School was due to begin in just over a week.
Chia Hong Sen, who was born blind, was looking forward to his first year at Temasek Polytechnic (TP), where he had been admitted to an engineering course.
But the polytechnic was worried about Hong Sen's safety, as he would have to do electrical wiring and soldering.
It raised his case with the Education Ministry and the matter was taken up by Mr Arthur Poh, a deputy director who was part of a team studying how to support special needs students at institutes of higher learning.
After a series of long meetings involving Hong Sen and staff of the polytechnic and ministry, as well as the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, it was agreed that he would study IT - his second choice - instead.
As Hong Sen would be the first totally visually impaired student at the polytechnic, Mr Poh said he and its management had questions about the resources the teen would need.
After doing some research, he found an article by a National University of Singapore professor on how he taught Dr Yeo Sze Ling, a blind student who went on to get her PhD in Maths and become an A*Star research scientist.
Mr Poh, 41, got in touch with Dr Yeo through her former professor. She was eager to help.
He drove her to one of the meetings, an "eye-opening session" where she demonstrated the methods and devices she used to help her during her studies and even offered to mentor Hong Sen.
Mr Poh's efforts were lauded yesterday when he and nine other public officers received the prestigious Distinguished Star Service Award from Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is minister-in-charge of the civil service.
It is one of the top honours at the annual Excellence in Public Service Awards.