After a work accident in 2012, Chong Ping was paralysed from the waist down. He started working again in the family gardening business in 2016, where he now supervises workers. For the 44-year-old with 15 years of experience in the family business, gardening and landscape work gives him a sense of “achievement”. “I don’t like to stay in an office,” he explained, “[in this line of work] you can meet a lot of people.”
As most of his clients live in landed property, he faces challenges of accessibility. “Not all houses are handicap-friendly. Got staircase, all these steps. Usually there’s no ramp, and second floor, third floor.”
“I usually stay downstairs and ask my worker to take photos. If there are problems with the plants, I will tell my guy [what to do].”
Trying a New Sport
Chong Ping attributes his newly-found confidence in handling his wheelchair to the past three years of playing wheelchair basketball. Even though he knew about the sport early on after his accident and was invited to play by a fellow teammate, he hesitated because he wanted to focus on his therapy. While doing an architecture course at Handicaps Welfare Association some years later, he was invited to try out the sport again.
“I said OK, I give it a try lah. When I went there, I realised, ‘Eh, quite interesting lah.’”
Ironically, Chong Ping “hated” playing basketball before his accident, preferring football instead.
“Now no choice already. I still have a lot of things to learn: wheelchair handling, ball handling, all this. I never miss it, I’m determined to go there and play,” he said, referring to his twice-weekly training sessions.
Basketball has also been a way for him to problem-solve daily issues surrounding using a wheelchair – citing buying petrol as an example.
“Most of the older petrol kiosks don’t have ramps. So, I ask [my teammates] how they do it. Some of them ask the pump mechanic to help them. Usually for me, I ask my brother or one of my workers to help me.”
Learning to better handle his wheelchair during training has also helped him feel more confident going out by himself.
“Before, when I see a slope, I’m scared I will I topple. As for small kerbs, I couldn’t go up. Now if [I see] a small kerb, I can. For those difficult ones, I will ask someone to help me lift the wheelchair. Not so pai sey [embarrassed] as last time ah.”
“Before, I seldom went out. If my friend asked me, ‘Eh want to go makan?’, I wouldn’t go. Now I will go out more by myself.”
Having gone through the steep learning curve of using a wheelchair, Chong Ping feels he is more attuned to the emotional needs of people with disabilities, as well as the importance of being mindful of the present moment. “Last time, my activities are like, go out drinking and clubbing. I seldom ‘see’ any disabled people.”
“Now sometimes when I take MRT and see those in wheelchairs, or those selling tissue, I will stop and chat with them. Because when you’re disabled and you’re not disabled, [life is] a bit different. When you are able-bodied it feels like you got a lot of things to do, very rushed.”
“Now I have more time to sit and look at the surroundings, what is happening around me.”
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