Alan Soh aka Humourboi

I am my own columnist, publishing my thoughts!


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Breaking The Sound Barrier (Part 2)

Breaking the Sound Barrier

Breaking the SOUND barrier. Because there is NO you or them.

Through my NTU mentees, a journalist from TODAY came to knew about this project, and approached me to seek my inputs on questions he had about employment for deaf Singaporeans today.

1. What were some of the difficulties you faced during job hunt as someone who is hard of hearing? What was some of the feedback, or comments you heard from prospective employers? Has that changed, why or why not?
My response:
First and foremost, I am not born totally deaf. Hence I am not deaf mute.
I am born with a dead right ear, which means I still go to normal schools communicating with people with my left ear until the days when I was a student of ITE Bishan when I had bacterial infection in my left ear. As such I have to wear a hearing aid.
I am effectively bilingual. I can talk to anyone normally.
I did a cochlear implant surgery on my right ear in 2011.
At that point of time, I somehow knew that it will be MORE challenging, should I apply for jobs in future.
I am thankful that SG Enable and SPD employment support division provides me help.
Often in my younger days, I struggled with the dilemma of making my condition known in my CV to be submitted to employers. Because I am worried – Will it blow my chances of being granted a job interview? Being older now, I am more accepting of my disability and thus making it known in my job applications.
Frankly speaking, till today I hesitate to include phone numbers in job applications because what if I could not hear the recruiters well over the phone? Unless the mode of contact is via mobile text messaging.
Having said so, I still have to be honest about my hearing problem.
Interview sessions are for both parties to find out more about each other pertaining the job opening.
My method is – I try to be more comfortable, and perceive the potential employer “as a friend”, which it takes away the stress of “trying too hard to impress the other party”, and just be myself. The other party would also feel more comfortable. Words will come out freely and naturally. If the other party wishes to converse in Mandarin, I am able to switch effortlessly.
I try to do some small talk first to find something in common between us.
Once there is a common interest, there is rapport built and mood becomes more relaxing.
For sure, I must of course do some research on the employer before attending the interview so that I am able to answer his questions.
This is what I learnt from my journalism module when I studied Mass Communications at MDIS. The interview technique.
I guess, the little advantage which I think I have over other Singaporeans with similar condition is that, I can talk things upfront with employers during job interviews, telling them what I can or cannot do, things which interest me, my working style, experiences which I hope to gain etc.
The first question I always asked, is about communication aspect.
Questions like – Are you open to giving work instructions via emails or whatsapp? How often should we communicate face-to-face?
The feedback I got from employers, often is that “you look normal okay”, “you worry too much”, “nothing to worry about communication part since we can have a normal conversation like this”.
If I do not get the job, I would rather choose to think that I don’t fit the requirements than about my hearing disability. 
I don’t cry over spill milk. I just move on.
I sit down, reflect and do something about my employability skills.
This year I intend to upgrade myself academically so that I can deepen my existing knowledge and skills.
The most important thing is, the deaf individual should display a keen interest to learn something new and be humble.
Having that can-do spirit.
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2. What do you think employers today should change, in terms of hiring deaf persons, or persons who are hard of hearing? 
My response:
Like able-bodied Singaporeans, the deaf community have various talents and abilities.
Very often we Singaporeans tend to look at people, passing judgement first on what they cannot do. These days, we become very critical of others.
I urge everyone including employers to look at surrounding people on what they can do first.
This is the biggest take-away I gain, from my previous job at a social enterprise, interacting with special needs workers.
If we give them opportunities, they might surprise you sometimes. Many of them could be raw diamonds, having innate potential to go far in life.
There is always a solution to every problem, if we are willing to pause, and think harder.
Be open-minded.
Be willing to learn the various communication modes with the deaf and hard-of-hearing such as simple sign-language or using Whatsapp (thanks to mobile technology).
They cannot hear well. They are very visual. Employers can give simple instructions in the form of pictures.
Work processes can be redesigned in a way that these deaf employees can do what they are required to do, bypassing their limitations. 
A little job stress is however essential, to make them grow. No pain, no gain.
If they do something well, praise them publicly for job well done. This will further boost their self-confidence.
Best still after sometime, employer can send them for skills-grading courses to enhance their competencies and self-dignity; and with skills certification, they can command a higher take-home pay.
We also need more deaf role models to be highlighted in mass media.
Sharing their stories of how they overcome odds to become what they are today.
This is to change the perceptions of the deaf community in the eyes of employers and Singaporeans alike.

Singapore should be truly an inclusive society where we really LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND.

Let’s lift every Singaporean up together. 

