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Chia Yong Yong: Our First Wheelchair User in Parliament

Posted on June 25, 2019 by All In

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Who is she?

 

Ms Chia is a member of SPD’s Board of Management of SPD since 2004 and has been serving as its President since 2008. She is a practising lawyer and a strong advocate for persons with disability. She sits in the Board of SG Enable, and is a member of the Committee on the Future Economy, the 3rd Enabling Masterplan, the Compulsory Education Advisory Panel and the Tote Board Charity (Social Service) Sub-Committee.

With her training in law, Ms Chia contributes back to society through her involvement as the Legal Advisor and Company Secretary of Very Special Arts Ltd, a panel member of the Law Society’s approved Mediators and approved Investigative Tribunal members. She served as a Nominated Member of Parliament in 2014-2015 and is serving her second term since March 2016.he Tote Board Charity (Social Service) Sub-Committee.

Ms Chia was the winner of Women’s Weekly “Great Women of Our Times” in 2014, and received the Social Innovative Park Fellow Award in the same year. She was also awarded the Bintang Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Star) in 2018, Pingat Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Medal) in 2013, and the President’s Social Service Award (Individual Category) in 2011 for her voluntary contributions made to the social service sector.

 

Guardian angels

She started tripping and falling in kindergarten, but was diagnosed with peroneal muscular atrophy only at 15. As her muscle tissue progressively weakened, she used crutches, then a wheelchair. She has not been able to stand for 20 years.

In her interviews, Ms Chia often expressed gratitude to all those who supported her and helped her get to where she was.

Family

Her father gave up his business to drive a taxi so that he could ferry her to the university.

Her mother took on a series of jobs to supplement the family income, including confinement nanny, chambermaid and factory worker.

Both parents believed in her and insisted on ensuring that she gets a tertiary education despite naysayers.

Teachers and Friends

“I’m blessed to say that I have had many teachers who made that difference because they did not treat me as inferior to a child without disability,” she said.

Her teachers at Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School had accommodated her disability but treated her in the same way as any other student. The secondary school principal, Mrs Winnie Tan gave her ground-floor classrooms.

“So when I did not do my homework, I was punished. When I talked too much, I was punished. But I was like any other child. It wasn’t always easy. There were times when I felt like a burden. And I’m sure there were many times my friends felt like I was a nuisance. But you know what? We grew up together. We didn’t think we had a choice, we stuck together and we grew up together.”

In law school, her challenge was the numerous stairs on NUS campus. A classmate would pick her up and carry her.

When Ms Chia graduated, her pupil tutor was the late Harry Lee Wee of Braddell Brother who taught her the importance of standing for what is right.

 

Her advice

Ms Chia said in an interview:

“We often think of purpose in life as an aspiration, a dream to be chased, or a goal to be achieved. In fact, our purpose in life is to live each day fully. That consists in small steps: cultivating the right values, doing the little things right, extending a little bit of ourselves for others. A little smile, an outstretched assuring hand. A bit of filial piety, compassion, kindness. All these will build a bigger purpose in our lives. One day, we will look back and say: the little things made me who I am today.”

 


Read more

Working with Children with Disabilities

Interview with Rich Donovan, Top 50 Most Influential People with Disability

 

Portions of this article is reproduced with permission from SPD.

SPD is a local charity set up to help people with disabilities of all ages to maximise their potential and integrate them into mainstream society.

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