September 6, 2020
Words by: Valerie Kor

In the past six months, we’ve all had to get used to new ways of living. At first, it wasn’t easy to refrain from going out during the circuit breaker and work at home together with children doing home-based learning. But Phase 2 reopening measures have brought about some respite for us. 

The same challenges are tougher on the disabled, but volunteers have found opportunities to include them in the new normal with some ingenious innovations

Teachers at Canossian School don transparent masks to help students with hearing loss understand them better as they are given a “window” to view facial expressions – an important part of speech reading.

(Above) Teachers at Canossian School don transparent masks to help students with hearing loss understand them better as they are given a “window” to view facial expressions – an important part of speech readingBRYAN VAN DER BEEK

Communicating with a mask over our faces has been challenging for all of us, but the most impacted has got to be those suffering from hearing loss. Under a mask, meaning and nuances from facial expressions are lost, and lips are naturally hidden. The deaf can no longer read lips as proficiently.

When Mr Ivan Chin, head of partnerships for SG Enable learnt of this challenge, he launched a pilot project to produce transparent masks by partnering with Mr Benny Ng, founder and designer of Independent Market. 

Before the pandemic, Mr Ng’s 14-man team produced apparel, bags and art prints. To meet the demand for masks since the government made them compulsory, Mr Ng shifted his production to mask-making. His team now specialises in transparent masks that are now used at schools designated for students with hearing loss, such as Canossian School, Mayflower Primary School, Beatty Secondary School and Lighthouse School. 

How you can help: Support local business The Independent Market. The transparent masks are available at a non-profit retail price of $10 each.

Mr Hazrin Chong Abdullah, qualified equestrian coach and riding instructor at RDA Singapore has spent the last three decades working with horses and now helps riders with special needs.

(Above) Mr Hazrin Chong Abdullah, qualified equestrian coach and riding instructor at RDA Singapore has spent the last three decades working with horses and now helps riders with special needs. CAROLINE CHIA

Not being able to go outside has been a real bummer for many of us during the circuit breaker period. For many who are physically disabled, it could be their everyday reality. 

But there’s an avenue for them to go outdoors and ride horses, as a way of therapy. Riding for the disabled association (RDA) offers equine-assisted therapy, also known as hippotherapy, to its beneficiaries for free. RDA relies on donations for its operations and volunteers to carry out its programmes. 

Hippotherapy allows the physically disabled to strengthen their muscles and become more confident. A wheel-chair bound beneficiary who was not able to sit up unassisted before became stronger after a few weeks of horse riding therapy such that he could hold his neck and head up. 

Sitting high and riding on a horse also “does wonders for their mental state”, says riding instructor Mr Hazrin Chong Abdullah. “The horse allows them to be in control and make decisions, to travel from point A to B. For the first time (for many) they are ‘capable’ and independent,” he adds. 

RDA is pushing forward with its programmes despite Covid-19 situation, by restricting its sessions to no more than four beneficiaries each time. 

How you can help: Donate or sponsor a rider if you have the means, or volunteer at RDA.

Daniel Sng, 15, was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) at six and needs daily physiotherapy with the help of his mother, Mrs Janice Sng. To deal with the challenges of Daniel’s condition, the Muscular Dystrophy Association gave the family support at the early stages after the diagnosis, and linked them to other parents.

(Above) The third of four children needs daily physiotherapy with the help of his mother, Mrs Janice Sng, and his younger brother, Caleb. They go through the paces to ensure Daniel’s joints remain flexible and muscles get the proper stimulation. BRYAN VAN DER BEEK

When Covid-19 cases were on the increase, the government emphasised that the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions should not go out unnecessarily. One such vulnerable group is people with muscular dystrophy. 

Muscular Dystrophy Association’s (MDAS) aim is to maximise the quality of life of people with the condition in order to integrate them into society and support the research towards a cure. 

During the circuit breaker, this also means extra care and caution required for those who have muscular dystrophy. 15-year-old Daniel Sng does daily physiotherapy with his mother at home, but the Covid-19 situation undoubtedly added on stress during hospital visits. “With his condition, we had to be extremely cautious because an infection will be critical as it affects the lungs, and his are not strong,” his father, Mr Sng, says.

MDAS provided physiotherapy sessions for muscular dystrophy patients like Daniel and families going through the same challenges. Daniel’s family connected with other families struggling with the condition at MDAS events such as music therapy sessions, as well as Power Soccer sessions, which is played on powered wheelchairs. There are also workshops. 

During the circuit breaker, the MDAS took some of its workshops online, which includes graphic design classes, confidence-building workshops and therapy. Providing the source of connection is crucial for the beneficiaries and their caregivers alike. 

How you can help: Volunteer individually or as a group, or donate to MDAS

If we thought that the circuit breaker or the current preventive measures in place to prevent further spread of Covid-19 are challenging, it’s even more so for the disabled. 

Charities serving the disabled have to resort to taking things online, or pushing forward as far as they can while still respecting Covid-19 rules and regulations. You can help too by volunteering or donating.

 


The Storytellers

  • Bryan is still trying to figure a way to combine his three main loves. Can anyone help him figure out how to balance his whole family on a motorbike while riding and taking photographs?

  • Caroline loves photography and trekking, and never turns down a trip to the mountains.

  • Valerie spends two-thirds of her waking hours writing stories and the remaining with her toddler, husband, cats and bicycle.

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