‘Blind massage therapists need vaccine lifeline’

Lee says he started his own blind massage centre in 1983 as no one would employ him back then.

CERTIFIED Blind Masseur Association president Lee Sheng Chow hopes that the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme can be sped up.

He said in the case of the visually impaired employed in the spa and wellness industry, being able to work is a matter of survival.

“Only then will the public have confidence in returning to places such as massage centres.

“We only have about half the number of the customers now compared to before the first movement control order last year.

“People are still afraid to visit places such as massage centres, ” said Lee.

He urged the government to give people the option of getting vaccinated at private hospitals.

“The public must have the option of paying for the vaccine themselves to speed up the process.

“We need to have herd immunity in the community and at the moment, it is not happening fast enough, ” said Lee who has about 100 members in his association.

He reiterated that a “life jacket” grant was necessary, especially for those in businesses such as the spa and wellness industry.

“I am a blind person who hires more than 50 blind therapists.

“When the pandemic hit, it was extremely difficult for us.

“Our biggest problem is the high rental as business is down by half.

“Furthermore, we could not earn any income as our industry was halted for almost a year.

“We need some form of help to pay the rent, ” said Lee, who claimed that he was the first blind individual in the country to set up his own massage centre in 1983.

He said in his lifetime, the industry managed to overcome the AIDS crisis, the 1997 economic recession and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003.

However, the industry is finding it hard to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

He recounted how he enrolled at the Gurney Training Centre to learn massage techniques.

However, he could not get a job because of his disability, which prompted him to start his own business.

“In the past, the blind could not find gainful employment. I want to change the perception that we have to beg to survive, ” said Lee, who has been helping the needy during the MCO.

Meanwhile, student Mohamad Farha Nasarudin, 29, cannot wait to return to the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) where he is studying to be a massage therapist.

He wants to complete his training as soon as possible so that he can earn a living.

Mohamad Farha said after the first MCO, he had to return to his hometown in Perak.

He was unable to practise there what he had learned, due to strict standard operating procedures.

“I had no one to try my skills on and was worried I would forget everything.

“We were given audio recordings to listen to, but learning from someone in person is better.

“I want to complete my training as quickly as possible so I can start a business in my hometown, ” said the Universiti Utara Malaysia business graduate.

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