A Day in the Life of a Blind Person

By Iylia De Silva, Pan Yi Chieh

June 2024 A DAY IN THE LIFE
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TANG HAS BEEN blind since birth. Following his primary and secondary education in Johor and Singapore, he majored in history at the Louisiana Tech University in the US. This passion he has for history began at a young age, sparked by a penchant for interpreting historical events.

In 2020, at 28 years old, Tang attended a computer course at St. Nicholas’ Home. Following that, he used his skills to manage archive materials part-time before securing a full-time position at the home as a fundraising officer. Proficient in Braille since childhood, he has since transitioned to the role of librarian and also contributes to the Braille production unit, which includes preparing Braille calendars.

The library at St. Nicholas’ Home has been amassing a large collection of Braille books for decades, accessible to both internal and external users. To serve the blind community—which includes those with low vision—Pos Malaysia offers free postage services to subscribers nationwide.

For the sighted, the lives of the blind may seem vastly different; in reality, their daily experiences are as varied and dynamic as anyone else’s.

Outside of work, Tang enjoys catching up with friends, indulging in good meals and exploring the city, often visiting tourist spots and malls. While he is independent enough to travel alone, Tang still prefers being around people.

When it comes to cooking, Tang, a fan of meat, particularly enjoys preparing steak. He relies on cues from sound and heat to guide his cooking process. Tang also played football in the past, using a ball wrapped in plastic along with a bell for auditory cues.

Tang resides at St. Nicholas’ Home in a room allocated to staff from out of state. Like many young adults, he stays connected to the world through YouTube, WhatsApp and Facebook, and enjoys computer games and audiobooks. Tang utilises TalkBack, an Android accessibility feature which reads text, icons and actions aloud to assist visually impaired users.

Tang is also active in Toastmasters, and serves as a member of the Independent Living & Training Centre (ILTC) Malaysia, which aims to empower the differently abled community.

The library in St. Nicholas’ Home.

A World Made for Those Who Can See

Despite Tang’s capabilities and independence in navigating the world, he encounters numerous challenges, especially outside of home.

“The world is made for those who can see,” says Tang, emphasising how even seemingly mundane tasks that people take for granted pose significant obstacles for the visually impaired. For instance, it is unfortunately common for drivers to disregard blind pedestrians at zebra crossings. To make matters worse, to beat traffic, motorcycles are often parked or ridden on pedestrian walkways with tactile paving meant to assist visually impaired individuals. With the rise of electric vehicles (EVs), concerns arise regarding their friendliness to the blind, as these are quieter and harder to hear compared to traditional vehicles.

In Malaysia, the lack of Braille signages in public facilities makes it difficult to identify gendered restrooms. As for public transportation, verbal announcements would be more helpful than beeping sounds.

When eating out, Tang often opts for the same dish to avoid inconveniencing servers who would need to read out menu options—a struggle that could be easily solved by including Braille on menus. Remembering a humorous moment, Tang says that he only realised he could customise his food order after overhearing another customer’s specific preferences while waiting in line for noodles. “I didn’t know I could ask for no vegetables!”

On the bright side, there has been gradual progress towards making public spaces more accessible, for example McDonald’s placement of ordering machines at accessible heights for children and individuals in wheelchairs. Tang suggests that to improve, menus can also have the option to be read aloud or if microphones were available when making orders; this would greatly benefit visually impaired individuals.

Asked how to guide a visually impaired individual across the road, Tang says you should stand in front of them and allow them to hold onto the back of your arm as you walk as usual. Describe any obstacles in front of them as you go.

While understanding the needs of a community that perceives the world differently may take time and patience, we can support each other through small acts of kindness.

*Note: St. Nicholas’ Home, which offers a variety of services, such as massages, handmade crafts and meals at their cozy café, is set to celebrate its 100th year in 2026. Volunteers are welcome to help record audiobooks for the home. For more information and to show your support, visit their website at https://snh.org.my/.

Iylia De Silva

is a law graduate from the University of London. Balancing work and play, she savours every moment by indulging in her passion for food, languages, music and engaging with people from diverse cultures.

Pan Yi Chieh

is a research analyst at Penang Institute who was born in Taiwan but now lives in Penang. She is proud to be nurtured by the two beautiful islands she regards as home.


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