3. Why do you think employers might not be overly keen on hiring deaf people? 
My response:
Very often I believe some employers might think that “they cannot hear, cannot listen to work instructions, need to always look after them, as such they cannot make it.”
Or they might perceive that all members of deaf community are lowly educated, have bad attitudes, cannot handle a single job well.
This is a very flawed perception of them. They can be further trained.
Many of them are nice people.
As such, “Breaking the Sound Barrier” project initiated by Wong Jia Rong and his team aims to correct any misconceptions about the deaf, hoping employers across all sectors in Singapore understand that these special Singaporeans have employable qualities too.
The only little issue is – they cannot hear you well.
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Do you tell MFA where you are going when going overseas?

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First and foremost, this is not a blog entry to do any form of publicity for Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Rather, I see it as a form of generating more public awareness among Singaporeans.

How often, OR do you inform MFA where you are heading to prior to your overseas trips?

How many Singaporeans do that?

This could be the question posed by Ms Joan Pereira, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC during a Committee of Supply  (COS) debate for MFA in Singapore Budget 2017 during Parliament on Thursday 2 March 2017

Mr Maliki Osman, Senior Minister of State for MFA replied, saying that many Singaporeans who travel overseas don’t bother to e-register with MFA. He added that there is a “big disparity” between 400,000 e-registrants and the 7.5 million outbound trips made by Singaporeans in 2016 – and this does not include the more than 16 million overland trips made to neighbouring Malaysia every year.

I may be hard of hearing. Yes I am not required to apply for any exit permit with Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) but I make it a point to e-register with MFA whenever going overseas. Why?

This is so that in the event of any life-threatening situation, MFA in Singapore has a way to locate me, and advises me what to do, be it phone-call/email or text messaging. This is very important especially if I am travelling alone.

Putting Singapore embassies or missions aside, do you know this is a FREE service offered by MFA to assist all Singapore citizens before they step out of the country?

It merely takes few minutes to do it online.

You may be heading overseas for work or studies. The information you provide to MFA will allow its relevant officials to contact you in order to make sure that you are safe and alright should anything happens during your period of overseas travel or stay, and offers you help. Wherever you are in the world.

Mr Maliki said, 8 out of 10 calls that MFA currently receives during emergency situations are from the next-of-kin of Singaporeans who did not e-register, Mr Maliki said.

He gave an example of a Singaporean in China who had not e-registered but later complained that MFA did not reach out to him after a disaster occurred.

Unfortunately, many Singaporeans don’t bother. They take many things for granted. Sigh.
Either they really don’t know about this or just see no need to do it. Or ermm..just lazy?

Personally speaking, although it is a voluntary act, I think this is a matter of personal responsibility. For myself and family members.

Well if anything happens, please don’t complain the Government doesn’t care.

This is the web portal URL for E-register service with MFA – click here.


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Thoughts on AYE Accident

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It was a traffic accident which nobody wants to see it happening.

A Mercedes Benz driver went against the flow of traffic on the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) in the direction of Tuas, at about 8am yesterday (Monday 19 December). The reckless driving of the driver has resulted in a multi-vehicle collision involving 4 cars, 1 motorcycle and 1 bus.

The 53-year old driver was travelling along the AYE towards Tuas Checkpoint, when he was believed to have made a U-turn suddenly and gone against the flow of traffic, hitting into several vehicles. As a result, a 37-year old male car driver was killed. The victim was trapped in his driver seat, and his body had to be extricated by Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel using hydraulic rescue tools.

When confronted by some motorists who stopped by to help, an adult man who is said to be the son of the driver, apologized. He said that his father was “having depression”. The police has arrested the driver for causing death by a rash act.

I am saddened to see quite a number of fellow Singaporeans jumping guns at the 53-year old Mercedes driver, expressing online comments that he should go die elsewhere if he really has depression.

Yes I am angry, and certainly agree that this man ought to be punished heavily for what has had happened yesterday morning. Terrible. Someone has died. Some people are hospitalised for their heavy injuries.

However let’s be objective, giving the man the benefit of doubt – what if it is certified true that the driver really has depression? Did he know what he is doing and what has had happened? Does he have the criminal intent to drive recklessly?

More importantly, what caused the Mercedes driver to drive so recklessly? Did something made him very emotional and agitated suddenly that the son could not hold him in restraint no matter how hard he could have tried? Why are these netizens also blaming the son?

I believe the adult son who was sitting beside his driver father, is also feeling sad and horrified to see this terrifying accident happening right before his own eyes. Especially if he knows that an innocent 37-year old father has died tragically as a result of his own father’s rash action.

