‘Everyone is equal in the pool’: Visually impaired siblings overcome odds to earn success for Singapore

But Sophie can advocate for herself now, Mdm Lee said.

“I think it’s because she saw in me that very fierce ‘tiger mum’, pushing for her rights, so she is doing the same thing for herself.

“It laid the groundwork for future students with visual impairment  … I am very confident I can help them and I can negotiate with the schools for them. So I think that was a good fight, worth fighting.”

And their experiences with Sophie meant that things weren’t as “frightening” when Colin was diagnosed.

In fact, Mdm Lee and her husband actively looked out for signs of possible vision impairment when Colin was a toddler.

“So I’d walk (with him) to kindergarten every morning and I’ll stop at a distance and I say: ‘Oh, what is that sign? What does it say?’ And then when he couldn’t read it, I said: ‘Okay, can you just say the letters for me or read the numbers of the car plate?’  And I also noticed that he had to go quite close before he could see it,” she recalled.

“I knew exactly what I had to do. I had to speak to the teachers, I had to spend a little bit more time with him and all that. So it wasn’t as frightening with Colin as it was for Sophie.”

Mdm Lee went on to attain a master’s degree in special education, specialising in visual impairment, in Sydney. She co-founded iC2 PrepHouse, an organisation that helps cater to the needs of children with low vision.

A former teacher at mainstream secondary schools, she is now a vision teacher at iC2 PrepHouse. 

Children with visual impairment are referred by doctors or schools to iC2 PrepHouse, which then assesses the child and discusses with parents about programmes that could benefit them.

EVERYBODY EQUAL IN THE POOL

After Sophie quit her swimming group, Mdm Lee found a new coach who patiently taught the youngster and worked on improving her technique.

Coach Danny Ong also found ways to make the sport enjoyable for her.

“I was just so demotivated … At the back of my mind, I remember being called slow and not being good enough and being weaker than everybody else,” said Sophie.

“He really managed to help me disassociate from those feelings and have a newfound love for the sport.”

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