If there’s anything we often take for granted, it’s our five senses.
Perhaps it’s because many of us were born with all five of them, so we stop noticing just how important each one of them is till we lose it, whether temporarily (remember losing your sense of taste when you had Covid?) or, in more serious cases, permanently.
But as with all living creatures, our bodies and minds are almost always able to adapt to most circumstances—all it takes is time, patience, and a whole lot of faith in the process, as we’ve learned from Liana, a visually impaired individual who began losing her vision at the age of 18.
Now, at 39, Liana no longer lets her disability define who she is—she’s a national goalball player, a lover of cats, and a huge sneakerhead to boot. As a way of celebrating how far she’s come, Liana regularly schedules photoshoots to mark her birthdays, and when Our Grandfather Story reached out to us to photograph Liana for her 40th, as part of a special documentary series they’re running, we couldn’t say no.
We gave Liana a Shentonista makeover and guided her through a shoot in our very own studio space, before sitting down with her for a chat. Throughout our time together, Liana’s bubbly nature and excited exclamations (“I really love my hair!”) showed us that she’s still very much in love with life and discovery, whether experiencing it in full colour, or bravely charting her own path in the dark.
Can you tell us more about your journey with vision loss?
I suffer from a condition called Uveitis, which is an inflammation inside the eyes. There aren’t any known causes or cure for it, only medication to slow down the inflammation.
For me, it started with sore eyes, and my vision has since been deteriorating from there. I’m now fully blind in my left eye and partially blind in my right.
What do you find most challenging in adapting to your diminished vision?
I fell into depression when I first started to lose my vision. After a year, I came to terms with my situation and decided to get up and try again, so I began relearning everything from walking to cooking.
That said, mobility is the toughest part for me and it’s something I’m still learning to adapt to everyday.
As a person with disability, how do you think Singapore can become more accessible for everyone?
I’m really glad that Singapore is becoming more inclusive, but of course there’s still much room for improvement.
For instance, I wish there were more tactile facilities across the country, and for the public bus service announcements to be louder!
You’re a professional goalball player. Tell us a bit about the sport and how you started playing.
Goalball is a high-impact sport for the blind. It’s played in a court that is 18m long by 9m wide with a goal post on each side. In short, the objective of the game is to roll a ball that has a bell inside to help players locate it, into the opponent’s goal post.
Since visual impairment is a spectrum, everyone has to wear blindfolds to ensure an equal playing field for all players, so imagine trying to stop a 1.25kg ball travelling at speeds of up to 60km/h with your body in pitch darkness! Let’s just say that when I first started, I had bruises here, there, and everywhere, but I’m used to it now (laughs).
Before I started goalball, I was actually in the national bowling team. I was scouted by the Chef de Mission of the 2015 ASEAN Para Games to form the pioneer team, and decided to give it a go. I initially planned to return to bowling after the SEA Games, but I stuck with goalball and I’ve been playing for eight years since!
Describe your fashion style in one word.
We hear that you’re quite the sneakerhead! How big has your collection grown?
Yes, I love buying and wearing sneakers! My favourite brand is Vans because they always have themed collections.
My first themed Vans were Nightmare Before Christmas, followed by National Geographic, The Simpsons, and One Piece. I was quite sad when I missed the Sailor Moon collection as I especially love shoes with different patterns on each foot!
This feature was created in collaboration with Our Grandfather Story, who produced a video feature series about Liana and other persons with disabilities. Watch the full video here.
Hair & makeup by Ying Cui (Aastral Beauty).