Against all odds: Being blind is not an obstacle to success

  • People
  • Saturday, 28 Jun 2014

The writer with Wong Shin Yee.

Wong Shin Yee may be blind but she does not let that stop her from achieving her goals and beyond.

Poverty, abuse, bigotry, war and disasters – these are socio-economic crisis that commonly occur around the globe. It would seem impossible for someone from such challenging backgrounds to see their dreams realised.

As such, it is always a pleasant surprise to see the talent that emerges despite such circumstances.

We get inspired and motivated when we read about people who have made it big despite the struggles they have to go through.

For example, the newly appointed Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, grew up as a teenager running a tea stall with his brother. And there’s the famous Subhas Chandra Bose, a radical leader who fought for the independence of India, who was jailed several times and beaten brutally. They were able to defy all odds and make the impossible possible.

However, these stories which we read or watch in the television, which often end up being no more than dinner conversation or a topic for academic discussion.

They don’t touch us personally as these stories don’t involve anyone we know. But what if there are people around you, someone who lives across the street or studied in the same school as you did, who have attained outstanding achievements that inspires you to go after your own dreams?

I was lucky enough to meet one such person. I’ve changed the way I thought about certain things and credit her for this as she made an impact on my life.

A down-to-earth, intelligent girl, whom I can proudly call my friend now, Wong Shin Yee’s story is one which I believe the world needs to know about.

She is blind and understandably, growing up wasn’t easy though her family members have always been there for her, especially her mother. As a child, Shin Yee was a fast learner as she picked up words quickly. Her mother taught her with music and nursery rhymes, so most of her learning was auditory.

She completed her primary studies at SK Sg Kantan and then graduated from SMK Kajang Utama after Form Five. For the most part, Shin Yee used Braille and she used her computer briskly with the help of a computer software which reads out the information on the screen.

In school, she studies in a regular class with the assistance of a teacher who translates the learning materials into Braille for her. She also has a group of friends who help her out in class by reading out information that has been written on the board.

I was taken aback when I was told that she learnt English independently with the help of a computer as she does not come from an English-speaking background. According to her mother, Shin Yee could speak proper English only during her final years of primary school. English videos and audios helped her improve her vocabulary and now, she speaks the language flawlessly.

Her love for the language was heightened when she became impressed with the way her music teacher spoke the language with an interesting demeanour. From that moment onwards, her passion for English grew and she has written numerous short stories online. She plans to complete her degree in English Language and Literature, and aspires to become a lecturer or writer.

She enjoys reading novels and her favourite is Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Michaelson. When she was in Form Four, she represented Malaysia in an international children’s forum held in Singapore.

Shin Yee plays the piano as well and when asked how did she learnt to play without the help of her sight, she says:

“I rely on my hearing and though it takes a little more time, with practice and the help of the instructor, I manage to complete the score.’’ Even though music works on our sense of hearing, most of us rely on musical score sheets and we tend to look at the keys to come up with the tune. That Shin Yee was able to pass prestigious music examinations and play the piano so well speaks of one amazing trait in her.

Speaking of our encounter, I was fortunate enough to meet Shin Yee in an award ceremony. I had done well in my SPM examination. Soon after I left the stage, they called upon her and I was thrilled to witness this girl who had defied the odds and scored 6As, four of them being an A+, enjoying her moment of glory on the same stage moments after me.

She carried herself very well and had excellent communication skills. I was very impressed and got even more excited when I found out that she lived 10 minutes away from my house.

I paid her a visit and managed to have a chat with her, marking the start to a beautiful new friendship.

One thing she said truly touched my heart: she admitted that she felt no great need have her sight as she’s happy the way she is. In the conversation I had with her, not once did she see her life as being difficult.

“The 4P’s of life: Passion, Patience, Perseverance and Persistence are important to achieve your dreams,’’ said Shin Yee when I asked for her take on success. She believes that life can put us down and bring us up, but we must always stay positive and never give up. Every problem has a solution. So there must be a way to solve it.

Personally, I believe Shin Yee will make the world turn around and take a look at things differently, not only because of how she has overcome her struggles but that she never regarded her blindness to be an obstacle to her goal of success. The mindset she has should be emulated by everyone, especially the younger generation.

“No one has the power to shatter your dreams, unless you give it to them,” said American author Maeve Greyson.

Sometimes, life brings us down so low to an extent that it would seem only sensible to give up. However, when we choose to work hard and prove to others that they were wrong, that is when we truly defy the odds and become the person we were meant to be. Just like Shin Yee.

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