Seven Extreme Meetings – Vignettes by Visually Impaired Stenographers

来源:有人杂志   作者:朱学元   2015.05.04 17:42  浏览1821
摘要:Stenographers with visual impairments face significant challenges – especially maintaining the confidence of clients and others in their professional capabilities.

I have already gone through two and a half year's road with sweat and doubts. It has become a career which I can fight for my entire life.

“Xiao Zhu, this is your qualification certificate as Senior Stenographer”.

When I finally received the certificate with two golden words reading Senior Stenographer, I could not restrain the excitement in my heart anymore. From everyone saying visually impaired people could not study rapid stenography, until today, when this challenge becomes a career that I will pursue my whole life, I spent two and a half years in sweat and doubt.

Can visually impaired people learn rapid stenography? How do visually impaired people learn these techniques? Why do visually impaired people bother to learn rapid stenography? These have been questions constantly bothering me. It was not until I received this little piece of paper that I became brave enough to raise my head and say “yes, we can!”

It is possible that such a certificate does not mean much objectively, but provides sincere and serious encouragement and affirmation for me. This single sheet of paper is a summary of my past, as well as a launching pad for the future. Standing at this crucial juncture, I want to briefly share stories of seven extreme meetings experienced by me and my team.

First: The most awkward meeting

Are there soldiers in the world that forget to bring their guns when they leave for the front? If there are, departing without your weapon would not be the most awkward scene imaginable as far as I'm concerned. Supreme awkwardness would be when one is about to shoot and finds that the trigger is missing.

I remember the first time I attended a meeting. I calmly took the stenotype machine out of my bag as usual, and stumbled upon a moment of truth. Running my fingers over the keys, I realized that there was a hole in this little 24 key keyboard: a key was missing. That was embarrassing enough! You should know that a complex task like stenography could not proceed at all with a key missing. The meeting was about to start, and I was frantically looking in my bag for the “teeth” of the machine as sweat trickled down my forehead. At the last possible moment, my quick witted partner pulled a key off his own machine and installed it on mine to replace my missing key.

Second: The most crowded meeting

Usually during the meetings we attended, we were given seats normally occupied by eminent guests. However, in one lecture given by Yu Dan, not only were all the seats taken, but the corridors and stairs were jammed with standing audience members. Moreover, as directed by Ms. Yu Dan, some students even sat by her side, or on the stage. That was the first time that I saw such a situation.

However, pushed by enthusiastic students’ to the margins of the hall, it was extremely difficult for me to hear the lecture clearly, so I had to make extraordinary efforts to take down an accurate record. At the same time, since everybody was surrounding Yu Dan, my colleague and I were much more relaxed than usual because nobody paid attention to us.

Third: The proudest meeting

Throughout the whole journey, I've seen many people astonished to meet me. Most react with surprise when the host introduces me saying that I am visually impaired. However, I was never happy with this response, because people were honestly not surprised by my capability, but simply thought it was not easy for a visually impaired person to be a stenographer. But what impressed me most was a meeting held by the Beijing Disabled Persons’ Federation.

The Deputy Mayor of Beijing, Mr. Chen, head of the Disabled Persons Federation, called upon all participants to applaud to show us respect when we were finished. This was because he noticed the title of the meeting projected on the screen – The Disabled Stenographer Workshop, and knew we were good. That applause still echoes at the bottom of my heart.

Fourth: The weirdest meeting

God likes to play jokes and often makes fun of us. Once I arrived at a meeting one hour early as usual to test equipment and software. Everything turned out to be all right. However, when I re-tested it five minutes before the meeting, a weird thing happened: the inputs did not display on the monitor!

I checked every piece quickly, and the stenography machine, software and connecting line were all okay. My God, was it me that had a problem?

The thought of making mistakes during today's meeting made my heart dropped all the way to the floor. For able-bodied stenographers, making mistakes once or twice does not matter much since you can blame the equipment. But for stenographers with visual impairment, once there is a problem, people lose confidence in the capability of visually impaired people and an outpouring of pity and sympathy replaces genuine respect and confidence, which I cannot accept. “You blind people are not good enough!” At this point, all I could do was to silently read the names of various kinds of mythical creatures for blessing, and play my trump card: reset the computer. At that moment, I was all too aware that the passing of a minute truly depends on whether you are in the depths of despair or in a normal situation. After a wait that seemed like eternity, I held my breath, pressed the key and OK!

Fifth: The most relaxed meeting

The clients from whom we receive orders usually strictly require us to meet commercial standards. Getting the speakers' manuscripts in advance definitely helps, especially when we need to simultaneously project subtitles onto a large screen. This also means there should not be any mistakes when subtitles are projected onto the screen. It therefore takes a long time to prepare. But preparation is never enough – some speakers improvise, some speak in a low and slow voice, and some are not good at speaking. Hence, we need to be laser-focused during the meeting, adapting to the speaker's speed, improvisation and lip-synchronization, which is not relaxed at all!

Sixth: The most unexpected meeting

How does it feel when you stumble across your idol in a meeting? I had a chance to have personal contact with one of my favorite idols, Mr. Cai Guoqing, in a meeting, without any preparation, nor any particular advance arrangement. The unexpected appearance of my idol made me rub my ears, eyes and face to see if it was a dream. To my surprise, Mr. Cai Guoqing gave me a hug.

Seventh: The most difficult meeting

Despite being a person who disliked physics since I was young, I spent a whole day taking astrophysics classes in preparation for a bid to conduct stenography for a satellite project. I believe from junior high to senior high, those who have been my classmates for many years must have recognized my pain and helplessness. As a student, I could sleep in class or even drool irresponsibly, but at this meeting, if I fell asleep, I could be fired. I still remember the class that day, with confusion and mystery clouding overhead as broad as the vast sky. I did not know what the teacher was saying, and I just knew my head was getting bigger and bigger, about to explode, like the unbounded universe.

Well, thinking back carefully, I realize that this job has brought me far more than these seven stories. It carries my joy, anger, sorrow, and happiness and how it has changed my life. However, the negative emotions have evaporated and left only sweetness and happiness.

I'm used to having this cracking, typing sound as the rhythm of my life, performing with my fingers, dancing across the keys, and stretching my ears to chase fleeting sounds and catching sparks of intellect. One constant remains the dream at my very fingertips, that is changing the way of life for the visually impaired. This dream brings me a richer depth of unique life experiences. Here's to continuing to push forward.

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