Deafness In Our World
Deaf, hearing impaired, hard of hearing, aurally challenged – call it what you want, there are still thousands upon thousands in our society that suffer from it. The World Health Organisation reports 360 million people worldwide live with disabling hearing loss, with a staggering 32 million of these being children.
In Malaysia, that number is over 36,000, with around 24,000 of those being versed in Malaysian sign language.
Hearing loss has a variety of causes ranging from genetic factors, complications at birth, infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, drug use, exposure to excessive noise, and ageing. Sadly, over 60% of childhood hearing loss is due to preventable causes.
People with hearing loss can benefit from early identification and intervention, through the use of hearing aids, cochlear implants and other devices. Even for those whose hearing loss cannot be prevented, captioning, sign language, and other forms of educational and social support can help them to lead a relatively normal and fulfilling life.
Not That Kind of PDA
The Penang Deaf Association, otherwise known as the Persatuan Orang Pekak Pulau Pinang, was established in 1992 to assist, support and serve the citizens of Penang that suffer from hearing loss and deafness.
The Penang Deaf Association, or the PDA for short, started off back in the 80’s as the YMCA Deaf Club by Mr. Razman Tan and his associates. Back in the day, the club took off with about 100 members.
Mr. Razman reminisces about his school days, and how he dreamed of starting an organisation for the deaf, because he lamented that he was often lonely and without friends during his schooling. Back then there was little to no support for those who could not hear and speak, and so Mr. Razman suffered alone in silence.
So for Mr. Razman, the YMCA Deaf Club was a wonderful start; an opportunity to meet and bond with those who could relate and understand one another.
After a number of years, they decided to grow beyond a club and joined forces with the Society of Hearing Impaired Malaysia (SHIMA), which was started by Mr. Mohamad Sazali in Kuala Lumpur. This is because SHIMA was officially recognised by the Malaysian government as a charitable organisation.
Together with five of his close associates, Mr. Razman Tan founded the SHIMA of Penang in 1992. However, for several years they did not have a permanent place to base themselves. In the year 1996, they finally gained their base of operations in Penang’s famous charity establishment, the Kompleks Masyarakat Penyayang. It was also later this year that saw SHIMA Penang transform into the Penang Deaf Association that we know of today.
With the support of the Malaysia Federation of the Deaf and Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat, a number of projects were created in order to enhance communication and community engagement amongst the hearing impaired in Penang. By establishing the PUSKOM (which is a portmanteau of “pusat komunikasi”, the term for communication centre in Malay) as a communication hub for the disabled, the PDA was able to secure a new premises closer to the heart of George Town in Penang Island.
Our Local Champion
The Penang Deaf Association has been a beacon of light for many years in Penang, and primarily looks out for those who are either deaf or hard of hearing, as you would expect. However, the PDA also collaborates with other disability organisations especially when it comes to large events and gatherings.
The PDA is currently the only registered institute in Penang that caters solely to the deaf, and there is no centre yet in the mainland region of Penang. They currently reside at 35 Lorong Bertam in George Town, just off Penang Road on the other side of Komtar.
Today they have over 900 registered members that they care for, with at least half being actively participating members. The PDA reports around 2,000 Penangites suffering from hearing loss, which means there are still many who may not have access to the services they need to assist them with their disability.
The PDA takes care of their many members in a number of ways: they provide support for youth with hearing impairment and ensure that their young members receive the education and speech therapy that they need. These are provided through the PDA’s partner schools and medical centres.
The PDA also promotes education through the publication of learning resources, such as books and videos on Malaysian sign language. These resources are not just aimed at the hearing impaired, but also for those who wish to learn how to communicate or interact with the deaf through sign language.
It’s not as easy as it looks!
In addition to printing material on Malaysian sign language, the PDA also holds sign language classes for beginners and it is open to the general public. You even get an official certificate at the end of it! The price is RM150 for five two-hourly sessions of interactive sign language classes with the experts.
The PDA also provides training and job placements for their more mature members. They train the adults in the craft of sewing and in baking pastries, and assist in finding them interviews and job placements with local companies and factories.
Another vital service that often goes unnoticed is the translation and interpretation services that the PDA provides for the public or for the hearing impaired who may not be able to speak for themselves, such as in hospital cases.
Community Fun With PDA
Like any charitable organisation aiming to increase their exposure to the wide world, the PDA also hosts a variety of annual events that seek to raise funds as well as awareness.
