Editorial: New Beginnings

Somewhere, over the..
Photo by Alvan Yap

Dear reader, you might have noticed the previous issue of Signal (Jan-Dec 2019) was available only as an online PDF file. Yes, we had gone fully digital. But this time and in future, we are not even doing PDFs anymore.

Instead, we are relaunching Signal as a fully online newsletter as a blog.

Why? We want to make it convenient for you, go green and be financially prudent.

Convenience: Signal’s focus will be on longer and more in-depth pieces and human interest stories – on people, news and happenings in the community. Kicking off the revamped Signal is a feature story on the grassroots-led organisation Deaf Hiking Singapore Group.

If you know of any Deaf/hard-of-hearing people and Deaf-related groups or organisations or businesses which you feel should be in this series “Deaf Stories”, do let us know. We’ll be happy to shine a well-deserved spotlight on them.

Another advantage of going online: Signal will be able to roll out SADeaf post-event reports and photos more quickly on an as-needed basis, under the new series “Dispatches from SADeaf”. This means no waiting for the next issue of Signal to be published three or five months down the road. In this issue, we focus on how SADeaf staff coped with circuit breaker measures and working remotely to serve our clients as best as we could.

Eco-friendly: Put simply, no paper is used in printing the newsletters. We reduce the usage (and wastage) of paper. Since newspapers, magazines, bills, bank statements are all becoming e-copy only, why not Signal too?

Cost: We save on design, printing, postage fees without having to compromise on the content and quality of the newsletter. This is especially important as we face cost-cutting pressures as the economy – and donations – falter.

If you have been wondering when this issue would appear, thank you for your patience! We also apologise for the lengthy wait and hope you enjoy this latest edition.

Important note: For latest news, public updates and announcements of upcoming events, SADeaf has been posting these on our social media. These will no longer appear in our Signal newsletter.

Why? These channels are more suitable for such updates and news. So do check out our Facebook page and website (for everyone/public), as well as our Mailchimp EDMs (emails to clients, members, volunteers).

Lastly, we welcome your feedback, tips and contributions, and story ideas! Just email us at ca@sadeaf.org.sg.

Happy reading!

From the editorial team, Alvan Yap & Teo Zhi Xiong

p/s: If you are a member or client of SADeaf and are not unable to access online versions of Signal, please write in to ca@sadeaf.org.sg to let us know.

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Go Big or Go Home? DAS Did Both!

A screenshot of our online interpretation and notetaking service, together with live feed from news broadcast – all at the same time!

“Do we need to wear masks”?

“Will there be a lockdown?”

“How do we keep safe?”

Due to the COVID-19 crisis and the many uncertainties it brings, people are naturally more eager for news and updates. Likewise for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Knowing this, the Deaf Access Service (DAS) department went all out to fulfil a core task amid this challenging period: To provide timely and accessible information to the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

Along the way, we managed to achieve many firsts as well!

Among them is access to live announcements, public speeches, and press conferences – via live notetaking and interpretation services. These were broadcasted alongside the official video feeds (from Medicorp, CNA, etc) on our SADeaf Facebook page.

Another important step DAS took was to cover live events of national importance such as the Budget speeches, prime minister’s addresses to the public on the COVID-19 situation, May Day speech, Singapore GE2020 live debates, and voting results (comprising a marathon seven-hour session!), and National Day Parade.

Many of these marked the first time sign language interpretation and notetaking were provided. And for many deaf and hard of hearing people, it was, too, their first experience of instant access to such live events. 

Oh, We Also Go Remote

Circuit breaker measures also prompted the team of interpreters and notetakers to deliver services over digital platforms.

Just like most other workers affected by the circuit breaker measures, the DAS team had to adapt suddenly and rapidly, and we did. We converted our homes to makeshift workstations and studios on short notice. We battled poor internet connections, bad lighting, garbled audio, privacy woes, and other novel issues (“How does this Zoom thingy work ah?”). We learned to be flexible and innovative to find workaround solutions to still be able to provide access to clients.

It was a tough learning journey indeed.

And we could not have done it without the understanding, patience, and support of all of you – our clients, partners, and organisations that engage our services. The DAS communication access team is grateful for the feedback from the community on making our services even better.

We look forward to hearing from you and working with you – again!

