A language worth learning
By LAY HSUAN, LIM
Silence is golden when you need to disengage yourself from external distractions to work on your assignment or as an escapism. But, what happens if you are permanently in a world of silence?
In this article, Leaderonomics caught up with Selina Ooi Shin Ping, a truly inspiring leader and the founder of the Deaf Boleh! Malaysia community blog. She shares her perspective on sign language and the deaf community.
Tell us about yourself
I was born in Taiping, Perak. I am the second child in a family of three sisters. Both my parents are teachers.
I was the first hearing-impaired student who graduated with a degree in interface design majoring in creative multimedia at Multimedia University, Cyberjaya. I work as a multimedia designer at KDU University College.
Tell us more about Deaf Boleh! Malaysia
Deaf Boleh! Malaysia community blog was initiated because I notice the lack of awareness among Malaysians of the challenges faced by the hearing-impaired. When I participate in hearing-impaired-related activities, I also notice many in the hearing-impaired community left out from such events.
Therefore, this blog serves as a platform to create greater understanding and awareness between the hearing and the deaf communities.
Through this blog, I hope to highlight and share about the deaf culture and sign language to the hearing community. We also want to convey the message to abled people that “the deaf can do anything” (except hearing, of course), thus the word Boleh in the blog.
At the same time, Deaf Boleh! Malaysia aims to encourage the hearing-impaired to open up, share, communicate and connect with each other through news, information on technology and events. It is a good way to support, motivate and celebrate each other’s success.
Sign language and the hearing community
It is not difficult to learn the basics of sign language. It is a language for the hearing-impaired, just like any other language.
The difference is that it is a non-verbal language which uses finger gestures and is not as fast as when you are talking.
Learning sign language is commendable, and I highly encourage every abled person to learn it, because it helps bridge the gap between the hearing and deaf communities.
In fact, I have listed top 10 reasons for learning sign language on the blog. It can be quite fun because you can sign underwater, or with your mouth full!
My family, for example, always communicate with me with sign language. In this way, my family fosters a close bond with me as sign language makes me comfortable and helps us to understand each other better.
(Above: How to sign alphabets)
Image credit: www.lifeprint.com
Level of awareness and impact at the workplace
There are many types of disability, categorised as “Orang Kurang Upaya” (OKU) in Malaysia. However, I think being hearing-impaired has been the most misunderstood because physically, we look like the rest.
I would not be surprised if people do not realise there are hearing-impaired ones walking among them. It is quite common that most people express more sympathy when they see a physically-challenged OKU or the blind, thereby offering help to them compared with someone who is deaf.
The hearing-impaired may face difficulty in securing employment because employers may still have the mentality that we cannot work because of communication challenges. It should not be an excuse in today’s world because we have other modes of communication, such as email, WhatsApp, Skype, etc.
Then, there are those already in the workforce who felt left behind in their work because abled persons lacked empathy and patience to teach the hearing-impaired.
How has it been working among abled colleagues?
I consider myself very fortunate because when I started work, my abled colleagues organised a sign language class for my sake! I was really surprised and very glad to teach them sign language.
They have been very patient and understanding with what I want to convey to them.
There are also colleagues who love to joke with me via sign language. At other times, we communicate by writing using paper and pen.
What keeps you going?
I consider myself an advocate for the hearing-impaired, and I will continue to be one. I want to be a role model for the hearing-impaired community through Deaf Boleh! Malaysia to inspire and motivate the new generation of hearing-impaired people toward achieving confidence, independence and success.
Success to us, the hearing-impaired, is the recognition of our work done well by the abled community.
Look at Marlee Matlin, for example, the hearing-impaired actress who won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a leading role at the age of 21.
Despite our hearing challenges, it is important for us to strive for the best at what we are capable of doing, work hard, and stay positive and passionate in doing what we do.
I have been very fortunate to have the support of family, colleagues and friends.
(Above: James (left) and Selina (middle), co-founders of Deafmoolah, next to Adda (right), a volunteer for Deafmoolah activities.)
What do you hope to achieve?
I was one of the ambassadors for Blogrrr.my, the first biggest blogger event in Malaysia. I also have been invited to give motivational talks to schools for the deaf, non-profit organisations and workshops organised by companies.
With this experience and exposure, I hope to reach out to more hearing-impaired communities in rural areas by organising roadshows and awareness campaigns.
What is lacking is funding.
I also hope that my Deaf Boleh! Malaysia blog can be a wide-reaching portal to promote events and activities for the hearing-impaired.
Considering that I am looking at future empowerment projects such as to teach our community about social media and blogging, I hope to improve the blog.