Dare To Try – Meet Josh Tseng

By City of Good  /
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City of Good catches up with Josh Tseng, a Digital Accessibility Specialist, public speaker, and advocate for a more inclusive society.

At the tender age of seven, Josh was diagnosed with Congenital Glaucoma, but he never really thought about what it would mean to completely lose his vision until he was unable to read, watch videos, and see faces anymore.

Fast forward to his late teens, he was faced with yet another dilemma while preparing for his O-levels – the decision to undergo a risk surgery that could potentially cause him to experience further vision loss. Armed with a 20% chance, Josh still went ahead by choosing surgery but unfortunately, it did cause him to slowly lose his sight.

“There was nothing I could’ve ever done about my blindness, and I just needed to accept it,” says Josh. “(However) the experience taught me that no one has to struggle alone, and it’s ok to rely on others for help sometimes. But to achieve a truly independent, fulfilling life for myself, I had to be willing to dare to try.”

Through charitable organisations like iC2 Prephouse and Guide Dogs Singapore, Josh learned how to use assistive technologies to use his computer and travel independently with a white cane. He realised that he could still do many things as long as he was willing to figure it out and ask for help when needed.

Today at 26 years old, the Goh Chok Tong Enable Award (USB Promise) recipient combines his experience and passion for technology and disability advocacy as the Director of Digital Accessibility Services at Etch Empathy – a non-profit organisations that focuses on advocating for the needs of people with disabilities.  

His current role at Etch Empathy oversees the implementation of digital accessibility initiatives, which is a new unit within the non-profit organisation. As shared during our conversation, they are currently working closely as the exclusive vendor for SG Enable to provide accessibility consulting and training services to SG Enable so they can make their software more accessible to users with disabilities.

On top of having a full-time job, Josh has since become an advocate for people with disabilities, offering much of his time with organisations such as SG Enable, SPD and Singapore Guide Dogs. At the same time, Josh sits as a board member of Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH)’s executive committee.

“(As a volunteer board member) they told me they needed better representation of young people with vision impairments on their board, and also needed someone who could understand how future generations of people with vision impairments could use digital technology to improve their lives,” says Josh.

The Road to Advocacy

Before he made it a mission to be an advocate, he was often asked to participate in various speaking engagements where he shared his experiences and how he overcame challenges. Through those events, not only were people started to take notice of his stories, he was also asked to give feedbacks about what can be done to make Singapore more inclusive for people with disabilities.

He quipped, “it was through this experience that a problem became quite obvious to me: there is a distinct lack of representation of persons with disabilities actually making the decisions on how to make things better for our community.”

Josh shared with us that the first time he spoke at a public was when he was invited to give a sharing session at an educational event. Attended by students and teachers, he shared what it was like to live with a vision impairment, how he adjusted to the condition, and what the public could do to help other similar people whom they might meet in the future.

“If sharing about my experiences can help these people find a reason to care about others like me, maybe it’ll be better for everyone, and I’ll be making our community better in a very small way,” adds Josh.

From then on, that has led to him focusing on improving his skills as a communicator, public speaker, and storyteller. Today, he credits his communication skills for landing him the career he is building today as a consultant, communicator, educator, and advocate about disability issues and digital accessibility.

Volunteering Can Include Imparting Skills Too

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Josh at the SAVH 2023 Blind Community Day Charity Gala /Picture courtesy of Josh Tseng and SAVH

At SG Enable, he trains members of the disability community in digital accessibility, giving them better knowledge and skills to provide constructive feedback when they encounter accessibility issues online.

“The digital world has the potential to be a great equalizer, but it also has the potential to exclude those who are already marginalized,” says Josh. “By making digital content accessible to everyone, we can help to level the playing field and create a more inclusive world.”

Through his advocacy work, Josh hopes to inspire others to take action and make a difference in their own communities. He believes that everyone has the power to create positive change, no matter how big or small.

“Even the smallest actions can have a big impact,” says Josh. 

However, he feels that volunteering is not just about giving back, it is also about personal growth and learning from others. More importantly, as Josh continues to collaborate with charities and promote greater representation and understanding of the disabled community, he encourages others to reflect on what they can do and the skills that they can offer.

“I strongly encourage people to figure out what they are uniquely good at or interested in getting good at. I assure you there’s basically a 100% chance that some organisation out there will benefit from your skills or interests in some way,” says Josh.

He then further suggests looking within your passion first and then, reach out to various social service agencies who could tap on your skills. Josh explained, “all charities and volunteer welfare organisations (VWOs) also need support in the areas of media, publicity, event organising, logistics, and more.”

Through his work, Josh has demonstrated that volunteerism is not only about sacrifice but also about finding satisfaction in being part of a bigger picture. His work with SG Enable for example, has helped to bridge the gap between the disability community and the digital world, giving people with disabilities a voice and a platform to share their experiences.

“Knowing I was part of the big picture gives me satisfaction, knowing that somewhere out there, maybe there’s someone who doesn’t have to encounter the same pain and hardship as I have and they can live their best life,” says Josh.

Want to be involved like Josh? Head on down to www.giving.sg to find out how you can volunteer your time, talent and treasure.