Human Stories: Ron Tan, Deaf Pianist and Founder, Inclusive Arts Movement, Singapore

Updated: Aug 20


Ron Tan

All of us have a story to share.


Some are joyful. Some are teary. Some provide perspectives. Several are downright heartbreaking. Others are simply inspiring.


I've been receiving and exchanging stories of COVID-19 lockdowns with business and government leaders from around the world since June. As the third wave of the pandemic handcuffs some nations and borders, I turn my attention to you - readers and followers of Affluent Society - and your emails and feedback to me these past months.


While I continue serving my sentence in Melbourne, I will try my best to tell your story.


This Human Stories Series is a cumulation of stories shared with Affluent Society by its readers and followers from around the world.

Ron Tan is a pianist in several performances and concerts in Singapore. He is actually 80% deaf. This physiological setback hasn't stopped him from establishing Inclusive Arts Movement (I.AM), a social enterprise that provides income opportunity for the disabled or rather the differently-abled through performing arts. His perseverance is both shield and sword, protecting him from people's doubts, rejects and ridicules, and cutting down the obstacles that prevented him from graduating from a music school and organizing a piano concert where he performed his first composition to standing ovation. He still continues to face disapproval even from some of the closest people around him. Many continue to look down on him, rejecting his actions and aspirations. He continues to persevere. He constantly works to inspire and promote equality among the generally-abled and differently-abled. This time, he is not alone.


This is Ron Tan's story as shared with Affluent Society in Singapore:


The differently-abled community in Singapore


The differently-abled who already find it challenging to land a job in Singapore, find it even more challenging now during the pandemic situation. This is because most of society probably use this time to protect themselves rather than 'do more for others' which isn't wrong as business is hard and everyone needs to survive.


Danial Bawthan / Credit: Supriadi Lee

However, what I am trying to say is that, I feel it should be a societal norm from the start, even when there's no pandemic, to allow these differently-abled individuals an avenue to showcase their talents and also be supported for what they can do, just like any abled individual. Having shared all these, I believe that it is even more challenging for the caretakers who dedicate their effort, to fill the gap between the society and the differently-abled. This 'filling the gap' is done through emotional support, time commitment and extra work hours for financial support.


Society is the base to crucial decision making by important decision makers.

Societal norms


I personally witnessed first hand, a differently-abled individual struggling to find a job and have been helping him to find one. However, when I was so close to helping him secure a job, the pandemic struck and now he is left jobless once again. I have another beneficiary who require much needed social interaction to boost his morale and confidence due to his current condition. However, the circuit breaker recently stopped him from doing that. The more saddening thing is that all the opportunities that I have been sourcing for him to interact further have only been efforts of my own. If 10 more people would do the same as me, it would mean a lot for him. If societal norms means accepting him as one of them, it wouldn't be so bad now.


Fore: Benjamin Chong/ Back: Lee Ting Yin / Credit: Yumi Ton

Getting support from the government and society


I am personally trying to see where I can get support and angle these resources to benefit my performers. This ranges from funding and grants supports that the government is providing during this challenging period. We have to justify with deliverables and only measurable ones are usually accepted. However, it is hard to measure most of our efforts as we are creating an indirect impact, which is important too. In this instance, we are trying to change the way societal norms are. We are trying to reduce inequality!


Again, I wish to highlight that we are not looking or being desperate for support or whatsoever. We just want to lead a dignified life just like any other human being. In order to do that, we need to raise awareness and bring a change to what societal norms might be in Singapore. Society is the base to crucial decision making by important decision makers.


Muhammad Zahier

We are all just playing our part to help one another. At the end of the day, I shall just see my actions as a mission to create greater awareness so that society might change the way they think about us, and also factor us into the various forms of support during these times.


It should be a societal norm from the start, even when there's no pandemic, to allow these differently-abled individuals an avenue to showcase their talents and also be supported for what they can do, just like any abled individual.

Facing hardships and challenges


So we do what we can. The challenges varies from income opportunities to bonding and sharing. We do not let this affect us but we continue to look positive and see what we can do online. Our second music video is releasing on the 14th Aug 2020 and we have many more music videos coming up. What we need is crowdfunding and support for us to do these music videos.


Left to right: Raihan Rosli, James Lau, Odelle Sabrin

We are I.AM


​We have to understand that the differently-abled community are not disabled. They are differently-abled because they are better in so many different ways. I.AM aims to inspire and promote equality between the differently and generally-abled through the performing arts. Such performances create social awareness and provide its differently-abled talents with exposure as well as income opportunities. Learn more about I.AM at https://www.inclusiveartsmovement.com/, https://www.facebook.com/InclusiveArtsMovement/ and www.instagram.com/inclusiveartsmovement


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