By DAS (Communication Access), SADeaf

Serving On Amidst A Pandemic

Our Community Service (CS) team has been hands on – literally! – during the current COVID-19 crisis, manning our frontline counter and hearing care center on every weekday. We have also had an action-packed schedule, organising activities and events for clients while following safety measures.

Enjoy the highlights! 

Live on Radio!

On 9 March 2020, senior audiological manager Lai Siu Fai was on a radio talk show to share about age-related hearing loss together with Ng Teng Fong Hospital’s audiology head.

Hear together!

Our Hearing Care Centre collaborated with NUS student group “Hear Together” to do a hearing screening for the elderly at Heartbeat@Bedok on 7 & 10 March 2019. We managed to screen 109 elderly folks!

Hear Me Out

On 30 May 2020, students from Hwa Chong Institution “Project Hear Me Out” organised an online games session with five Deaf participants. 

Mask But Not Least!

Client says thank you!

Client says thank you!

In June, office operations resumed during Phase 1 and our frontline team helped to distribute masks to our staff. Masks, both fabric and clear types, were also distributed to our clients.

Learning More About Hari Raya Haji

In July, we collaborated with a religious teacher to create a three-part video series to educate the community on Hari Raya Haji. Watch the series here!

SGD Happenings

The Social Group for the Deaf (SGD) organised an online game on 26 June via Facebook to celebrate Dragonboat Festival. 26 people took part and three winners walked away with prizes from the Famous Kim Choo Dumplings!
1 October 2020, we saw SGD celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival. 22 participants took part in a Facebook game with six winning mooncakes prizes – which were delivered to them by our committed SGD members!
On 7 August 2020, SGD organised an online game on Facebook for National Day. A total of 41 participants took part and the three won prizes.

By Community Services, SADeaf

Celebrating Our Beatty Students!

23 Oct 2020 marked the last day of school for our Beatty students.

We celebrated our annual Recognition Day to recognise the achievements and accolades of our students here in Beatty. This year, our Deaf students did us proud. In all, they notched upfive academic awards and one non-IP award!

Academic Awards

Tim Leow Yan Kai
Class 1T1
Top Three Level Positions in Secondary One (Normal Technical)

Teo Zhi Feng Javier
Class 1T1
Best in Science

Jonathan Miles Chua Zheng Yu
Class 2T1
Best in Mathematics

Ng Xing Wen Avlynn
Class 3T1
Best in Smart Electrical Technology

Toh Chun Hong
Class 3T1
Best in Art

Non-IP Awards

Muhammad Nur Syahir
Class 3T1
2020 Animation and Game Making Competition (Game Category)
Ministry of Education Bronze Award

Heartfelt thanks and credit go to Mr Lim Chin Heng (Mathematics RT for Class 2T1), Mdm Nafisah (Smart Electrical Technology RT for Class 3T1), Mdm Yong May May (Art RT for Class 3T1) as well as the rest of our RT Team – Mr Bernard Lee, Ms Susanne Patrick, Mr Syed Muhammad and Mdm Tan Seok Ting, for their patience, unwavering support and dedication for our Deaf students.

This year’s award ceremony was featured online to the various classes, wrapping up a memorable and meaningful 2020 journey at Beatty!

By Deaf Education, SADeaf

Coping with COVID, The Beatty Way

Before the announcement of Home-Based Learning (HBL) due to the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, teachers in schools all over Singapore, including us resource teachers at Beatty Secondary, had been planning lessons for the weeks to come. We worked with the mainstream teachers on the video setup such that we could simultaneously sign the lessons. Zoom, Google Meet, WhatsApp video calls and OBS Studio – you name it, we used it.

Home-Based Learning (HBL)

Students having HBL at Beatty Secondary

We worked closely with our mainstream counterparts to sync with their lessons, especially the written work given and the live lessons. For the live lessons, we would either sign or note take, depending on the lesson dynamics. We also crafted our own lessons for students to work on during supplementary lessons. The resource teachers also interpreted for the form teachers during the check-in sessions to ensure the well-being of the students during this period. 

Though the initial period was both overwhelming and frustrating for both teachers and students, everyone was eventually able to adapt seamlessly in time. Our students with hearing loss also proved their resilience during this time, completing their tasks on time and garnering the teachers’ praises. 

𝗕𝗮𝗰𝗸 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗼𝗼𝗹 & w𝗶𝗽𝗲 𝗱𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗿𝗼𝘂𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗼𝗼𝗹!

