Experiencing SgSL Week from the comfort of home

Singapore’s inaugural digital International Week of the Deaf (IWD) 2020 was launched on 21st September 2020. Together with the global Deaf community, we celebrated and showcased Deaf cultures and languages to the larger public. The event was held on our official Facebook page of The Singapore Association for the Deaf.

The IWD 2020 celebration in Singapore adopted the theme for the International Day of Sign Languages 2020 “Sign Languages are for Everyone!” In accordance with the theme, the program included members of the Deaf community using Singapore Sign Language through Stories in Sign and featuring in the #DeafAtWork segment. Sharing sessions on the Deaf community, identity, and language were also presented through Facebook Live every evening.

𝘞𝘦 𝘸𝘪𝘴𝘩 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘬 𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘷𝘪𝘦𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘫𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘶𝘴 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘦, 𝘢𝘴 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘢𝘴 𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘢𝘬𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘧𝘧 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘬𝘦𝘥 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘲𝘶𝘦 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯𝘵.

Watch the videos!
An upside to holding the event online is that the content is still available on our Facebook page. For those who missed the talks or wish to view them again, just browse over for the full list of online videos.

Below are selected talks, presentations, and #StoriesInSign series in Singapore Sign Language.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Lighthouse School

The Little Red Hen by David Lee

My Wobbly Experience by April Chia

Haunted Roads by Dennis Tan

The daily live events during the IWD 2020 included the sharing by researchers and members of the Deaf community, and the #DeafAtWork series showcases some outstanding members of the community. Check ’em out!

The Importance of Early Access to Sign Language; #DeafAtWork David Lee; #DeafAtWork Tan Wei Ling

Moving along the Signing Continuum: An Exploration of the Factors Influencing Code Choice; Encoding of Emotions in Singapore Sign Language; #DeafAtWork Ken Tan

By Deaf Access Dept (Deaf Studies), SADeaf

Flourishing at Mayflower

During the circuit breaker period, Home-Based Learning (HBL) replaced physical teaching and several problems emerged for students with hearing loss. They were used to an in-person learning setting. Besides the lack of physical support as well as social interaction, also absent was English subtitles in the video clips used in the online learning platform.

Lessons in progress using Google Meet!
Interpreting for lessons

And into the breach stepped the mainstream teachers and the specialised teachers and their dynamic collaboration!. We recorded the signed lessons which were then embedded into the videos before they were uploaded to the platform. The teaching team also worked out a video conferencing schedule for Google Meet lessons with the students with hearing loss, giving them more individualised attention. 

A combined Google Meeting with Primary 2 and 3 students and teachers.

The parents were supportive in assisting their children in the HBL process and soon our students became used to online learning. They also picked up other skills such as uploading their written work. Indeed, the whole experience was, for us and our students with hearing loss, a steep learning curve in becoming IT-savvy almost overnight!

A Very Different National Day Celebration

Celebrating in classrooms

Due to the COVID-19 situation, the National Day celebration was not held at the Yio Chu Kang stadium as usual. Instead, we celebrated the occasion as a school in our classrooms virtually through Zoom.  Nonetheless, the students had fun while practising safe distancing.

Coming together as a school, students and teachers produced a video, singing and signing the song ‘Our Singapore‘ by JJ Lin. The Primary 3 students with hearing loss and their classmates signed the lyrics for the song for the video. It screened during the school’s NDP celebration for all to watch!

Janelle Jurng leads the signing!

Every year, two students with hearing loss are selected to lead the school in “The Recollections”. However, as we were unable to gather together, one of our students with hearing loss, Janelle Jurng, was chosen to lead the school in signing along from their classrooms, as they watched the NDP celebrations online. 

All together in song and sign.

By David Lee (Specialised Teacher) & Bernadette Pung (Educational Interpreter), Deaf Education, SADeaf

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Jurong Rail tunnel? Been there – underground and in darkness.

