fax: +65 6253 7191 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.savh.org.sg
WHITE CANE. Mr Ramli Bin Hamid, 51, uses the white cane to navigate his way around independently. This white cane is used by many who are visually handicapped as they travel alone daily to the SAVH via public transport.
PHOTO BY YEONG YAO TING 5