11 November, 2009

Extracts From Newspaper

The Star Metro 

Tuesday September 8, 2009
Eye-opener at scrabble tourney 
SIX visually impaired participants created history at the Mines Mensa Scrabble Challenge 2009 that took place recently at the Mines Shopping Fair. 
The event, which was held at the shopping complex for the third time, attracted more than 80 participants from all over the country. 
Although the Malaysian Mensa Society (Mensa) had introduced the Scrabble Challenge in 2001 and it is now a permanent fixture in Mensa’s calendar of events,
the recent event was the first time that visually impaired players had taken up the challenge and competed alongside their sighted counterparts in the
mainstream tournament. 
The six players, from the Society for the Blind, Malaysia (SBM), were Malaysian Examinations Syndicate assistant director Zahari Hashim, Sime Darby Berhad
legal executive Ajong Sidim, English teacher and mother-of-four Wong Swee Foon from Tuaran, Sabah, stenographer Ismail Omar, telephone operator Tan Boon
Kim, and Radzimah Mat Yasin. The team was led by SBM sports chairman A. Majid Jaafar. 
A new category, “Seeing is Believing”, was created specially for them, complementing the usual categories of Masters, Intermediate and Beginners.  
Happy participants: (Front row, from left) Ismail Omar, Zahari Hashim, Wong Swee Foon, A. Majid Jaafar, Radzimah Mat Yasin, Tan Boon Kim, Ajong Sidim and
Mensa president Low Keng Lok; (2nd row, from left) Mary Yap, Anne Yap, tournament director Yap-Song Kim Lian, Kelvin Loh Hsien Han, and Eileen Cheong and
Gary Hor from Mines Shopping Fair; (top) organising chairperson Goh Siu Lin. 
Modified scrabble sets with embossed Braille boards and tiles were provided for them. 
While tournament rules require sighted players to draw tiles from green scrabble tile bags raised above eye-level, this would have given the blind players
an advantage as they would have been able to feel the Braille tiles. In view of this, the Braille tiles were placed face downwards in a tray for the players
to draw from. 
A helper assisted each of the three pairs of blind players to keep time and score. The players were allocated 40 minutes per person per game instead of
the usual 25 minutes. 
Much to the surprise of those present, the blind exhibited a natural ability for scrabble, with some of them forming bingos with ease. Many curious onlookers
drew near to observe them play and went away impressed and inspired. In a matter of a few minutes, old preconceived notions and the prejudices of the sighted
were swept away by the assured play of the blind competitors. 
“The world of the sighted and the world of the blind are very separate. A lot of people assume that blind people are stupid, but actually, many are able
to speak English – in fact, three of the players here are graduates,” A. Majid said. 
“We would like to shake off that image – we need friendship, and we would like the sighted to play with the blind players.” 
He added that the blind led very closed lives. “For example, watching TV or movies would be meaningless to them,” he pointed out. 
“Their lives are very empty, so indoor games are very important to them. SBM provides sports facilities to the blind. These games include Scrabble, in which
conventional scrabble boards are modified by having Braille embossed on clear hard plastic grids that are fixed on top of the board’s surface, enabling
the blind and sighted to play together. 
“Apart from scrabble, SBM members play over 20 different games, including chess, dominos, checkers, congkak, modified ping-pong (in which the balls do not
bounce), lotto (bingo) and mahjong,” he added. 
The Seeing is Believing category was won by Wong Swee Foon, with Zahari Hashim in second place and Tan Boon Kim, third.  

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