It's a Long Journey to be Blind. We Can’t Avoid Mistakes!

来源:有人杂志   作者:蔡聪   2015.05.04 15:10  浏览946
摘要:It’s not the disability that we pay close attention to, but authentic, warm and noble humanity, which discards the label and shows the real human.

On December 14th, 2013, the Media Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and One Plus One (Beijing) Disabled Persons' Cultural Development Center (producer of this magazine) jointly issued “Observation Report on China Print Media of Disability Reports from 2008 to 2012”. Studies showed that the themes of 1,468 reports from 2008 to 2012 were mostly focused on disabled people themselves and their health or rehabilitation but ignored the relationship between disabled groups and their social influences; the image of disabled people was often presented as silent “objects” and in a few reports, they were regarded as a “social burden” or as “poor people." Most news reports were about “help and support” from families, enterprises or society, confined to “donating” or “showing familial piety"; few reports were about employment, career development and job performance of the disabled people, and few reports covered the news about disabled people participating in public affairs. Although 75% of disabled people live in the countryside in China, they reported less than 10%. Few reports were from a disability NGO or the disabled themselves, and most news reports also failed to introduce to the public concepts like "barrier free," "reasonableness and convenience," "inclusive design," "the rights of disabled people," "discrimination against the disabled," “Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” and “People with Disabilities Act of the People's Republic of China.” At the same time, they also released “China Ten Incidents of Disability Rights in 2013” (the excerpt version was already published in the fourth issue of “Youren Magazine” in 2013).

These two reports attracted the media one after another. Only through wide spread distribution, can the reports can be read by more people and the number who are influenced and changed by them.

However, most titles of news reports were similar to “the report by Chinese Academy of Social Sciences discriminates disabled people.” While most titles about Ten Incidents were like “Capital International Airport explosion was listed in the Ten Incidents." They were not the deep discussion we expected, which is really discouraging.

But the discussion was heated on micro-blogs. Some blogs commented like this:

“What the Academy of Social Sciences should do is to study why the blind can't attend the college entrance examination. The premise is to fully guarantee the interest of disabled people. In other words, we have to first identify priorities before solving the details and trifles. In my view, what the Academy of Social Sciences should do is to study why the blind can't attend the college entrance examination.”

As a member of the report team and a visually impaired person, I began to immerse myself in reflection after seeing this comment.

My Teenage Years

When I was 10 years old, my eyesight rapidly dropped to less than 0.1 because a drug-induced glaucoma caused my vison to atrophy. It means I could only see the words in a book when I kept an extremely close distance, even with glasses. According to current standards, I was at least second-level blind if not first-level. But at that time, my family didn't know I was already a “disabled person." Because in the past, “disabled people” just referred to those with physical or mental disabilities; and the concept of visual impairment was regarded as total blindness just as the concept of hearing impairment was thought of as total deafness. Media reports always started with “they are living in a world of darkness and silence.”

At first, my family took me around to see doctors everywhere from foreign-trained doctors who claimed to have cured blindness for decades to a famous "god" who lived in the forest and claimed that curing blind patients was a piece of cake for him. They all shook their heads and said my life was hopeless, which made us despair and give up. At that time, my family was desperate and believed I was screwed for life. They thought I would be alone and helpless after they passed away. So they began to make a plan for my life in the long run.

Their plan was to have another baby, so my sibling could take care of me. But as my grandma recollected, I strongly disagreed with the plan and threatened to strangle the baby. In case they had another normal child, I was afraid they would abandon me as “abnormal." They gave up their idea.

It's really odd that I don't have any recollection of it. It probably was because I realized that my selfish thoughts hurt them deeply and I felt really guilty, so I chose to forget it subconsciously. I realize I had thought myself as useless and was afraid of being left to live alone and helpless. The fear of “disability=uselessness” comes from the imagination made by people without disability, and shaped from the media.

A Favorable Turn if I'm Strong-willed?

