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Generations of writers overcome difficulties to bring new visions to the world

By JIAO JIE | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-08-16 07:38
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The ability to read is only a means, not an end, for the visually impaired, who want to write down their thoughts and express their ideas, according to a senior ophthalmologist.

Tao Yong, director of the ophthalmology department at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital affiliated to Capital Medical University, said visually impaired people often react slowly to the outside world because they cannot see clearly.

This gives many people the wrong impression that the visually impaired are dull and slow to think, but this is not the case.

"Visual impairment does not affect intelligence. On the contrary, visually impaired people are better than others at concentrating on the job they are doing," Tao said.

"A visually impaired person who is properly educated can create artistic works that are not inferior to those made by a sighted colleague."

This is why, over the centuries, a succession of blind writers has emerged.

Around 800 BC in ancient Greece, the blind poet Homer left the world his works The Iliad and The Odyssey. After Braille was invented in 1824, more such writers emerged, as the visually impaired had a unique way of obtaining knowledge.

For example, United States author and educator Helen Keller, who was born in 1880, lost her sight and hearing when she was just 19 months old, but she was still accepted for Harvard University due to her exceptional learning skills. Keller's essay Three Days to See is widely considered a must-read for literature enthusiasts.

Due to Keller's efforts, federal government support was given to Braille books in the US.

In 1930, the Soviet socialist realist writer Nikolai Alexeevich Ostrovsky, who was born in 1904, began work on his first novel How the Steel was Tempered, undaunted by his blindness and paralysis.

In modern-day China, increasing numbers of visually impaired young people are attempting to make an impression on the world with their art and literature.

For example, Wu Keyan, who was born in 1990 in Fujian province, experienced a retinal disease when he was 13 that gradually deprived him of his sight. His doctor said that Wu might be totally blind when he was 32.

Now that age, Wu is the author of a long novel, two collections of short novels and a book of poetry. He is also the first registered member of the Fujian Provincial Writers Association born after 1990.

Meanwhile in Beijing, Yin Menglan, a proofreader at China Braille Press, showed China Daily how she writes in Braille.

She used a needle, a piece of thick Braille paper and a pad with small holes on it. She first fixed the paper to the pad, before starting to prick small holes in it to make dots appear on the other side. She completed an entire line and proudly displayed the dotted paper.

Yin said it takes more effort to prick holes in the paper than to write, but people can become skilled at using Braille after receiving instruction.

Wang Lili, senior publishing expert at China Braille Press, said: "Having been around for almost 200 years, Braille has its own system, and this is why blind writers have been able to emerge. Compared with text for sighted people, Braille is difficult to master, but at least there is a way to do this."

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