Bid to change rules at association for blind fails

The Constitution stipulates that seven of the charity's 13 ex-co members must be visually handicapped.
The Constitution stipulates that seven of the charity's 13 ex-co members must be visually handicapped.ST FILE PHOTO

'No' to proposals to scrap quotas ensuring majority of blind leaders and members

Members of the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH) have shot down a controversial bid by its president to scrap rules that ensure that blind members and blind leaders outnumber those who can see.

The association's Constitution stipulates that the charity should have a majority of blind members and that seven of its 13 executive committee members must be visually handicapped.

SAVH president Phillip Lee had proposed to change the charity's Constitution to do away with both rules during its annual general meeting (AGM) at its Toa Payoh Rise premises yesterday.

But his proposals were rejected when put to a vote.

Most of the 59 members present voted against them.

RAISING PROFILE OF ASSOCIATION

I'm trying to lift the SAVH up but my hands are tied. I'm not here to divide and conquer, but to partner the blind to bring the whole association up.

SAVH president Phillip Lee, who is sighted, on his bid to scrap the rules to attract fresh talents to improve how the charity is run


KNOWING NEEDS OF THE BLIND

We are worried that sighted members may not understand our needs as well as we do and may implement policies that are detrimental to us.

MR CHEOK CHENG ANN, 69, who is blind

Mr Lee, who is sighted, said the proposals were meant to help attract fresh talents, regardless of whether they can or cannot see, to improve how the charity is run.

Mr Lee, who runs a management consultancy, said: "I'm trying to lift the SAVH up but my hands are tied. I'm not here to divide and conquer, but to partner the blind to bring the whole association up."

SAVH executive director Ando Yeo, who is among those who can see, said the number of blind members with the skills or knowledge needed to boost the management of the charity may be limited, hence the proposal to drop the quota.

The association was set up in 1951 and serves the blind and those with low vision by offering services such as training to help them live independently.

According to its latest annual report, it has 347 members as of March. Of these, 177 are visually handicapped, while the remaining 170 are sighted.

Members have the right to vote on the association's affairs and elect executive committee members, among other things.

The charity serves more than 3,000 people who are blind or suffer from low vision.

Blind members interviewed said that they were deeply concerned over the proposals.

They felt that as the SAVH is an association of the blind, the blind should form the majority of its members and leadership.

Mr Cheok Cheng Ann, 69, who is blind, said: "We are worried that sighted members may not understand our needs as well as we do and may implement policies that are detrimental to us."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 28, 2016, with the headline 'Bid to change rules at association for blind fails'. Print Edition | Subscribe