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February 12, 2004

Deaf and deft

From: The Star - Malaysia - Feb 12, 2004

THE mood for love is everywhere this week as Malaysians – and the world – get ready to celebrate St Valentine's Day this Saturday.

And like hearing couples, the hard-of-hearing and deaf persons are really no different, I'm told, when it comes to seeking true love on this blessed and loving of all days in the yearly calendar.

Lucy Lim Yoke Kwan is the executive-in-charge of the 23-year old Pusat Majudiri Y (deaf centre) at the YMCA in Jalan Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur.

"The unique thing about deaf people that I've observed is that no biases and racial discrimination seem to exist among them," says Lim, who is also the organisation's sign language interpreter. I have encountered many deaf adults who marry those who are not of the same race and culture as them and who have sometimes faced strong objections from their family members as a result," she explains.

This is how the deaf say "I love you". "But the beauty of the deaf is that it's not the external factors that matter to them – so long as both parties are deaf and they're able to effectively communicate with each other, they are really happy in a relationship."

Lim says another inspiring aspect of the way the deaf treat each other is the way they keep their friendships and communication always open. Even though some have broken up, the individuals choose to remain friends even though some of their former dates are now married to their best friends.

According to Lim, "almost 99% of the deaf community wed deaf partners and very few of them end up marrying hearing partners."

As for communication among deaf youths, she adds that it plays a vital part in how they get to know and relate with each other as deaf persons.

"There is a whole intrinsic and beautiful culture among the deaf which the community shares with no other," Lim points out further.

"This is known as the culture or way of living of the deaf; as individuals begin to understand and further appreciate their unique backgrounds and the point from which they are coming, their relationship improves over time."

Lim explains that for those who end up marrying hearing partners, they often have to end up facing a lot of adjustments in their relationship. "For example, when in the company of other deaf friends and individuals, the deaf person frequently becomes so engrossed in the sign language conversation that he or she may tend to forget the presence of their hearing partners who is also trying to get into the conversation."

And in the company of hearing people, the partner who is able to hear ends up taking the role of being the wife/husband or girlfriend/boyfriend – as well as having to be the interpreter in the conversation – something that can be quite taxing in a relationship among the deaf at times, Lim says.

For pet lovers

On another note, here is a piece of good news for lovers of our furry and feathery friends. Chew Boon Kee, Pets Wonderland Sdn Bhd managing director, writes: "Hi Anthony. It was nice of you to drop by our new store in 1-Utama Shopping Centre in Bandar Utama, Petaling Jaya, recently and enjoy the (quick) tour I gave you.

"We (have made) great attempts to ensure our entrance at 1-Utama is not only (physically) attractive but also (user friendly, hence our) corridor leading from the entrance to our main merchandising area (is) stroller and wheelchair friendly. With the help of our landlord, Bandar Utama City Centre, we were able to make the corridor slope as gradual as (possible, complete with intermittent) flat areas for the benefit of wheelchairs, etc.

"As we discussed, we are pleased to announce that any customers with possession of the Welfare Department disabled identification cards will qualify for our Privilege Card to enjoy great discounts to our store. They will need, however, to first complete our form. (Privilege cards are normally given to customers that spend a minimum of RM500.)"

So disabled comrades, what are you waiting for? Wheel on down to the promenade section on the lower ground floor of 1-Utama to register yourselves for the offer.

The shopping centre provides two disabled parking lots at the main entrance of the old building section (I didn't find any disabled parking bays at the underground car park though).

Also, please be warned that there's no shelter against the rain or scorching sun and there is frequently no security present to help remove the chains that otherwise block the able-bodied who try to park their vehicles there. Sometimes, the lots' pathway is blocked by other cars or products that are on sale or display. Until the management has rectified this, it would be best to be accompanied by some able-bodied assistance.

There is also no waiver on parking fees for the disabled and wheelchair users will have to pay the mandatory fee of RM1 (by the way, the ticket machines are totally not wheelchair friendly with regard to their height and positioning).

Good luck to all and Happy Valentine's Day!

© 1995-2003 Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)