Top Stories

Cyclist scolds deaf woman for not hearing him

UNDAUNTED: Ms Noor has been deaf since the age of 17, as an abnormal bone growth ruptured her eardrums. She has an office administration diploma, works as a data-entry clerk and lives on her own in Geylang Bahru.


    May 12, 2015

    Cyclist scolds deaf woman for not hearing him

    SHE was almost knocked down by a cyclist riding on the pavement two weeks ago.

    The cyclist had frantically rung his bell as he approached Noor Faezah Abdullah from behind, and swerved his bicycle at the last minute to avoid her.

    He then shouted at the visibly stunned 37-year-old and rode off. The experience left her angry and frustrated.

    She could hardly be blamed for the close call. He had been riding on the pavement meant for pedestrians.

    What's more, Ms Noor is deaf.

    This is the result of an extremely rare condition called Camurati-Engelmann, a disease characterised by heavily thickened bones.

    Only about 300 people worldwide have the disease.

    "I wanted to scold him, but I couldn't," Ms Noor told The New Paper last Tuesday.

    "I wanted to explain that I was deaf, but I was too angry to do so. The pavement is not meant for people to cycle fast."

    Deafness is often regarded as an "invisible" disability. So the close shave that Ms Noor had with the cyclist is not unusual.

    Deaf people have been injured in collisions when they did not hear such bicycles approaching or the warning bell, said Alvan Yap, deputy director of the Singapore Association for the Deaf.

    Mr Yap said: "Cases of misunderstandings between deaf people and (those who can hear) usually stem from the latter's mistaken perception that the deaf person is ignoring them.

    "In such cases, the deaf person is often on the receiving end of the other person's frustration or anger."

    Ms Noor first learnt she was "different" when she was three years old. While other children from her village in Lorong Renjong - near Buangkok - played "police and thief" or climbed trees, Ms Noor could only sit and watch.

    By age 17, she had lost her hearing. An abnormal bone growth ruptured her eardrums.

    Three years later, she was diagnosed with Camurati-Engelmann disease.

    Her biggest fear now is that the abnormal bone growth could put pressure on the nerves in her eyes and lead to blindness.

    Ms Noor, who has an office administration diploma and has been working as a data-entry clerk at non-profit organisation Bizlink Centre for the past 12 years, is determined to lead an independent life.

    She hopes people would be more understanding towards those with disabilities.

    Ms Noor's illness has forced her to adapt. She communicates using pen and paper, and is quick when it comes to sending text messages.

    Her 80-year-old mother lives with Ms Noor's brother, while Ms Noor, who is single, lives alone in a one-room Geylang Bahru rental flat.

    "My mother would always say, 'It's okay - you're not normal, but you're better than some others. Learn to be independent. So when I'm not around any more, you'll know what to do'," she said.

    But being independent is not easy. Ms Noor avoids crowded buses as she fears being pushed by passengers. A fall could easily fracture her brittle bones.

    Even alighting from a bus that has stopped more than 1m from the kerb presents a problem for Ms Noor, because stretching to reach the curb hurts her joints and legs.

    Fortunately, she takes the transport provided by the company most of the time. Work keeps her occupied and gives her a sense of purpose.

    She has been saving a portion of her $450 monthly salary and the $130 she gets from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. If her illness robs her of the ability to walk, the savings will pay for her stay at a nursing home.

    For now, her quarterly eye check-ups are paid for by Medifund, a government fund to help needy Singaporeans.