Every year, the PDA holds a charity bazaar in Komtar called the Jumbo Sale. This is for charitable institutes to display and sell their wares and receive donations from the public. People are encouraged to donate clothing and suitable goods to support the bazaar, where most of the proceeds go towards assisting those in need.
The Jumbo Sale bazaar is a marvelous opportunity for the disabled to serve and set their skills to good use, either in producing unique products that attracts customers, or showing off their salesmanship to secure the transactions like any vendor. Popular products usually include a wide variety of clothing, and homemade pastries and cookies, as well as other artistic crafts and books and miscellaneous goodies.
The Jumbo Sale goes for at least two days in a row, and is received quite well by the shoppers at Komtar. It is a great chance to find unique and unexpected items that you can get for at a bargain! That means the price is usually too good to be true, not that you should haggle on every item.
Aside from the marketplace, the PDA also organises an annual charity fun walk and run to encourage a healthy lifestyle while bringing their message of unity and equality to Penang.
This massive charity event used to be called the Walk For Sight & Sound, and was done in conjunction the local blind associations of Penang, as the title may suggest.
Getting the gang together since 2012
However, for the past few years the PDA has decided to launch its own charity fun walk and it is named the Colourful Run. Despite the name, don’t expect any flying colourful powdery clouds filling the skies; the Colourful Run is a celebration of the beautiful palette and endless diversity of our universe, but is not at all related to the Colour Run style of events.
The Colourful Run has always been held at Komtar, the beacon of Penang and the core of George Town. The 5.6km route takes participants on a jaunty circuit around town, through old and new areas, past the sea and sombre government buildings, giving runners a taste of Penang’s great heritage and culture.
This year, over a thousand runners took to the streets of George Town early on the morning of the 27th of August, right before our Malaysian Independence Day.
The Colourful Run is one of the few events that has a special category for those with hearing disabilities. During this event, the hearing impaired remind everyone that being deaf or disabled doesn’t stop you from being physically fit and active. These folks may not be the best at hearing, but they don’t let anyone push them around when it comes to working those two feet!
Emily, an active spirit and one of the PDA’s regular runners
The Colourful Run is also a wonderful time for families and friends to get together for some casual exercise and bonding. Uniting together for a great cause, while getting some morning fresh air and exploring the city by foot, are what bring people back to the Colourful Run time and time again.
The Colourful Run is one of Penang’s more successful charity events, and helps to raise much needed funds for the PDA and their charity partners. The staff at PDA really came through in spite of the lack of manpower and sponsors. The Komtar Walk boulevard was alive with activity and excitement the whole morning, and everyone went back happy and satisfied.
We look forward to the next edition in the coming year!
Like any good organisation, the Penang Deaf Association has strong hopes for the years ahead. But hopes aren’t enough to help and feed the needy – plans and action are required!
Their next major upcoming project is their Jumbo Sale at Komtar, which is tentatively scheduled for the 1st of May 2018. This year’s Jumbo Sale was the fifth in a row, and the next one is going to be bigger and better. The public are encouraged to contribute through donations of clothing and non-perishable goods to the PDA. Generous souls can bring the items directly to the PDA office at 35 Lorong Bertam near Komtar.
The Colourful Run is also scheduled to be around mid August, and will hope to see its third year, especially with the decent response and growing popularity of charitable outdoor activities in Penang.
The PDA will also have large gatherings during special occasions, like Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and Deepavali. These will usually involve food and festivities and partying.
The current president Mr. Razman also shared that in the next few years, the PDA plans to enhance their training school and programs to bolster their reading, writing and counting classes, as well as their classes that teach the hearing impaired to use computers and smartphones.
Another of their aims is to help the deaf achieve self-sustainability and financial independence through small business training. Through suitable ventures, such as opening up car wash centres or grocery shops, the hearing impaired can find more and more ways to earn a living for themselves and be a part of the community.
Mr. Razman and the PDA hope to see a decline in those suffering from permanent hearing loss through education and improved healthcare, and ultimately for all the hearing impaired of Penang and Malaysia to be well taken care of. For their efforts they have been awarded the Most Active NGO sigil by local authorities.
If you would like to help or support the Penang Deaf Association, you can call them at 04-226 0160 or 04-229 6421, email them at email@example.com, or visit their headquarters at 35 Lorong Bertam opposite from Komtar. You can check out their website here.
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