Just because he isn’t someone we know, it does not give us all the ultimate right to curse him to die.

Who are we to judge a total stranger?

Don’t tell me these netizens never make mistakes at all?

We are not the accused. We do not know what problems or challenges that might have arisen for the Mercedes driver to go berserk before the mishap happened.

We do not know the whole story.

We should stay calm and rational, and wait for the police to find out the entire truth.

My deepest sincerest condolences to the family of the deceased, Mr Jackie Liong Kuo Hwa.

(Note: If you happen to see photos of the AYE accident victim Mr Jackie Liong Kuo Hwa being killed and trapped in his car, please don’t circulate it online. We should be sensitive to the feelings of his family members, relatives and friends.)


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Singapore Armed Forces Day (SAF) 2016

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Parade Square @ Amoy Quee Camp, 2SIR

Looking back, it was only during my 2-year National Service period that I did not take any photos at all. Year 2000. That was about 15 years ago. All I had was my SAF 11B ID photo which I still kept today.

My most memorable period of NS was during the 1st two months at Amoy Quee Camp, 2nd Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment (SIR). Physical trainings and marching drills. Among hundreds of recruits, little did I expect to be chosen to be my Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM)’s personal assistant. He was a stern teacher yet a fatherly figure. Although I am no officer cadet, he still taught me to think and behave like one. Integrity and self-discipline. RSM quite doted on me wheras his subordinates – the CSM (Company Sergeant Major)/S1 and S4 sergeants loved to come “disturb” me time to time. 

I used to slouch my back. It was my company platoon commander who trained me to develop and maintain a good habit of walking and sitting up-straight. He said, “You are now RSM’s PA. You ought to walk like one. Walk like a positive young man. More importantly, you will not suffer from any posture issues when you grow old one day.” Yet he was also the one who always tricked me into doing more chin-ups when doing IPPTs. My lousiest station. :p

As for my platoon sergeant, he was the first sergeant who reached out for my friendship during 1st or 2nd day of my NSF life. He made the first move. I didn’t want to talk to anyone at that time, so I wondered “Among all people, why does this sergeant come to me? I am only a NSF recruit. He likes me?”

He thawed that little iciness in me, made me understood what brotherhood is about. We are of about the same age. He offered to help whenever I encountered any problems. He liked to slow down, running alongside with me when doing 2.4km morning runs. Liked to chill out with me after last parade and routine order. Ate together during mealtimes at the cookhouse. We may sometimes even exit the camp together when we booked out on Saturdays. We became quite close eventually. Although I was later transferred to Sembawang Air Base (SBAB), I went back to 2SIR once to look for him about a year later, to see if he is still there. I couldn’t find him, thought he wasn’t around in the camp, hence I left my contact number with HQ S1 office. Yes, he was around – that was when he called me on my mobile phone when I was just out of the camp gate, telling me to u-turn back to go find him at the HQ Officer Mess. I ran back.

My platoon sergeant taught me to reach out, extending friendship to others first, which I do today. I followed doing what he has done. 🙂

Thank you Sir. My hearing impairment has had not in a way or another, stop you people from believing in me, giving me selfless guidance.

How have you guys been? I also missed my then Platoon 4 mates at Bravo Coy.

Every July 1st, it is Singapore Armed Forces Day. Happy belated SAF Day.

We are young lions, second to none! 🙂

Extra reading note: Here was what I wrote previously -> Singapore Armed Forces Day 2014


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Quick Thoughts on LBGT

Pinkdot Singapore

He could not tolerate 2 men kissing, so the 29-year old man became angry and went on a shooting spree killing 49 fellow human beings who were in a gay bar in Orlando with a rifle gun. It happened this week.

What wrong did these people do to end up being killed tragically?

It chills me when I see there are people among us who cheered the shootings made by the American killer, thinking along the line that “oh these LGBT people really deserve to die, if only we can do the same to the same group of people here in Singapore”.

Why do we have people in this world who just could not accept differences among us?

 
Please allow me to see things in an objective viewpoint.
Who started the “war” in the first place? Very often, I think it is the non-LGBT group especially the very conservative ones with a religious perspective.
 
Group A don’t offend Group B, yet Group B keep attacking Group A.
It is natural that Group A would rebut back, seeking equal treatment actively.
 
This is because Group B cannot tolerate the existence of Group A.
(Of course I don’t deny the fact that there are some LGBTs who keep pushing the boundary line.)
 

Come on, we are all not saints.

