WBU-AP(Senior group) Fine Work
Doing My Best To Prove That "I Can Do It Too" – Changing Public Attitudes Towards Blindness
Fu Tai Fun (35, Female)
"If you are blind, you should not be walking in the streets ''
After becoming blind, my world changed completely and, as if as a matter of course, every day of my life turned out to be less than pleasing. Oh, but what could I do to change the attitude of the public towards blind people?
I felt that it was impossible to change public attitudes toward the blind through the mere effort of a single person. Nevertheless, I have exerted my best efforts in contributing towards this worthwhile goal by taking personal actions.
One way in which I had chosen to do this was to do my best and excel in running, thereby becoming an exemplary icon for other vision-impaired people to look up to.
In fact, I am the first blind woman to have completed the full Marathon in Hong Kong. Sweat, time and perseverance are the prerequisites for successfully completing a long-distance race. Every time I put on the sweat-shirt for vision-impaired athletes and the Marathon runner's bib, a deep sense of mission would emerge in my mind. My participation in races is a vehicle to convey the message that whatever normal people can do, the blind can do it, too.
Not unexpectedly, I had to practise much harder than the usual athlete. Nonetheless, as I crossed the finishing line, apart from receiving a hail of applause, I could feel a surge of self-confidence welling up in me, something which I had lost for a long, long time. This helped to build me up so that I could face future challenges in the years to come.
Last year, local blind runners had to run outside Hong Kong in overseas Marathon events to the tune of 60 person-times. Through our collective actions, we proved to the world that blind people could also enjoy sports in order to maintain good health and well-being. In all those events that we participated in, our fellow athletes and the audience all gave us the thumbs-up in applauding and saluting our runners. Indeed, I had discovered that running is the key to opening the doors of the locked mind for many blind persons, thereby enabling them to regain confidence and establish a sense of purpose in life.
"Your dog is prohibited from entering this place '' Warnings such as this remind me that, in fact, efforts had twice been made to introduce guide-dogs into Hong Kong. The first time was in the 1970's and the second time was just two years ago in 2012.
As a guide-dog user, I had suffered from rejection and severe scolding from members of the public due to the lack of awareness and understanding concerning guide-dogs in Hong Kong. The image of blind people going about with the White Cane has been too entrenched in the public mind. They have no inkling of the idea that guide-dogs could be an alternative help to blind commuters and travellers. With the White Cane, one has difficulty in detecting barriers and obstacles above waist level. To remedy this, the guide-dog which serves as my eyes, thus enabling me to walk more safely, to go further and to walk much faster.
Over the past two years, I have worked hard in an outreach programme with the view to promoting public understanding with regards to guide-dogs. I visited various places, entertained media interviews, and conducted sharing sessions at the schools in order to provide more opportunities for the public to get close to the guide-dog. I wanted to let them know that all guide-dogs had to go through rigourous training so that they will not bark or become over-excited in public places. I told them that the guide-dog to the blind was like the wheelchair to the physically disabled - both having the function of enabling the disabled person to roam freely. Owning a guide-dog, therefore, served an important need in daily life for the blind person and it was not just simply a privilege.
Truly, blindness is but an impairment. If we firmly believe that where there is a will, there is a way, and so long as we do not give up on ourselves, "disabled" does not have to automatically imply "unable".
Last year, I wrote a book in which I recorded my life experiences down the road of blindness. My objective was to help people understand and better appreciate the inner world of the blind. Irrespective of whether one is disabled or not, we can all come together and get along in a harmonious and inclusive society for all.