To be honest, at that time I was just a teenage boy who only knew studying and rarely thought independently. I only knew about blindness from the media and dreaded others' discussion. It was difficult to accept the fact, but the worse thing was I didn't even want to think about it. My way to escape was by asking to go to school. My family, who were desperate about blindness, agreed after thinking it over. Because of the pension issue, that was decades away, staying home was not the solution. Going to school at least could kill time.

Unexpectedly, I ranked first in the first monthly test of junior high school. All of a sudden, I became the focus of the entire school. Since then, I was always mentioned as “a disabled but strong-willed person” in their discussion.

At the beginning, I was really pleased to attend various meetings, to accept awards, such as “outstanding student,” “outstanding juvenile” and “self-improvement model.” Regardless of my inflamed eyes, I gave a speech to share how I loved studying and how I overcame difficulties as a person who can't see the words on a blackboard.

Whenever the teacher on various occasions said to the students that, “Cai Cong can get such good scores at school with his eye conditions. Why don't you all study seriously?” I would lower my head and pretend to be shy. In fact, I was excited in my heart. I had privileges not to attend PE or cleaning classrooms.

Looking back, at that time I was like a loser who fancied a promotion as general manager or CEO and married the princess to reach the peak of his life. But the loser has to wake up eventually to find out that reality is hard to accept.

No and Why

Year after year, I gradually felt apprehensive about the overwhelming honors and praise. I couldn't see clearly and my future wasn't bright. All those hidden problems emerged again. When the teacher educated other students using me as the model again, I still lowered my head, but because helplessness filled my heart.

Sometimes, I wished to join in PE class, play football with my classmates, and to hear cheering from female classmates; I wanted to join in the laughter and play during cleaning time rather than standing in the corridor, doing nothing. I wanted to tell everyone there was no relationship between my sight and my studies. I want to punch these guys in the face as they didn't care about my closeness to their girlfriends.

But they all said no! They always showed warm smiles to me.

“How could you run as you can't see? What if you fall down?”

“How could you play football as you can't see?”

“How could you clean as you can't see?”

“Don't do that as you can't see. We are doing it for you!”

“Hey. I quarreled with my boyfriend again today. Have a chat with me!”

……

It seemed many people were saying in my head, “You can't see. You can't see. You can't see……What can you do? What can you do? What can you do....”

I started to become irritable when my mom failed to make a meal for me in a timely fashion, when my relatives played mahjong and I could only watch, or when I stood by the bikes of the school gate after classes…… I wanted everything; at the same time, I hated everything. I hated that I couldn't see anything and I couldn't do anything.

One day, I was scolded by my teacher about my terrible exam scores.

“What's the matter recently? Why have your scores dropped so sharply?”

Her tone was serious, very serious. I believed at that moment she certainly wasn't thinking of my blindness and that bad scores were natural. I lowered my head and my eyes instantly were filled with tears.

She believed I could do it, and I could do it well. Maybe my former performance impressed her. At least, she didn't give excuses or reasons for me like others.

At that moment I suddenly realized what I really wanted. There was a volunteer girl. I was a brat as a teenager, and forgive me for using a word which doesn't respect the equal rights of children. I could not figure out the levels of blindness back then and even I myself discriminated against the disabled people. What did I really know?! Maya Angelou, an African American female poet said:

Do people have to liberate themselves? And liberate others? Can people only liberate themselves without liberating others? Or can people only liberate others without liberating themselves?

Yes

After receiving numerous “no” from others and one “why” from my teacher, I began to wonder how I could obtain what I wanted although I hadn't established any guiding principles.

If my pals wanted to play football, I would buy the football. Could they refuse to take me this time? They could put me in either team and count me out of players; even regarding me as a meat shield was ok.

If my pals wanted to play outside but were afraid to be refused by their parents, they could say they were studying in my house because the entire school knew I studied hard. Since I helped them, they would take me along skating, playing billiards, poker, video games, car model shows, watching VCD, and singing KTV……

They would get to know me when they took me; and then they sat down to discuss ways to involve me.

