REPORT BY RUIMING
PHOTO BY ZHENHONG CAI
ADAPTED FROM SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS
Shalom Lim, a 27-year-old man with muscular dystrophy, has been unable to walk since he was six years old. Nevertheless, he persevered to further himself and recently completed his undergraduate studies.
Upon graduation, he joined K9Assistance, a local registered charity that promotes the use and acceptance of Assistance Dogs in Singapore. His role is to enable businesses and shopping centres to allow those service dogs to be on their premises and strive toward greater inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in Singapore.
He was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) three months after his birth.
Although he could still play with his peers in his childhood, his condition worsened when he was about six. He was no longer able to walk, using a wheelchair to move around for his mobility needs since then.
Even though he would also lose his ability to type and hand-write at a later age, Shalom didn't give up on his studies. Like everyone else, he attended mainstream school. After graduating from the polytechnic, he enrolled at the Singapore Institute of Technology to study criminology.
In July 2021, he completed his university education. After graduating, he committed to giving back to society. He joined K9Assistance, where he is responsible for liaising with various agencies to raise public awareness of Assistance Dogs and invite more places to allow for their public access.
When interviewed, Shalom stated that currently, the only type of Assistance Dogs people in Singapore are most familiar with are Seeing-Eye Dogs/Guide Dogs for the Blind. However, he added that other kinds of Assistance Dogs for the disabled can also provide support for the Autistic, the d/Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing, and those with physical or mobility disabilities like himself.
He said: "We wish for private and public spaces in Singapore to be inclusive of these four groups of Assistance Dogs as well".
Shalom's work includes liaising with businesses like restaurants to convince them to let visitors with disabilities bring in their Assistance Dogs.
According to reports, he recently obtained the support of NTUC Club (Downtown East) to accept and welcome Assistance Dogs into their retail premises. It is also the first shopping centre in Singapore to allow various types of Assistance Dogs to enter its premises.
While he may not live past 30, Shalom seeks to advocate for those around him despite his condition's limited prognosis.
Shalom revealed that his older brother, who also had DMD, passed on from the disease in 2019, aged 28.
He told us that people with DMD didn't live beyond 30 years old in the early days. But with advancements in medical knowledge, the life expectancy for this group of patients can be longer. Nevertheless, he also hopes that through his work, he can advocate for more support for PwDs.
"Though my brother is no longer around, I can still strive to make our society more inclusive for PwDs. I know that he would be glad to see me do this." Shalom articulates emotionally in renewed hope and optimism.
Cassandra Chiu, K9Assistance's Executive Director, expressed that Singapore's awareness and understanding of Assistance Dogs have vastly improved over the years. She hopes that in time to come, we will have even greater support for Assistance Dogs and their disabled handlers.
NOTE: This above media feature written in Chinese and its English language translation was re-published on K9Assistance's official platforms and website with the writer's permission.The original version of this article was published in Chinese in the Shin Min Daily Newspaper bulletin on Sunday, 1 January 2023.
Born with a muscular dystrophy condition, Shalom Lim did not expect that he would end up getting first mall in Singapore to pledge support for assistance dogs.
The Board of Directors of K9Assistance wishes to announce that our General Manager Sim Yeow Kee alias Joan Sim has left our service with immediate effect.
The K9Assistance Board of Directors has decided that Cassandra Chiu will step down from her current role as Board Chairman and take on the role of Executive Director of K9Assistance.