From 2 June 2020, the students were back in school following an alternative week model.  The resource teachers wore masks with clear plastic areas for the mouth area so that the students could see our facial expressions clearly and to enable students to lip-read us. It took time for both students and teachers to get used to wearing masks and the discomfort, but we managed it!

Smoothie-making workshop!

Beatty Secondary School also got creative in engaging our students during these trying times. Two of our Secondary 3 students with hearing loss, who had to return to school during the HBL weeks, were provided learning devices to complete their HBL assignments. Special activities and customised programmes such as “Smoothie Making Workshop” and “Games @ Cabin” were provided to students to be continually engaged in their learning.

The school leaders in Beatty Secondary have been very supportive of our students with hearing loss during this time, ensuring they are well-supported at home and in school. We wish to express our thanks to them and colleagues, as well as students, who have journeyed with us along the way. 

By Susanne Patrick and Mas Elfie Jaar Bin, Resource Teachers, Deaf Education Dept, SADeaf 

Experiencing SgSL Week from the comfort of home

Singapore’s inaugural digital International Week of the Deaf (IWD) 2020 was launched on 21st September 2020. Together with the global Deaf community, we celebrated and showcased Deaf cultures and languages to the larger public. The event was held on our official Facebook page of The Singapore Association for the Deaf.

The IWD 2020 celebration in Singapore adopted the theme for the International Day of Sign Languages 2020 “Sign Languages are for Everyone!” In accordance with the theme, the program included members of the Deaf community using Singapore Sign Language through Stories in Sign and featuring in the #DeafAtWork segment. Sharing sessions on the Deaf community, identity, and language were also presented through Facebook Live every evening.

𝘞𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘴𝘩 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘬 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘷𝘪𝘦𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘫𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘶𝘴 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘦, 𝘢𝘴 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘢𝘴 𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘢𝘬𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘧𝘧 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘬𝘦𝘥 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘲𝘶𝘦 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯𝘵.

Watch the videos!
An upside to holding the event online is that the content is still available on our Facebook page. For those who missed the talks or wish to view them again, just browse over for the full list of online videos.

Below are selected talks, presentations, and #StoriesInSign series in Singapore Sign Language.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Lighthouse School

The Little Red Hen by David Lee

My Wobbly Experience by April Chia

Haunted Roads by Dennis Tan

The daily live events during the IWD 2020 included the sharing by researchers and members of the Deaf community, and the #DeafAtWork series showcases some outstanding members of the community. Check ’em out!

The Importance of Early Access to Sign Language; #DeafAtWork David Lee; #DeafAtWork Tan Wei Ling

Moving along the Signing Continuum: An Exploration of the Factors Influencing Code Choice; Encoding of Emotions in Singapore Sign Language; #DeafAtWork Ken Tan

By Deaf Access Dept (Deaf Studies), SADeaf

Flourishing at Mayflower

During the circuit breaker period, Home-Based Learning (HBL) replaced physical teaching and several problems emerged for students with hearing loss. They were used to an in-person learning setting. Besides the lack of physical support as well as social interaction, also absent was English subtitles in the video clips used in the online learning platform.

Lessons in progress using Google Meet!
Interpreting for lessons

And into the breach stepped the mainstream teachers and the specialised teachers and their dynamic collaboration!. We recorded the signed lessons which were then embedded into the videos before they were uploaded to the platform. The teaching team also worked out a video conferencing schedule for Google Meet lessons with the students with hearing loss, giving them more individualised attention. 

A combined Google Meeting with Primary 2 and 3 students and teachers.

The parents were supportive in assisting their children in the HBL process and soon our students became used to online learning. They also picked up other skills such as uploading their written work. Indeed, the whole experience was, for us and our students with hearing loss, a steep learning curve in becoming IT-savvy almost overnight!

A Very Different National Day Celebration

Celebrating in classrooms

Due to the COVID-19 situation, the National Day celebration was not held at the Yio Chu Kang stadium as usual. Instead, we celebrated the occasion as a school in our classrooms virtually through Zoom.  Nonetheless, the students had fun while practising safe distancing.

Coming together as a school, students and teachers produced a video, singing and signing the song ‘Our Singapore‘ by JJ Lin. The Primary 3 students with hearing loss and their classmates signed the lyrics for the song for the video. It screened during the school’s NDP celebration for all to watch!

Janelle Jurng leads the signing!

