Jonathan Tiong Soon Yi

For Jonathan, it’s the little things that matter. A TV show at the end of the day or a video on YouTube, and that can of Coke. Because Jonathan has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, he could one day lose the ability to drink. Already, his throat muscles are weakening.

"I can still drink for now ... so I treasure every can of cola I can get!" he said.

Yet, while Jonathan needs help from his parents with feeding, bathing, and medicating, he also brings home the dough as a communications practitioner at sovereign wealth fund GIC. There, he puts in his all for the company and now counts among his close friends his boss, Yasmin Ramle, and his teammates in Employee Communications.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy is a genetic disorder characterised by weakness and wasting in the muscles used for movement. Jonathan’s parents discovered his condition when he was one and a half years old – Jonathan could not hold his head up or crawl. His parents worry for him over the years, but Jonathan takes the challenges in stride. Having to fight a failing body has made him gritty and tough, and he bounces back quickly from emotional distress.

Jonathan definitely doesn’t take things for granted or do things half-baked either. That was how he landed the job after interning at the company as a student. Jonathan said he didn’t actively pursue the job conversion, believing that he was not "worthy", but said: "I think it came about because I gave my best effort in everything I was assigned to do. That’s the way I’ve always done things – if I’m going to do something, I put everything I’ve got into it, or else I don’t do it at all."

He credits his family for supporting him tirelessly through his 23 years so far. "They have done almost nothing for themselves, just so I can survive and thrive," he said. For instance, Jonathan’s dad drives him to work, because he is unable to walk to the train station or take a train. "In a world designed by non-disabled people for non-disabled people, it’s incredibly hard to function," he said.

While such physical barriers are hard to deal with, Jonathan hopes more for mindset shifts. He wants to advocate for work opportunities for persons with disabilities." Disabled people aren’t looking for a free ride. All we want is a shot at proving ourselves in whatever field we’re in."

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