It was early morning on 4th October 1981. I fell off my motorcycle and landed in a monsoon drain. The fall injured my spinal cord.
I only realised how serious my injury was after doctors sympathetically told me that I would be paralysed from the waist down and would never use my legs to walk again. I would be a paraplegic and would need to use a wheelchair for mobility.
I was a skilled welder at Shipbuilding Industrial before the accident. I knew that I would not be able to return to my old job, and I was frustrated. I looked high and low for a job. At last, a company willingly offered me a job as their storekeeper cum welder. It later moved operations to Malacca. next I found another job as a general worker in an engineering firm. Although the pay was unattractive, I considered myself fortunate to gain financial independence by earning a decent income.
My most impressive career was with a ball bearing manufacturing company in Tuas. I worked there for 10 years. I was employed as a machine operator and later promoted to Senior Machinist. My task was to assemble the ball bearing meant for textile machines.I was productive and committed to the job. I began working normal office hours. My supervisor requested me to work on rotating shifts after I bought a tri-wheel motorcycle for transportation. I immediately accepted it, knowing that the shift heads had problem assigning the machine to suit my working hours. Each machine has to run on both shifts to maximise its capacity. We were paid good bonuses and were given paid holidays overseas when the company made good profits.
What worried me was speed and momentum to get the job done. As we grow old, our hand speed slows down, making it impossible to continue working. The only choice was to upgrade to another skill which might be useful should I need to change job.
I began to read books and enrolled with a correspondence school to improve my English. Two years later I attempted the GCE `N’ level entry test and passed the `N’ level examination one year later as a private candidate. Later I graduated with a Diploma in Computer Studies. I quit my job to concentrate on further studies.
My plan did not come through. I had problems adjusting to concentrating solely on studies after working for 20 years. I enrolled with Bizlink Centre and secured an office job as a Customer Service Officer in a freight forwarding company.
I was employed even though I knew nothing about the business. I was trained on the job for three months and later assigned to serve the needs of customers. My job involved quoting to customers the freight charges and giving advice on shipping details. I also corresponded with overseas offices pertaining to customers’ requirements.
Some customers can be very difficult. At one time, I thought of resigning from the job as I could not cope with the pressure from demanding customers. My supervisor had a long discussion with me and encouraged me to stay.
I considered my essential needs. The building has car parking and toilet facilities for wheelchair persons. Moreover, my colleagues are supportive and this created a sense of belonging. If I left, I would have to hunt for a new job and it would not be easy. After some thought, I dropped the subject of quitting this job.
With less than 14 months on the job, I was promoted to Supervisor in the Customer Service Department for seafrieght operations.
Part-time studying was not easy for a working adult like myself. disabled persons have to struggle with other problems like bedsores and urinary tract infection. I believe that though hard work and determination, disability does not mean that one becomes unable. We can still fulfill a normal life short of perfection.
We should always look at the positive aspect of life. I did not even complete my secondary education and soon, I will graduate with an Advanced Diploma Certificate in Computer Studies. My advice to people with disabilities – always prepare yourselves for better job prospects. No one owes us a living. We have to work hard for it.
Larry Ng Poh Kwang