This teacher in Klang loves his visually-impaired students so much, he invented a device to help them in sports (VIDEO)

Meet Cikgu Azam, the special education teacher who invented an assistive technology device for his blind and visually impaired students. — Picture by Cikgu Azam
Meet Cikgu Azam, the special education teacher who invented an assistive technology device for his blind and visually impaired students. — Picture by Cikgu Azam

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 3 — A special education teacher has gone viral on social media recently with his invention of an assistive technology device for his blind and visually impaired students.

Cikgu Azam or his real name Wan Muadzam Wan Abidin gained attention after a few of his TikTok videos circulated across social media.

In one of the videos, Cikgu Azam can be seen demonstrating his assistive technology device with one of his students who’s almost fully blind.

The device is meant to be a navigator and a support system for visually impaired and blind students in sporting activities like running.

One of his TikTok videos has garnered over 600,000 views with social media users applauding his innovative efforts.

The story of Cikgu Azam

Before becoming a special education teacher, Cikgu Azam was a graduate from Universiti Putra Malaysia majoring in Forestry Science (Nature parks and recreations).

He had a brief stint working in the private sector’s IT department while also helping with school outing programmes as a side job.

He was able to prepare modules and activities for schoolchildren during their outings.

According to Cikgu Azam, he found his calling in 2007 after he and his team received a job from a school where they had to prepare outing modules and activities for special needs students.

He admitted that there wasn’t much awareness on special needs children at that time and because of that, he made the effort to read up on some books, journals and therapies.

During that programme, Cikgu Azam met a student with Cerebral Palsy and was struggling with one of the activities that involved them collecting stones from the nearby river.

Recollecting on what he read on water therapy; Cikgu Azam approached the student and helped him by putting the student’s stiff hands into the water.

“After a few minutes, the stiffness on his hands started to loosen up and with me guiding his hands, he was able to collect some stones from the river.

“While I was assisting him, I could hear the tears of joy coming from his parents who were there with us as well.

“After coming back from that trip, I just couldn’t stop thinking about the incident and after talking to some of my friends who were teachers at that time, I decided to become a special education teacher,” Cikgu Azam told Malay Mail.

Cikgu Azam with one of his students, Nur Yusrina Alisya, testing the Caballus RAFVI. — Picture by Cikgu Azam
Cikgu Azam with one of his students, Nur Yusrina Alisya, testing the Caballus RAFVI. — Picture by Cikgu Azam

After finishing his diploma in special education, he was posted to SK Klang in 2009 and has been teaching special needs students there ever since.

He added that he had to struggle during his first year there because he didn’t know that he was supposed to teach visually impaired and blind students as he was trained in teaching students with Autism and Hyperactive Disorder.

It took him seven months to study all the mediums including Braille and he also received some assistance from his students as well. 

“Another challenge for me is seeing the potential in my students that they cannot see because of their low self-esteem.

“It is disappointing to see that they are smart kids, but they are so used to their closed environment up to the point they don’t want to get to know the outside world. Even though they’re visually impaired or blind, they deserve to explore the outside world.

“So, the challenge for me is giving them their confidence back and by having outside activities and interactions, it can help in bringing back their confidence.”

Consequently, the teacher comes up with a lot of activities and projects for his students every year.

The origin of the Caballus RAFVI

When talking about the assistive technology device, Cikgu Azam said that the device in the videos is called Caballus RAFVI with Caballus being the scientific name for a horse and RAFVI is an acronym for Running App for the Visually Impaired.

“The reason why I choose to name it after a horse is because during the first world war, horses were the main method of transportation for the military.

“However, most of the horses are blind or visually impaired as a result from the war but the military still uses these horses as they can still command and guide them even though they’re blind.

“I was inspired by the tale and figures that it is the perfect name for the device,” he said.

Cikgu Azam shares the blueprint for his Caballus RAFVI which took him a year to build. — Picture by Cikgu Azam
Cikgu Azam shares the blueprint for his Caballus RAFVI which took him a year to build. — Picture by Cikgu Azam

The 40-year-old who’s also the school’s sports coach said that the idea for Caballus RAFVI came when he was training one of his students, Nur Yusrina Alisya (who’s also featured in one of his TikTok videos.

Despite being almost fully blind, Alisya is one of the school’s top students and has won several awards and trophies in both sporting events and education.

“The thing about training these visually impaired and blind students is that they need to be navigated and to do that, they would put their hands on my shoulder, and I’ll run together with them.

“It was a lot easier during my young years but as time went on, I felt like I don’t have the same energy as how I used to and it’s really easy to fall or trip whenever we trained like that.

“So, one day while training, I saw one of the students pushing a foldable trolley and the idea suddenly came to mind, I asked Alisya to do a test run using the trolley and it works aside from the lack of flexibility of the trolley as it cannot turn,” Cikgu Azam said

Inspired and motivated to start the project, by using a few unused PVC pipes and some joint connectors, Cikgu Azam managed to complete the very first version of his Caballus RAFVI.

The first prototype can also be seen in one of his TikTok videos.

After getting feedback from his students and colleagues who tested the first version of the Caballus RAFVI, Cikgu Azam made some adjustments and improvements to the device.

Among the improvements made are putting a new set of wheels and adding a few more PVC pipes along with a fresh coat of paint.

The second version of the device was then used by Alisya during the five kilometres Education Fun Run 2.0 in Shah Alam in early 2020.

The Caballus RAFVI is designed to prevent the users from running into obstacles while also helping the steerer, in this case, Cikgu Azam, to navigate his students throughout the run.

Cikgu Azam is working on the third version of the device with plans to make it more compact and foldable as it would be easier to carry.

The progress of this invention has been paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“All of my students are very special to me and some of them are also part of the school’s sports team. They need a device to help them so they can participate in sporting activities.

“This device is able to fill that need, and it definitely helps with building my students’ confidence,” Cikgu Azam said.

Cikgu Azam added that he couldn’t have completed the Caballus RAFVI without the help of his fellow colleagues and hopes to introduce more projects and inventions for his students in the future.

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