Dr. Wong Hon Tym
Expanding Our Vision Beyond What The Eyes Can See
Vision overwhelmingly dominates the information we absorb from our five senses – if of course, our eyesight is intact. The loss of vision is unimaginable to many of us; as an eye specialist, I know of deeply sobering studies which tell us that poorly-sighted patients would willingly give up years of their life, if they could regain even some of their vision.
Since our founding in 2006, Guide Dogs Singapore Ltd (GDS) has been supporting people with vision impairment (VI), whether they use a white cane or a guide dog. In 2021, we served over 400 clients and proudly welcomed our 7th guide dog team. These are still humble figures, but I am happy to state that our roster is growing, and that more guide dog teams will debut steadily over the years.
We have two cornerstone programmes to drive our mission:
Our holistic rehabilitation programme that teaches our clients how to better perform daily tasks and travel independently. Via this programme, we have been empowering people with VI to thrive – at home, at work and in their communities.
The other cornerstone is of course our Guide Dog Programme, which harnesses a dog’s guiding ability to enhance mobility and safety for people with VI. These working dogs also improve the emotional well-being of their VI users, something the GDS team has been privileged to witness over and over again. It is something we will never tire of.
Guide dogs are regrettably still a rare sight in Singapore, when compared to the West or other Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan. We are working hard towards the day when Singaporeans are “de-sensitised” to seeing VI people with their guide dogs, and welcome and support them unreservedly.
Your continued support is invaluable to GDS. Thank you for your donations, time, and passion; together we will continue to strive for a time when a significant sector of the VI population become critical contributors and stakeholders in our community. It is imperative that we demand, design and build a living environment that is enabling and inclusive. The recipe to achieve this is complex: we must continue to push for more legislation and advocate for the roles and rights of guide dogs and the VI community; we must leverage on technology to expand their worlds even further.
And above all, we must keep changing mindsets: people with VI are able to work and live very productively. If we could all see beyond their disability and champion their great capacity to participate and contribute, this will pave the way to a more gracious and engaged Singapore.
GDS is committed to playing a big part in that journey.