Her lip-reading skills speak volumes

SINGAPORE - One would never guess that Miss Ginny Ong cannot hear.

She speaks and lip-reads so well that it is hard to believe that all she can hear with a hearing aid are loud sounds.

Despite her disability, she went to Ngee Ann Polytechnic and then Singapore Management University, where she graduated with a degree in Information Systems Management.

She started working as an account executive six months ago, managing the monthly and yearly accounts of the company, handling administrative duties and assisting the business development manager.

Miss Ong is a rarity - very few hearing- impaired individuals can communicate verbally as well as her.

The eldest of four children learnt to speak at the speech therapy sessions her parents sent her to.

The daughter of a businessman father and a housewife mother attended mainstream schools.

"Whenever I felt self-conscious and shy about speaking, my parents would insist that I speak out loudly, saying that I had nothing to be ashamed of," she says.

"They would also correct my pronunciation."

She admits she felt pressure to do well. She says: "My sister graduated from Nanyang Technological University, one of my brothers is studying at New York University, and the other is at officer cadet school in the army. I really had to keep up!"

School was not easy - she relied heavily on the kindness of friends to take notes for her.

"I felt bad when they told me they were tired from writing or typing endlessly to help me," she says.

Now and then, someone would underestimate her due to her disability.

"In such a situation, I would be the last to get a share of the work," says Miss Ong, who does not take her job for granted.

Her boss is patient with her and her colleagues are understanding, but she still has to make adjustments to cope.

"Sometimes my boss mentions a customer's name that I cannot catch, so I have to ask her to repeat, or clarify via e-mail," she says.

"I also occasionally misunderstand the time, such as thinking she says 2pm when she actually says noon."

But these hiccups are a small price to pay for having a stable job and steady income.

Come June, she is tying the knot with her boyfriend of six years, who is also hearing-impaired.

"Not every deaf person is as fortunate as I am," says Miss Ong.

In 2010, she started i-Deaf Connect, a social enterprise aimed at helping hearing-impaired individuals find employment.

It ceased operations last year due to a lack of support from employers.

"Many companies don't understand that not every hearing-impaired person is like me - able to speak and lip-read effectively," she explains.

"They often don't have enough patience to accommodate the needs of a hearing-impaired employee.

"I really hope that in time to come, there will be better support for the hearing-impaired in regular schools, and that more companies will be open to hiring them."

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