 
Among people in the LGBT group, they could be our brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunties, sons, daughters, or very close friends. They did not offend you but are you going to end the relationship simply because of their sexual orientation?
 
Ask ourselves – are we willing to sit down and talk openly with them in the first place, seek to understand them without any pre-judgement? Are our eyes blinded by misconceptions? More importantly, do we respect and accept them for who they are? Are they friendly to you? Do you still love them the same as before?
 

It is regrettable that there are people in this world who just don’t understand the simple saying – “Treat others as how you would like to be treated”.

 
Many of us are not patient, and don’t listen enough to understand the other party. Some of us simply look at matters from our own perspective. Cannot give and take.
This explains why conflicts or wars still exist in many parts of the world today. 😦


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Inclusiveness. Perception.

A recent survey commissioned by Lien Foundation reveals that in these 1000+ respondents, only 1 in 10 Singaporeans is confident of interacting with a child with special needs. 50% of the adults polled are comfortable with having a child with special needs in their children’s class. And finally, only 8% of the people polled are willing to make a child with special needs feel welcomed.

What does it say about us? Why? Why this discomfort? Is it because of misconception, pre-judgement or stereo-typing? Thinking that people with special needs among us are “stupid”, “unable to contribute to society”, “always depending on others for help”, “can’t achieve much in life” or “better not to be seen and heard”? Why are there Singaporeans not walking the talk about inclusiveness in the Lion City?

In my course of work, my interactions with Singaporeans with special needs often made me go awe. Because I discovered some of them have hidden talents. Most importantly, these people are easy to get along with. They are very friendly people. I feel at ease talking to them.

We should focus at what these people can do, NOT what they cannot do. Like anyone of us, some of them are born with different gifts. From there, we can redesign job-scopes to cater to their strengths. They are a hidden pool of potential talents, if we give them opportunities to develop their abilities. They are raw diamonds.

I always believe disability happens only if I am disabled in the mindset, not my physical limitations. Of course people are entitled to their own opinions at the end of the day.
This is beyond my control.

At the end of the day, it is about our perceptions. How we see this special group of people. It is a matter of our willingness to understand these fellow Singaporeans with special needs.

Let us open our hearts and minds.  They might just surprise you with their abilities. 🙂


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One Year On..Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s departure

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Just a couple days ago, the Singapore Government and many fellow citizens remembered our Founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew, of whom has passed away at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) on 23 March 2015, at 3.18am.

With deep sadness, his son, of whom is also the current Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong announced his father’s passing away via mass media later that morning. The news of his death has rocked the nation and many other countries worldwide.

Mr Lee’s health was deteriorating, however many Singaporeans had hoped that he would be able to recover and join in the upcoming SG50 National Day celebrations in August. Heard that he last stepped into his office in April 2015 before hospitalisation.

I believe some Singaporeans were bracing themselves for his impending death. I was one of them. However I didn’t expect the news to come suddenly that Monday morning.

On this day 25 March, exactly a year ago, there was a procession of the gun carriage bearing Mr Lee’s body along a 2 kilometre long route from the Istana, through the Civic District, to the Parliament House where his body was laid in state – for Singaporeans, and for foreign friends, far and near, to come paying their last respects to him, round the clock. 24 hours. For 5 days. His State Funeral took place on Sunday 29 March 2015.

As you can see, a Singapore state flag was drapped around his coffin as a gesture of highest respect and honour for this great man.

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Thousands of Singaporeans including myself went to queue, just to pay respects to him. It was a historic moment because many people including the elderly were very much willing to go the extra mile, bracing the hot sun to queue. This is where the Singapore Spirit came alive – strangers stepped forward to do something for their fellow citizens, offering free drinking water, fans, umbrellas, mini seats to people who were queuing. Taking initiative to do something.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew and other founding fathers made the Singapore Story a legend. He unified all Singaporeans as one, even in his death.

On Wednesday evening, I went to one of the remembrance events held at the steps of the National Arts Gallery (former Supreme Court building). It was held from 6.30pm till 8.30pm.

Penned my thoughts on the electric candles provided. And worn the red/white ribbon given, onto my tee shirt.

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If you ask me for one Singapore national day song to play at Padang for us Singaporeans to remember Mr Lee Kuan Yew, I personally think the 1986 song “Count on me Singapore” is the best choice.

The song lyrics are appropriate and meaningful, especially on this 1-year death anniversary day. Talking about rallying Singaporeans together to keep Singapore going till and beyond SG100. I believe this is the biggest concern or worry which Mr Lee Kuan Yew have had before he passed on.

We will continue to write the Singapore Story until the day the island state turns 100 years old in year 2065.