Kusu Island? They sailed, they saw, and they conquered.

A 44-km one-day hike across Singapore? Done that too.

Name any walking trail, nature park, PCN route, or obscure nook and cranny in Singapore, they have all done it. And you can also bet this group of Deaf and hard-of-hearing hikers have already left their footprints there – sometimes more than once!

Deaf Hiking Singapore (DHSG) was set up by husband-and-wife team Luo Yong Ming and Jessica Mak. It has gone from strength to strength since their first hike in mid-2018. Two years on, DHSG is a thriving community that organises regular weekend hikes popular with deafies across a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and physical fitness levels. The group even boasts its own DHSG-branded tees, neck gaiters, and bag tags!

Origins Of The Super Hikers
But how did it all come about? According to Jessica, she had come across her late father’s old travel photos which provided her and Yong Ming the spark of inspiration. Yong Ming’s abiding interest since the early 1990s in exploring and venturing to various “hidden and unfamiliar places” in Singapore was a key factor too. He was enthusiastic about planning and scouting routes as well as leading hikes.

A friend then asked them to organise an outing for a cancer survivors’ group called “Walk for Life”. This churned up interest among their deaf friends. They thought, why not organise their own outings? Things snowballed from there.

A Facebook group was created where they publicised the outings, set ground rules, gave advice on hiking matters, and allowed members (and their families and friends) to share stories of their adventures – whether hiking, mountain climbing, or running.

Describing themselves as “not hiking enthusiasts but ordinary hikers”, Yong Ming and Jessica say their goals for DHSG are to promote friendships and social interactions among deaf and hearing people.

They emphasised that everyone – deaf or hearing, friends, and family – are welcome as long as they are willing to learn and use sign language to communicate within the group. Developing a healthy lifestyle is also a bonus, they explained, because hiking also brings people out of their own comfort and give their legs and lungs a workout.

The duo has been heartened to see more people showing up for their weekly hiking fix. Each hike draws about two dozen to a record of 82 people – entire families have even shown up before. The youngest was a 4-year-old who gamely tagged along with his mother up the 394-meter-high Bukit Senaling!

The COVID-19 situation was no deterrence though DHSG temporarily halted its outings during the circuit-breaker. During the lull, they came up with other online activities as well as gave tips on routes for solo or small groups of hikers to try on their own. To the group members’ delight, the outings have since resumed – following safety measures of course – with the easing of restrictions.

Overcoming Challenges, Venturing Overseas
Teething issues in the early months include participants who turned up late, or were ignorant of safety rules or lack proper equipment. But these days, after more experience and exposure to hiking, the DHSG hikers are more prepared and responsible.

DHSG has also tested themselves by venturing overseas for tougher outings, mostly to Malaysia where members hiked various mountains such as Gunung Pulai, Gunung Lambak, and Mount Ophir. The duo cited climbing Mulu Pinnacles in Sarawak, Malaysia, and the 2,928m Mount Pulag in the Philippines (the country’s third-highest) as their most difficult hikes so far and the proudest achievements by DHSG.

The most memorable trip? Definitely, the time where five of the 14 deaf hikers on a mountaineering trip to Malaysia got lost in the dark and were stranded overnight in chilly temperatures.. thankfully all emerged safe and sound the next day.

What’s Next For DHSG?
Looking ahead, Jessica and Yong Ming hope to see the group continue to grow and have more members who can hike longer distances of 10km and beyond, as well as groomimg others to organise and lead hikes.

And true to their intrepid spirit, the couple also professes a whimsical wish.. for Singapore “to build a mountain!” (And no, Bukit Timah doesn’t count!)

Walk on.

To find out more about DHSG, visit their Facebook page and apply to join the group (subject to its terms and conditions, and acceptance by the administrators). You can also check out the DHSG Instagram page: @deafhikingsg. All photos courtesy of DHSG, with thanks.

By Alvan Yap, Editorial Team, Signal