For example, they put the football into a plastic bag and shouted more in the football game. They bought cards with big numbers on them. They explained the story to me while watching movies.

Later, my sight worsened and I couldn't read any longer. Fortunately, I had already passed the senior high entrance examination and was accepted into a good senior high school, although I failed to fill in the answer sheet on the science exam due to my sight.

In senior high school, I made friends with classmates using the same methods. They were willing to read the text and homework to me because I could say the answers after they read and that's all they needed. They liked reading books for me because I would buy their favorite books to share. And I knew their favorite books. My teachers would read questions for me in the exams.

I also had regrets that my angry juvenile heart was ignored. I felt really bitter as the messenger to deliver notes for boys and girls in class. If smart phones and screen reading software existed back then, I would never have been alone and helpless all those years with no way to approach girls.

The future seems full of “yes” for me!

Dreams Can't Be Realized in Reality

This feeling was killed by the college entrance examination. I returned to school excitedly after eating hot pot with my classmates when I was told by my teacher my application was rejected after I applied to have my questions read during the examination. Frankly speaking, I can't remember the specific reasons for rejection. During all those years' work, I encountered similar cases for barrier-free exams, and they all got similar replies as me.

We have laws and technology, but we always got rejected for some reason. I'm powerless to fight reality. They can choose to help us with compassion or to reject us. Therefore, no one ever tried as hard as Xuan Hai had fought, which was reported in the first issue of Youren Magazine, nor had someone shouted and fought like the first blind candidate for a college entrance examination who got famous in the media. Although I had successfully applied for the examination, I could only put away my dream of studying Chinese in university and went back home, and began to wait with my anxious parents.

Fortunately, we saw the story about a disabled but tough girl in the most popular family magazine, which reported that a girl read books with magnifying glass and had been admitted by a college for the blind— Special Education College of Changchun University.

My dad immediately called the magazine agency to ask for information and searched the internet. At that time, my family learned that I was one of the blind people. I had to apply for a disability card first if I wanted to enter Changchun University. Its examination paper has two versions, one with Chinese characters and another with braille. So I had to learn braille immediately.

To learn braille, I had to find a school for the blind! Oh, where was it? After looking, we found a local special education school with six students. I officially stepped into the “world” of the blind.

All this happened in the second half of 2004, when I was in the third grade of senior high and had been disabled for 9 years.

So That's the "Dark" World

In the special school, I came in contact with the blind for the first time and found out they were versatile and talented in music as some played flute and others played erhu. I also knew the braille which I spent 800 yuan a month learning was a permutation and combination of convex points representing different pinyin. In fact, I comprehended my first class there, and all I needed was to be proficient. I also learned there's a screen reading software in computers which can talk and guide the blind to operate computers.

After I was successfully admitted to the Special Education College of Changchun University, I had chances to contact blind people from across the country who brought more and more surprising things.

It turned out that not every blind person had musical talent, but there's no competition or pressure of scores here, which promoted quality education. Most people in college would learn to play an instrument. Of course, there are also tone deaf people.

The fact that the blind can't see doesn't mean we live in a "dark" world and know nothing about the real world. We just feel the world differently with those people who feel the world with eyes. We use more of our hearing, touching, smelling and feeling senses.

It turns out, one popular version of the screen reading software for the blind was developed by a blind programmer.

It turns out, even if the blind can't see, they could go to many places by themselves by using a blind stick.

It turns out, massage is not the only job that the blind can do.

......

It turns out, being blind is not what I had imagined many years ago.

It turns out, visual impairment only means a different recognition method.

I graduated and I didn’t want to become a masseuse. There are many reasons.

They Haven't Changed Their Views on Us

In the summer of 2010, I came to Beijing and joined One Plus One. We have a group of disabled people here. We enjoy “Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” of the United Nations here. I gradually found answers here.

