WBU-AP(Junior Group) Fine work
Changing What It Means To Be Blind
Vietnam Nguyen Thi Thuy (25/Female)
I was born in a poor family in Nghe An Province. At birth, I already had low vision and my sight gradually deteriorated until I became totally blind at the age of five. My father was a wounded soldier, my mother was a farmer and I had five other siblings.
In spite of our crowded family and economic difficulties, nonetheless, I grew up in a loving and protective environment. As a result, I was not aware that my life or my situation was different from that of other children. I just took my blindness for granted and I did not wonder why I could not see.
I began to be aware that I was different only when the time came when all my friends started going to school. I started having the desire to be able to see the faces of my loving family, to appreciate the colourful flowers and, most of all, to go to school with my friends. I began to realise that I was getting information about my surroundings through my hands and I wondered whether my dreams for the future would ever come true.
Then, in 1997, when I was nine years old, my parents took me to the Vocational Education Centre for Persons with Disabilities in Nghe An Province. For the first few days, I was worried and alarmed because I was so far away from home and I had to get used to doing things on my own. However, the joy of going to school and meeting new friends who were also blind like myself helped me to overcome my difficulties. Gradually, I got myself acquainted with the new environment and I settled down.
The first days of learning Braille were very challenging because everything felt strange to me. At first I had feelings of depression because my fingers could not recognise the position of the Braille dots. Those difficulties soon passed, however, as my teachers helped me to get used to the slate and stylus. Each letter and each number was represented by tiny dots and I learned how to read them by touching them with my fingers. After a hard time of learning and practice, I could eventually read and write Braille fluently. From then on, I felt that Braille was truly a close friend as it helped me to overcome other barriers that I came across in my school life.
After returning to my home-town, I was registered in a public secondary school. Once again, I had to get used to the new environment, new friends and new teachers. I felt that I was a totally different person in class and I was scared because of the teasing by the other students.
Learning was very stressful because, instead of a white notepad and a normal pen, I had to use the slate and stylus. My writing implements were completely different from those used by my class-mates. The teachers had no experience in teaching blind students and most of them did not understand what I was writing in Braille. I felt totally isolated because I was considered as "a special student" in the eyes of my class-mates.
However, the challenges I faced did help to make me realise that I had to study hard in order to prove the others wrong - I may be a blind student but I had the intelligence to study. I wanted to be treated as an equal and I wanted to be integrated into society. Thus, as time passed, my initial difficulties in the new integrated environment were being gradually overcome. Eventually, I found much pleasure in reading Braille and I gained much information by listening to programmes on the radio. And so I began to feel that life was now smiling upon me again.
I did well in the secondary school examination and qualified for entrance to the university - this made my parents very happy. Thus, I was registered at the Hue Science University. Here, too, I had to work very hard because of the lack of Braille textbooks. I used a recorder to take down the lectures which I then listened to at home and made my notes in Braille.
With the introduction of the computer, learning became much easier and more convenient. I was now able to type my assignments with the computer and even email them to my teachers. Soon the other students considered that I was their equal and this made me feel more confident in myself and my abilities.
Indeed, I know that the road ahead is long and there will be many more challenges and hardships. Nevertheless, I believe that Braille will always be a reliable partner and it will help me to see my dreams come true. My hopes are that I will be able to use the knowledge and skills I have acquired to help other blind people who are in need and are facing great difficulties in my country.