Inspiring, Differently Abled Singaporeans

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

At Irisada, we meet a lot of differently-abled Singaporeans. Few of them make it into the public eye and the lack of representation of differently-abled individuals means we sometimes forget how successful they can be. So we wanted to take the time to write about successful, differently abled Singaporeans.

Singaporean Olympians and Para-Athletes

When we were brainstorming, the first group that really stood out was the Olympians. In a few minutes, we had totalised no less than six amazing athletes, most of whom you’ve probably already heard of.

Singapore’s Paralympic Team for Rio 2016 (Photo Credit: Sport Singapore)

Two names often pop to mind: swimmers Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh. Both are wheelchair users (muscular dystrophy and spina bifida), but both make us look slow in a swimming pool. Theresa Goh’s weekly swimming distance is no less than 41km, which is probably as far as some of us will ever swim in our lifetime.

When they aren’t in the pool, they continue to surprise and impress us. Yip Pin Xiu co-authored and published a children’s book in 2017, called The Mermaid who Became a Champion. The story recounts her own life in a cute, relatable way and can inspire kids everywhere to reach for excellence.

Meanwhile, Theresa Goh has become a vocal activist for the LGBTQ+ community in Singapore. Her very open and honest portrayal of her own journey out of the closet can help all types of abled and disabled Singaporeans in the process of figuring out their own identities. Here’s a great video interview she did for Dear Strait People in 2017 and you can check out her Instagram account for more updated posts.

Photo Credit: Pink Dot SG

Other Athletes You May Know

Of course, Singapore boasts many Para-athletes. A few examples:

  • Laurentia Tan was the first Singaporean to earn a Paralympic medal (and the first Asian to win equestrian medals at the Paralympics). She initially took up horse riding as a form of physiotherapy for cerebral palsy.
  • Tan Hun Boon, who learned to peddle with one leg after an accident left him amputated, has become more and more open about sharing his story.
  • Jason Chee, a navy serviceman who suffered a major accident, leading to the amputation of both his legs and one arm. Less than one year after the accident he was already winning medals in para table-tennis. With his non-dominant hand.
  • There’s also Shariff Abdullah, also known as “Blade Runner”. He regularly raises money for Club Rainbow, an organisation dedicated to children suffering from long-term illnesses.
Artists, Entrepreneurs and More

Of course, Singapore isn’t just all about sports. Differently-abled Singaporeans can be harder to find because no one’s pinning gold medals on their t-shirts. Most of them are living what they consider to be pretty ordinary lives. Some don’t even mention their disabilities. Here are a few Singaporeans you might not have heard of.

Lily Goh, who founded Extraordinary Horizons, is a deaf Singaporean who set up her social enterprise to help deaf and hard of hearing children discover and interpret music as well as other art forms. She was awarded the 2014 Singapore Woman Award and continues to develop links between deaf and non-deaf cultures. Here’s a song that that Singaporean indie band Black Forest wrote and performed with Extraordinary Horizons.

Chng Seok Tin is a renowned and acclaimed artist, who continued to produce art after a severe accident and multiple surgeries led her to lose most of her vision. She paints, sculpts, writes and much much more. Her very personal artform continues to engage with audiences worldwide. She has held no less than 30 solo exhibitions and has received several awards in her lifetime. Check out her website to see her beautiful artwork.

Jim Bek, whose incredible life-tale of losing his sight and his family members will leave you speechless, has now become a renowned counsellor. He’s one of the unsung heroes of Singapore, helping others grow and thrive around him. He also takes an active stance in denouncing a form of “anti-disabled” prejudice he perceives in Singaporean culture.

It’s Not Over

Of course, these are famous Singaporeans. At least famous enough to have become part of popular culture or be featured in the media every now and again. There are plenty of others around you, working hard and doing things they love.

Everyone’s out on their own journey (Photo credit: PIRO4D, Pixabay)

So-called “disabled” Singaporeans contribute to making Singapore the vibrant city it is. We wanted to sign off with an organisation that helps some of them express themselves as artists.  The Mouth and Foot Painting Artists is an international organisation that believes in “self-help, not charity.” The fact that the artists don’t paint with their hands brings them together, but when you look at their artwork, that’s not what you’ll be thinking about. You may also remember Kenny, an autistic teenager from one of our previous articles, who sells his artwork on The Everyday Revolution. These differently-abled artists are already sharing their vision of the world. And that’s what makes society stronger and richer.

If you know of people we should feature, don’t forget to shout out!

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Mélie Aboul-Nasr

Mélie is an English and French language writer who has worked in consulting and social entrepreneurship. She helps Irisada develop relevant content for carers and customers.

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