Honouring our pioneers: Mr Lim Chin Heng

Mr Lim Chin Heng received the SADeaf Lifetime Achievement Award during the annual Deaf Achievers’ Award Day held in conjunction with the IWPD (International Week of Deaf People) 2021.

Photo shows Mr Lim, with neatly combed white hair, black glasses, and a brown printed shirt. Beside him on a table are the award plaque, a certificate and a soft toy.
Mr Lim, who has taught generations of deaf students

The following is the citation for the award.

Mr Lim Chin Heng is a pioneer Deaf teacher who has played a significant role in local Deaf history and development of Deaf education in Singapore, together with the late Mr Peng Tsu Ying.  

Chin Heng studied at the Singapore School for the Deaf (SSD) under the tutelage of Mr Peng, and later became the first Singaporean to enrol in Gallaudet University in the United States, the only college for the liberal arts in the world for Deaf students. After graduating with a degree in Mathematics, Chin Heng returned to Singapore in the mid-1970s and was instrumental in introducing various teaching approaches and sign languages used in SSD, including Total Communication, American Sign Language and Signing Exact English-II. He went on to obtain a Master’s in Education of the Hearing Impaired from Gallaudet Graduate School in 1981. 

Chin Heng then embarked on a meaningful life-long career in education; he has been a teacher of the Deaf for more than 45 years. Generations of Deaf students have thrived under his guidance and hold him in high regard as their role model and inspiration; for some of them, Chin Heng was their first Deaf teacher in a mainstream secondary school. His last position was as a Mathematics resource teacher at Beatty Secondary School with the Singapore Ministry of Education. Chin Heng had also taught at Mount Vernon Secondary School, Upper Serangoon Secondary School and Balestier Hill Secondary School 

Chin Heng was also deeply involved in SADeaf as a volunteer, holding key positions at various times through 30 years of service. He was in the Executive Council as a member and as a Vice-President in the 1990s, chairman of the Social Group of the Deaf from the 1970s to 1980s, and also held positions in the then Adult Education, Publications, Deaf Access (which he helped set up), Social Work, International Day of the Deaf, and Sign Language committees, among other crucial roles. His full-hearted dedication, passion and commitment to the cause continued even into the 2010s when he oversaw SADeaf’s hosting of the 5th World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) Asia Conference in 2016 as chairman of the organising committee. It was the first time Singapore and SADeaf had held a WFD event.

Over the decades, Chin Heng also played a significant part in advocacy for the rights of Deaf people and sign language both locally and internationally. Besides his roles with SADeaf, he also participated in Disabled People International’s conferences, was a board member, honorary treasurer and vice-president of Disabled People’s Association Singapore for 12 years, sat in numerous feedback and consultation sessions with the government, and was a board member of the then Singapore Sports Council for the Disabled (since renamed Singapore Disability Sports Council). In recognition of his contributions to the welfare and education of the Deaf community in Singapore, Chin Heng was given the Edward Miner Gallaudet Award in 2000. He also received the Outstanding Deaf Citizen Award from SADeaf in 1995. In addition, during the American School for the Deaf Alumni Association (ASDAA)’s 100th Anniversary Celebrations, he was given the 3rd ASDAA Achievement Hall of Fame Award 2014.

Watch the full video of our online Deaf Achievers’ Awards ceremony here!

Update (January 2022): Mr Lim Chin Heng also received the Goh Chok Tong Enable Award (Achievement) which “celebrate persons with disabilities who have made significant achievements in their own fields and serve as an inspiration to others”. SADeaf had nominated Mr Lim for the award. Our heartfelt congratulations to Mr Lim!

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