Disability is produced through interactions between various social attitudes and environmental obstacles on the basis of the disabled people and those who prevent equality.

In addition to environmental obstacles, an important aspect is the various misunderstandings and negative attitudes. On many occasions, disabled people are regarded as useless and in need of compassion. It's an abnormal attitude and needs to be corrected. It is these kinds of thoughts that put me through all those experiences and confusion in all those years. Where do these thoughts come from?

Do the disabled people give such impressions to the public first or does the public first have this imagination and deepen their impression by isolating and confining disabled people? Do disabled people isolate themselves or are they isolated by the public's attitude and actions? It's just like the problem: which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Whatever the origin, mass media is constantly deepening the old stereotype image of the disabled in public.

The coverage of the disabled has no big differences from twenty or thirty years ago. The main theme is still focused on “disabled in body but firm in spirit” and “great love is boundless”. Does it mean the disabled people have to hold strong will? Or are we screwed? Great love is needed for the progress of social civilization. If there is none, who are we going to blame? Moreover, coverage like this still comes from the concept that disabled people are useless and abnormal.

It's just like the fear, helplessness and despair of my family after my sight worsened. The funniest thing is that the doctors always said I had to strive to keep sight or I would be screwed for life. I once interviewed a deaf and blind American named Haben, who told me that the doctors in America will tell the family not to worry too much and to learn a life pattern which suits his body in the training center, if they can't cure the visual impairment. If I was treated like this, would my life or the lives of many visually impaired people have had a different outcome? At least, my family wouldn’t have to worry about my years so early!

I remember Christmas Eve in 2013 when I talked with Zhang Lili, the Most Beautiful Teacher (editor's note: see “dialogue” column in the fourth issue of “Youren Magazine”). She said, thanks to the colorful lives written in the injured people forum and inspired by their fun and optimistic attitudes, she can accept amputation and muster the courage and confidence to live.

Why don't our doctors behave like this? Why can't our schools offer more suitable guidance? Why do our families and even ourselves only have fear and despair when facing disability? Who makes them think like this?

It's because they don't know and can't understand. So who is responsible for making them understand? It's hard to say. In my opinion, after the disabled begin to realize this, we have the responsibility to make a change.

Therefore, we should pay attention to inclusive education and barrier-free college entrance exams for visually impaired people, and accept equal college education. At the same time, we must keep a watchful eye on the disabled image depicted by the mass media so that the public can gradually realize the situation of the disabled.

What if fear and despair disappear, and if people stop thinking of disability as the end of happiness but accept it as another way of life? They will be language impaired in a country with a strange language, and they will be visually impaired in the dark as well. We must shift our emphasis to eliminate obstacles and offer assistance and support in order to make us live independently.

I used to not understand why so many females rejected the word “beauty” in the coverage of “the party and government cadres must resolutely resist temptation from money, power and beauty”. Perhaps it’s because I'm a male and have been living in a male dominated environment, which made me think the females are used to it. But looking back at all my experiences in those years when society had been focused on people without disabilities, we as the disabled have difficulties making our voices heard. I finally comprehend female's actions based on my own experiences. All the negative attitudes have been hidden in people's unconsciousness which presents itself in words and actions; they are deeply rooted in people's hearts. And disabled people are regarded as being afraid and helpless. The moment people begin to realize this we will see it to starting turn for the better.

Therefore, we discussed the problem of whether we should fuss about the shrimp advertisement of Pizza Hut (editor's note: see "dialogue" column in the second issue of “Youren Magazine”). We promote research on mass media and their images of disabled people. And we are determined to start a magazine and begin our own media.

Do people have to liberate themselves? And liberate others? Can people only liberate themselves without liberating others? Or can people only liberate others without liberating themselves?

It is because we see greatness to think this way that our magazine is named “Youren.” It's not the disability that we pay close attention to, but the authentic, warm and noble humanity, which discards the label and returns to real humanity.

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