Stevens Tan seems to be thinking far ahead. Or rather he looks like it. There’s only 6 days to go and the collection so far is still far from the targeted USD 5k.
“I’m sorry Stevens, I have boosted your Facebook post to the United States and Europe, created different sets of ads and yet we still don’t have enough”, I said to him. “Don’t worry Khalid, just do your best. I will continue to email and send Whatsapp messages. As long as you have given it your best shot, it’s okay lah “, Stevens replied.
He always had that zen calmness look going on everytime. Of course, wearing dark glasses that block the eyes, the windows to the soul, do make people look people more zen than they actually are, especially if it’s a classic Ray-Ban. But in his case, even if you can see the eyes, you still can’t deduce much. Blinded since his mid 30s, Stevens have been working hard to help the visually impaired community in Malaysia.
His social enterprise, Dialogue In The Dark, provides many blind people a chance at having their own work without relying on handouts (which is not much and far from enough, by the way) or lured into joining tissue selling syndicates that promises 50% of all donations received while doing the rounds. Yes, that’s how much the guide that accompanies the blind gets. And to be fair, they do pick them from their houses and guide them around tables in dining areas. Well, it’s better than nothing, I would say, and still an effort. But is that all that they can be?
His latest effort, where he applied (and won a place from quite a number of entrants) for an international grant from Global Giving, a reputable internationally crowdfunding platform, is to help 100 Blind Students get tuition funds so they can learn online and use those skills to work online like any other ordinary person. How can this be, you might think. How can they see what is being displayed or written on computer/mobile phone screens?
Actually, the technology is already available. Working with Sasbadi, Malaysia’s largest educational content provider, Stevens participated in Includes Learning project where a software developed by Sasbadi will read things out loud according to the position of the image on the screen or when touched by the viewer. However, to master this software will require training and time to get used to. And with the recent Restricted Movement Order imposed from the covid-19 pandemic, the learning was halted temporarily, making Stevens opt to go for what most label as “the new normal” by conducting online classes.
This is a much better option than those bulky braille books that are large and heavy to carry. Not only that, it takes so long to print braille books that by the time it is printed and distributed, the information in it would have been stale already (behind syllabus) and this is another reason blind students are always left behind in studies. It would be an amazing day when a blind student can one day be on par academically with a person who has 20/20 vision.
With the available technology, it is not impossible. Everyone should do their bit to help and little by little we would be paving the way for the visually impaired community to have a self sustainable lifestyle that they can be proud of. And we, who helped in this endeavor can look back and say, hey I remembered when I took part in this, with a thankful smile of realisation that we did something to make this world not only just a better place, a brighter one, too.
To participate in this project, click here : bit.ly/tuition100
Social Media Stories, mostly Malaysia.