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October 6, 2004

Day for the deaf

From: The Malaysia Star, Malaysia - Oct 6, 2004


Though they may talk in sign gestures and live in a silent world, many exciting things have been, and are happening, within the deaf community lately.

Take for instance last weekend. The Kuala Lumpur YMCA in Jalan Padang Belia held the first of a planned series of celebrations it intends to hold throughout this year and the next to mark the organisations 100 years of existence in Malaysia.(The YMCAs 100th anniversary is next year.)

The well-known NGOs milestone Open Day event which was held for a full day last Saturday, also coincided with its deaf outreach centre Pusat Majudiri Y (PMY)s hive of activities to commemorate International Day of the Deaf (IDD) in Malaysia. (IDD traditionally on the final Sunday of September each year.)

The launching ceremony of the book S.I.G.N.S for Children. The 19-year-old PMYs activities were held over two full days, starting on Saturday and ending the next day.

I was informed later that an estimated 1,000 people from the public and literally from all walks of life turned up at the YMCAs grounds on Oct 2 and 3, which must have brought smiles from the hard-working organisers of the occasion.

PMY, with its hearing and deaf staff, decided to observe its local IDD day by making available to the public their exciting new book entitled S.I.G.N.S. For Children (SIGNS). Not only is this the first production of the PMY, which has over 500 deaf members nationwide including deaf children the book is also a first of its kind publication in the country as it targets deaf kids and their families.

The book presents the Malaysian Sign Language or Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia (BIM) in a clearly defined, accessible format for deaf children and their families. Its user-friendliness, handy features and easy-to-use methods have been hailed by the deaf community here as the perfect guide and help for parents of deaf children.

Even parents and caregivers of deaf kids of very young ages will find SIGNS a useful tool in arming them not only with knowledge of sign language, but how they can use it to communicate more effectively.

SIGNS introduces everything from common household items to family, animals, food, emotions and other concepts, points out Lucy Lim, YMCA Community Development executive.

Lim, who is a hearing sign language interpreter, explains to Wheel Power that to accommodate the needs of Malaysian families, Bahasa Melayu, English and Mandarin words are used for each of the signs and illustrations found in the book.

Users will also discover that the BIM manual alphabet and number signs are included in PMYs book as helpful references.

SIGNS is a 66-page book with as many as 200 signs that can also be used as a colouring and story telling tool. (Anyone interested in purchasing SIGNS RM20 a copy can call PMY at % 03-2274 1439.)

Besides the launching of SIGNS, there were also other events and activities involving disabilities that were cleverly put together by the PMY, as well as the YMCA in order to further sensitise visitors to handicaps and the people who have them. Late morning and afternoon sessions on both days turned into delightful opportunities for the sighted to be massaged by the blind. The proceeds of each relaxing encounter went to the cause of the blind.

Disabled persons who had never registered before with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry had a rare chance over the two days to do it at the YMCA grounds. (This, I thought, was a super move by the PMY as it helped to remove the inconveniences that disabled persons might otherwise face, such as transportation, if they wanted to register with the Ministry.)

Perhaps, existing disabled centres and other supporters like the Rotary and Lions Club would consider it worthwhile following in PMYs steps to conduct similar registration exercises in various localities from time to time in order to help more handicapped Malaysians register with the authorities?)

People who were worried about their loss of hearing were able to be tested free of charge as well as learn more about hearing care right down to everything one wanted to know about hearing aids.

However, for those who wished to get down to the hard-hitting and nitty-gritty facts about disability in our local context and what some of the current concerns of people who have them are Sunday afternoon proved to be the eye opener.

Amongst other things, participants both the disabled as well as the non-disabled obtained valuable insight into the numerous challenges faced by persons with disabilities who aspire to set up their own businesses some day.

Plus, participants were treated to a very enlightening one-and-a-half hour workshop on legal rights and deaf persons on Sunday, which was conducted by blind lawyer Mah Hassan. Mah is the current president of the Society of the Blind in Malaysia, based in Brickfields, KL.

Well done, PMY! Looking forward to your 100th anniversary do.

Copyright 1995-2004 Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd (Co No 10894-D) Managed by I.Star.