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Every Oct 15, the world celebrates International White Cane Day to raise awareness and celebrate achievements of the visually handicapped.
In Singapore, the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH) offers platforms and job opportunities for members to integrate with society. Its White Cane Club, a team of visually handicapped and sighted volunteers, caters to the social, recreational and welfare needs of its members.
It also organises fund-raising and awareness campaigns, like this Saturday’s (Oct 15) carnival at its headquarters at Toa Payoh Rise.
SAVH tells The Pride that the organisation’s mission is to help themselves by acquiring new skills and gaining self-reliance to cope with the integration into society.
Here are three ways we can support the visually handicapped:
Support by engaging them in activities
At SAVH, you can book massages by certified masseuses who are visually impaired. The massage centre at Toa Payoh Rise is open to the public from 9am to 5pm from Mondays to Saturdays. The organisation also has a mobile massage team available for corporate events or home visits. Do remember to make advance bookings though!
But there’s more than just massages.
SAVH offers a special eating environment for sighted individuals to understand what it’s like to dine without sight. Dining in the Dark is a restaurant concept in SAVH where you dine in pitch black conditions, with two doors blocking any light from coming into the dining room.
The meals are served by visually impaired SAVH clients, who will help you understand how it’s like to use the other senses to carry out the everyday activity of eating a meal.
Reservations are required, for a minimum of five people and one month in advance so your dining experience can be prepared to serve you well.
SAVH also sells art and crafts by their visually impaired clients.
TouchArt is a programme where SAVH clients learn new skills to showcase their talents at handicraft.
These cute handmade craft items, including bookmarks, drink coasters, mousepads, greeting cards, canvas paintings and decorated glass plates, can be customised and are available at charity bazaars and this Saturday’s carnival!
Support by learning how to communicate
Here are some pointers a sighted person should know to communicate respectfully with a person who is visually impaired.
First, announce when you enter or leave a room. This especially helps when there are other people in the room so that the visually impaired have a better idea of the space used.
Second, when walking, it is inappropriate to hold their shoulders or have them hold yours. Offer an elbow as a guide instead.
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Third, when sitting down, guide their hands to the back of the chair. Likewise, to get in a car, guide their hands to the top of the car door. On the MRT or the bus, give way when they’re using their white canes and inform them if there is a seat available.
Fourth, when serving food and drinks, tell a visually impaired person what is placed in front of them to avoid accidents.
Last, when talking, don’t assume that a visually impaired person can “imagine” what you are referring to. Some of the visually impaired were born blind, which means that they never have actually seen the things we are referring to. Learn to describe something using the other senses — how it smells, feels or sounds.
Support by visiting the White Cane Carnival!
This year’s White Cane Carnival on Oct 15 from 9am to 2pm is open to the public. The aim of the carnival is to help those with the white cane to “travel the road of independence and self-reliance to achieve hopes and aspirations”, says SAVH.
Show your SAVH carnival coupons to gain entry to the carnival. Coupons cost $10 each and are easily purchased! Simply text SAVH on WhatsApp at 6978 7600 or approach any SAVH staff to get one. You can also purchase them at the entrance to the carnival from SAVH staff.
At the carnival, there will be games for all ages, food from various vendors and many items on sale, such as art and crafts by SAVH TouchArt’s clients.
Other iconic SAVH items on sale include postage stamp bookmarks, special paintings and more!
At the carnival, there is also an all-inclusive job fair for members of the public and for the visually impaired to showcase their skills.
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SAVH produces Braille versions of books and school textbooks for visually impaired students. Xin Min Secondary School has contributed volunteers to help run booths to support SAVH’s clients at the carnival.
If you can’t make it for the carnival, that’s okay. You can still support the visually impaired community by supporting SAVH’s Flag Days every year. Check out SAVH’s Facebook and Instagram for upcoming events.