Every year, two students with hearing loss are selected to lead the school in “The Recollections”. However, as we were unable to gather together, one of our students with hearing loss, Janelle Jurng, was chosen to lead the school in signing along from their classrooms, as they watched the NDP celebrations online. 

All together in song and sign.

By David Lee (Specialised Teacher) & Bernadette Pung (Educational Interpreter), Deaf Education, SADeaf

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Jurong Rail tunnel? Been there – underground and in darkness.

Kusu Island? They sailed, they saw, and they conquered.

A 44-km one-day hike across Singapore? Done that too.

Name any walking trail, nature park, PCN route, or obscure nook and cranny in Singapore, they have all done it. And you can also bet this group of Deaf and hard-of-hearing hikers have already left their footprints there – sometimes more than once!

Deaf Hiking Singapore (DHSG) was set up by husband-and-wife team Luo Yong Ming and Jessica Mak. It has gone from strength to strength since their first hike in mid-2018. Two years on, DHSG is a thriving community that organises regular weekend hikes popular with deafies across a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and physical fitness levels. The group even boasts its own DHSG-branded tees, neck gaiters, and bag tags!

Origins Of The Super Hikers
But how did it all come about? According to Jessica, she had come across her late father’s old travel photos which provided her and Yong Ming the spark of inspiration. Yong Ming’s abiding interest since the early 1990s in exploring and venturing to various “hidden and unfamiliar places” in Singapore was a key factor too. He was enthusiastic about planning and scouting routes as well as leading hikes.

A friend then asked them to organise an outing for a cancer survivors’ group called “Walk for Life”. This churned up interest among their deaf friends. They thought, why not organise their own outings? Things snowballed from there.

A Facebook group was created where they publicised the outings, set ground rules, gave advice on hiking matters, and allowed members (and their families and friends) to share stories of their adventures – whether hiking, mountain climbing, or running.

Describing themselves as “not hiking enthusiasts but ordinary hikers”, Yong Ming and Jessica say their goals for DHSG are to promote friendships and social interactions among deaf and hearing people.

They emphasised that everyone – deaf or hearing, friends, and family – are welcome as long as they are willing to learn and use sign language to communicate within the group. Developing a healthy lifestyle is also a bonus, they explained, because hiking also brings people out of their own comfort and give their legs and lungs a workout.

The duo has been heartened to see more people showing up for their weekly hiking fix. Each hike draws about two dozen to a record of 82 people – entire families have even shown up before. The youngest was a 4-year-old who gamely tagged along with his mother up the 394-meter-high Bukit Senaling!

The COVID-19 situation was no deterrence though DHSG temporarily halted its outings during the circuit-breaker. During the lull, they came up with other online activities as well as gave tips on routes for solo or small groups of hikers to try on their own. To the group members’ delight, the outings have since resumed – following safety measures of course – with the easing of restrictions.

Overcoming Challenges, Venturing Overseas
Teething issues in the early months include participants who turned up late, or were ignorant of safety rules or lack proper equipment. But these days, after more experience and exposure to hiking, the DHSG hikers are more prepared and responsible.

DHSG has also tested themselves by venturing overseas for tougher outings, mostly to Malaysia where members hiked various mountains such as Gunung Pulai, Gunung Lambak, and Mount Ophir. The duo cited climbing Mulu Pinnacles in Sarawak, Malaysia, and the 2,928m Mount Pulag in the Philippines (the country’s third-highest) as their most difficult hikes so far and the proudest achievements by DHSG.

The most memorable trip? Definitely, the time where five of the 14 deaf hikers on a mountaineering trip to Malaysia got lost in the dark and were stranded overnight in chilly temperatures.. thankfully all emerged safe and sound the next day.

What’s Next For DHSG?
Looking ahead, Jessica and Yong Ming hope to see the group continue to grow and have more members who can hike longer distances of 10km and beyond, as well as groomimg others to organise and lead hikes.

And true to their intrepid spirit, the couple also professes a whimsical wish.. for Singapore “to build a mountain!” (And no, Bukit Timah doesn’t count!)

Walk on.

To find out more about DHSG, visit their Facebook page and apply to join the group (subject to its terms and conditions, and acceptance by the administrators). You can also check out the DHSG Instagram page: @deafhikingsg. All photos courtesy of DHSG, with thanks.

By Alvan Yap, Editorial Team, Signal