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March 30, 2004

Deaf linguistics expert wants to inspire others

From: The Star, Malaysia - Mar 30, 2004


KUALA LUMPUR: The country's first deaf linguistics expert, Ho Koon Wei, has turned down job offers overseas so she can stay put to inspire others with hearing impairment.

"I want to be a role model for other deaf Malaysians to show them that nothing is impossible as their disability is not an obstacle," she said.

Ho, armed with a Master's in Linguistics, said the Malaysian deaf community had the capability to achieve success in various fields but lacked the confidence to do so.

"When I was growing up, I realised it was important for me to further my studies. So with my savings and some help from mom, I was able to attend courses at the Gallaudet University in Washington DC," said the 41-year-old through an interpreter.

She said this in an interview after presenting a paper on "Promoting Education and Development of Children with Disabilities through partnerships with the Education Ministry," at a roundtable discussion organised by the Human Rights Commission yesterday.

Ho, from Batu Pahat, said she wanted to learn Computer Studies during her secondary education but was discouraged from taking it up.

But in university, she took up the challenge by majoring in Mathematics, Computer Science and Deaf Studies.

"It has not been smooth sailing and there were many challenges that I had to face. But the fact that I have come so far shows that the deaf or others with disabilities can achieve the same success," she said.

Ho, who is now an executive for the Majudiri "Y" Foundation for the Deaf, said her outstanding results helped her obtain scholarships to help finance her two degrees in university, adding that she also worked part-time.

The eldest in a family of five, Ho said there were many opportunities for her to work in the United States, but she turned them down as she wanted to serve the community in Malaysia.

Ho said she did not have it easy prior to her university education as she had to work as a teacher in a school for the deaf run by a non-governmental organisation to help support her family.

"But through perseverance and hard work, I'm happy to achieve this success and owe it all to my family for their love and support," she said.

Ho recalled that initially her parents were not too happy about her taking up sign language when she was young.

"My parents, who are teachers, wanted me to speak and write. They constantly read to me when I was young when they realised I was deaf," she said.

Ho said her mother was strict about sign language and prevented all four of her brothers to "sign" with her.

"My brothers had to write on pieces of paper when they wanted to communicate with me," she added.

"But my youngest brother Koon Guan wanted to communicate with me so badly so we used to secretly sign to each other without my mother's knowledge," she said.

Ho said she persisted and learnt to sign during her primary and secondary education in Johor and Penang.

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