Capture of original full Mandarin article on Zaobao

In this National Day Special, Zaobao features 6 community groups with various missions such as promoting interfaith harmony, pursuing social justice and equality. What is common among them is that they bring people of different backgrounds together to build a better Singapore.

Hearing the voices of the Deaf

Head shot of Nix Sang, founder of Equal Dreams
Nix Sang, founder of Equal Dreams hopes that the article can put the focus on marginalised communities. (Photo provided by interviewee)

Equal Dreams

Founded: February 2020
Working with: Marginalised communities (such as Deaf and Hard of hearing, Blind/Low vision/ persons with vision-impairment, Autistic communities)
Mission: Disabled communities have equal rights to pursue their dreams and aspirations.

Hina (age 35), who works in the administrative line, is born deaf. She feels that although there is frequent media coverage on stories of disabled people pursuing their dreams and aspirations, these stories are often told from an angle of inspiration. “Some people might feel that such articles are commendable as they can inspire and move readers. However, such stories are in fact what we call “inspiration porn”. They are unacceptable.”

The term ‘Inspiration Porn’ was coined by the Australian disability activist, Stella Young. Inspiration porn refers to using stories of disabled people to inspire non-disabled community – the objectification of one group of people (in this case the disabled) for the benefit of another group (the non-disabled).

Sharing Insights of Deaf Parents

Half body shot of Hina in white blouse
“People tend to put labels on the Deaf community. This is what limits our potential. But these labels do not represent us.“ – Hina

Hina said “Disabled people are no different from others – we all face the same worries in life such as our future, friendships, relationships etc. Disabled people can do so much more than what society assumes. There is no need for media articles to make it overly inspirational.” Recently, she has published a series of Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day specials on Equal Dreams Facebook page. The objective was to share with netizens stories and insights of ordinary Deaf people in their parenthood journey. From conceptualisation to editing, Hina is in charge of the whole process. Every video is about 10 minutes long. All interviewees are also Deaf and all interviews are conducted fully in sign language.

Equal Dreams was founded in February this year. Hina and Equal Dreams’ founder, Nix Sang (age 38) are long time friends. In “a democratic society, based on justice and equality”, communities such as the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Blind/vision-impaired, Autistic communities should have equal rights to pursue their dreams and aspirations. This is the mission of Equal Dreams.

Nix said in the interview that everybody should have equal opportunities to pursue their passions. “Society tends to put a label on certain communities. But (for example), who is to say a blind cannot be a designer, or a deaf cannot pursue a career in media?”

She also said that one can only truly understand their own passion and strength when they have the opportunity to experience it. “(After having the opportunity to experience), if they like it, they can choose to continue to pursue it, if they realise they are not suitable, that is alright too. The skills and experience gained during the process would definitely add value to other aspects of their lives.”

Taking Hina as an example: she has always been interested in content creation. Since 2012, she has tried to produce videos during her own travels. Hina loves sharing stories about the Deaf community. Every time she travels, she will specially visit businesses and shops run by Deaf people to know more about the local Deaf culture. However, due to work commitments and dance training outside of her day job, Hina did not have much time to pursue this interest.

It was not until when her dance training had scaled down recently did she find an opportunity to continue this passion project. One day, Hina shared with Nix about her ideas on content creation. It was agreed that Equal Dreams would be a good platform to share daily lived experiences of the Deaf community.

 

Back view of Hina watching a Deaf created video on her computer
Hina is born deaf. Her passion lies in content creation. She has recently published a series of Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day specials on Equal Dreams Facebook page to share stories and insights of Deaf parents.

 

Screen capture of an online interview with Hina on the left window and a Deaf mother interviewee, Ginny Ong, on the right window. Below Ginny are the captions that indicate what Ginny says to her doctor “Can you write please ok?”
Hina (left) interviewing Deaf mother. The whole video is presented in sign language. (Picture provided by interviewee)

Access to Information for the Deaf community is Essential

Hina also said that contents using sign language are not common here in Singapore. This is not the case for overseas content, where once you do a simple search, you can easily get results of many Deaf-produced online contents. “I hope that the ordinary stories of the local Deaf community can be seen and heard too, and not be out of sight and out of mind, or be drowned out by inspiration porn”.

When asked about plans for future contents, Hina said “I have many ideas, such as stories of the experiences of Deaf people who went through mainstream education. I also want to produce Singapore tourism contents, using sign language to introduce to the international Deaf community our local attractions and delicacies. But all these have been stalled due to COVID-19.”

Equal Dreams currently does not have full time staff. Hina feels that because the Equal Dreams team is formed by like minded friends with the same vision and values, they are closely knitted. “In the team there are both Deaf and Hearing members [article expanded this as those with normal hearing levels]. Everyone has their own strengths and can contribute in different areas and also learn from one another in the process.”

Besides providing a platform for some of the marginalised communities to pursue their passion projects, Equal Dreams also provided Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) interpretation and live speech to text services during the COVID-19 and General Elections period. Information becomes accessible so that the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community can also receive the same information real time as others.

Nix opined that some hearing people do not understand the importance of Deaf access services such as sign language interpretation. “If hearing people can access first hand information about the latest COVID-19 measures through national TV, why shouldn’t the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community be able to access this information at the same time? Why do they need to wait for media information or official transcript that is only available after the announcement? This would be unfair to them.”

Sign language Interpretation service is not an act of charity

Nix also said that some people may view sign language interpretation as a voluntary or charity service. “Some organisations tend to ask for very low rates for the service. Some even feel that such services should be provided for free.” But Nix emphasised that these accessibility services are professional services. At Equal Dreams, there are also Deaf interpreters – interpreters who are Deaf themselves. This is a legitimate profession. “Our society needs to progress. We must not continue the traditional mindset that work related to disability is always about doing charity work, and that the disabled communities are always to be helped and saved.”

“We are disabled by the society we live in rather than our disabilities.” Hina expressed during the interview that the barriers faced by the local Deaf community are not due to the physical condition they have. “People tend to put labels on the Deaf community. This is what limits our potential. But these labels do not represent us. If Singapore wants to be like what our pledge declares, to be ‘one united people’, ‘so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation’, then we must no longer ignore the voices of the marginalised communities.”

 


Generations of Promise, Staying True to the Pledge

Introduction segment of Zaobao National Day Special
Opening write up of the National Day Special in Mandarin. Singapore’s National Pledge is shown in 4 official languages.

[The following is a summarised translation of the introduction of the special column]

Our tightly clenched right fist to left chest, we recite our pledge.
“We the citizens of Singapore
Pledge ourselves as one united people
Regardless of race, language or religion
To build a democratic society
Based on justice and equality
So as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress
For our nation”

Perhaps, you have not recited the National Pledge often after you have left school, or might have even forgotten some parts of it. But around us, there are many who have been quietly working to pursue the vision stated in our Pledge.

In this National Day Special, Zaobao features 6 community groups with various missions such as promoting interfaith harmony, pursuing social justice and equality. What is common among them is that they bring people of different backgrounds together to build a better Singapore.

Today’s prosperity and harmony is the fruit of generations of Singaporeans coming together, working hard towards a common goal and vision.

From here on, we must stay true to the promise stated in our Pledge.


Original Mandarin article available at Zaobao website.

We at Equal Dreams would like to thank journalist Chua Wei Qian and his team from Zaobao for this feature! 🙂