So You Think You Can Paddle (Without Seeing and Hearing?)

Singapore
By:: 
Ruby Tan

Ruby Tan found out how it feels to be a dragon boater with a visual or hearing impairment and raised funds for Society for the Physically Disabled in the process.

Dragon boating is hard right? But what about when you're blind or deaf? While most of us might never know what it's like to lose one of our senses and have to participate in a sport (in fact, they make you race with a partner!).

Paddle for good - Asia For Good

How it works

First you choose the impairment you want to experience – loss of hearing or sight? For the former, you'll be given a blindfold, and the latter, a set of ear plugs and mufflers. I chose the blindfold.

Upon slipping them on, I immediately felt a little wary and fearful of moving around lest I hit something, or someone. Co-founder of Society Staples, Debra Lam, was my guide and she instructed me to put my hand on her shoulder so that I could follow her..

We were led to the pre-race “warm-up session” facilitated by a pre-recorded video, where I could not see the stretches, only listen to instructions. A video of me was taken, and at one point I was doing something completely different to the exercise in the warm-up video – super #fail.  

After that, I was seated to queue up for the ergometer – blindfold still on. My guide Debra came by to tell me that she had to pop off somewhere else but that her colleague Nicholas would take over. Through this little exchange, I realised that, without the normal visual cue of someone making eye contact with me, it took me a micro-second to figure out that someone was actually talking to me. Note to self: Address a visually-impaired person by name first if you are talking to him/her.

Paddle for good - Asia For Good

Being led to the ergometer and having to get on was another challenge – I had to feel out the seat, then raise my leg high enough to swing it over in order to sit. I banged my shin a little bit while trying to gauge the height of the machine. Ouch. Another note to self: feel with your hands, not with your shin. It also took me several attempts to emulate the paddle stroke which the volunteers guided me through as I couldn't see what they were doing.

When the “race” started, I had no idea how I was doing and had to rely on the volunteers as well to let me know whether I was behind or ahead of my partner participant. My competitive streak took over when I found out I was lagging behind, and even with my attempted paddling (ie. flailing), I won. (Yessss!).

The whole experience was eye-opening for me – no pun intended. I once wrote an article on etiquette advice for communicating with the visually-impaired, and this simulation brought those to life. Those tips I wrote about weren't just polite – they were an absolute necessity for the physically-disabled to function and feel included.

Paddle for good - Asia For Good

A better understanding

Like myself, most participants say they gained more empathy and an understanding of what it's like to have a physical disability.

Xavier Chan, 28, an able-bodied paddler competing at the DBS Marina Regatta and scientist at the Health Sciences Authority, said, “I have adaptive paddler friends and I was always curious about how they prepared for races and competed. The experience was much harder than I thought it might be – I made a mess of myself at the warm up station. My adaptive paddler friends definitely have my respect.”

Experience for a good cause!

And of course, not only do you get to deepen your awareness and understanding, but for every person that participates in Paddle For Good, DBS will donate $50 towards Society for the Physically Disabled, a volunteer welfare organisation that supports persons with disabilities in Singapore. What a great way to become more conscious about the requirements of our fellow physically-disabled community members, and raise money! Two birds with one paddle – a worthy way to spend a weekend afternoon.

Paddle For Good will be at the DBS Marina Regatta June 4 and 5.

 Paddle for good - Asia For Good

 

You may also like

Do Something
Find out at Paddle For Good, a charity fundraiser event that simulates what rowing feels like when you have a disability. Have you ever been dragon boating? What about doing it on land, without use of your sight or hearing? At this year’s DBS Marina Regatta, you can put yourself...
Singapore
Do Something
Discover another side of Asia and experience what it truly means to live local, while benefiting local communities. Go off the beaten path, connect with locals and uncover hidden gems with these five trips that give back. WEEKEND CRAFT RETREAT BY FOLKCHARM CRAFTS LOEI PROVINCE, THAILAND These short weekend tours...
Do Something
Need a ride but don’t want to pollute the environment? Not too keen to get stuck in traffic? RYDE might be just what you're looking for. The last thing you want at 8am on a Monday morning is to be caught in a traffic jam. It’s expensive and can be...
Singapore

Like what you see? Sign up for our newsletter. SUBSCRIBE NOW!

Top Hits

Live Consciously
Inspired by the tattoo on Kevan’s body, 'Two Hands' tells the story of how a mentor helps an apprentice go from a repeat offender to a chef who works hard with his two hands to make an honest living. Having been in and out of jail since he was 19,...
Gamechangers
[This article is also avaliable in: Traditional Chinese (TW) | Traditional Chinese (HK) | Simplified Chinese (CN)] 為了加大社會影響力,星展基金會 (DBS Foundation) 每年向高潛力、產生積極社會影響力的社會企業提供社會企業資助。 我們很高興地介紹我們 2016 年的獲資助者。來認識一下12 個讓亞洲變得更好的令人振奮的創新者。 Ci Shi Beijing (磁石世纪(北京)投资管理有限公司) | 中國 早期介入是幫助有聽力障礙的孩子學習上學所需的基本語言表達能力的關鍵。磁石世紀(北京)投資管理有限公司為他們的父母提供語言康復訓練和教材,讓聽障兒童重拾語言,並幫助他們表達自己。 GIVE.asia | 新加坡 GIVE.asia 是一個利用科技來為社會謀福利的社會捐贈平台。他們利用數據科技,降低具有社會影響力的組織和慈善機構的籌資成本,同時使捐贈更為便利。 Givo | 香港 Givo 是一個簡化捐贈流程的手機應用程式,並促進慈善機構與捐贈者的合作。任何人都可以為他們所關心的事業建立自己的社交媒體動態消息,並與朋友和家人分享,使捐贈真正社會化。 Greensole | 印度 Greensole 在推廣足部保護方面取得了巨大進展,同時致力減少不必要的堆填區廢物。他們與邊緣化社區合作,將廢棄鞋子翻新成環保鞋,幫助改善印度農村貧困人口的生活和生計。 Homage | 新加坡...
Gamechangers
Abhinav and Shrutika Girdhar, founders of Bodhi Health Education , are pushing the frontiers of healthcare in rural India with a multilingual, e-learning mobile app. “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”- Milton Berle This adage could well be written for Abhinav and Shrutika Girdhar, founders of Bodhi Health Education,...