While we have five senses which we rely on to perceive the world around us, it is only when one has lost the sense of sight that we realise how much we overwhelmingly rely on it.
At the With One Heart We Care event on Sunday organised by Jalan Kayu Community Sports Club, I stepped into the shoes of a blind man for 10 minutes and found it an unnerving experience.
Sport Singapore's Kerk Kim Por (second from right), Head of ActiveSG Para (Disability) Sports, receives a plaque from Member of Parliament Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar (second from left) during the With One Heart We Care event at Changi Civil Service Club. Photo: Sport Singapore
ActiveSG had set up try outs for boccia, table tennis and goalball at the event, and members of the public were encouraged to have a go. Having seen goalball during the ASEAN Para Games, I thought that it surely couldn’t be that difficult, but boy, was I wrong.
As the blindfolds were being put on me, I could still maintain my orientation and sense of direction. Unfortunately, that did not last long.
A guide took my arm and helped me to my station. With each step I took, the fear of the unknown became alarmingly clear to me.
There was an intense feeling of vulnerability as I was led around blindfolded, not knowing if anyone or anything was in front of me. Despite the constant reassurances from my guide, the fear lingered.
It occurred to me how much trust there must be between the visually disabled and their guides.
Taking up a defensive position, I attempted to block balls from being thrown or rolled past me. But that was no easy feat either.
Using the sound from bells embedded in the ball to pinpoint the direction and speed of the ball is tricky and frequently you can only do so at the last second.
Member of Parliament Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar trying out goalball. Photo: Sport Singapore
It was only at that moment when I realised how crucial sight is in everything that I do.
Perhaps we only truly learn to appreciate what we have when we lose it.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was asked what he would wish for if he had three wishes, and one wish was "that we have the wisdom to count our blessings”.
Those words could not have rung truer in my mind.
My brief experience being blindfolded has left me with a heightened sense of empathy and appreciation for all that I have, but it could not even come close to what a blind person really experiences as he navigates through physical and social obstacles on a daily basis.