WBU-AP Otsuki Award
The Positive Experiences and Opportunities that Can Come from Being Blind
Delgerbayar Erdenesambu Mongolian 27 male

photo:Delgerbayar Erdenesambu 

Like most children I wanted to study but I was blind and I was living in a small village. My Father was working in the army in Ulaan Baatar, the capital of Mongolia. He learned that there was a school for the blind in the city and he asked me whether I wanted to go there. He told me I would be far away from home if I decided to go there. Without hesitation, I replied in the affirmative. And so I started my elementary schooling in 1997 when I was eight years old.

I stayed in a dormitory of the special school for the blind, and I found dorm life to be a real problem as I had been so used to living with my Mother as the apple of her eye. Indeed, I cried every afternoon because I missed my Mother so much. However, as I was the smallest boy among the students, the teacher could not see that I was crying every day. Fortunately, I was able to meet with my Father during the week-ends.

Every morning we had lessons and this helped me to forget thinking of my Mother for a while and I could, therefore, manage without crying. For my first lesson, I began to learn how to read and write with six powerful dots - truly, they had the power to stop me from missing my Mom!

The teachers tried to introduce me to music in the first year. This was because they knew that I had shown an interest in music when I was only two years old. Nevertheless, I had no success at all with music at this early stage.

Another wonderful attraction for me was the library. I really enjoyed staying in the library and reading all the interesting books there, especially those books which told of the experiences of blind persons and their opportunities in life. Then, on the summer vacation, I would go through the lessons with my friends, uncles and aunts. This made me realise that, in fact, I was the child who had made the fewest mistakes.

In my third year, we were given the opportunity to opt for the music class. However, only the first person to raise his or her hand would be selected to register for the programme. While my friends hesitated, I put up my hand immediately without thinking. And so I became the lucky one to be chosen for the music course.

Very soon the piano became a very close friend of mine. For the sighted person, the piano was just a musical instrument; in my case, as a blind person, the piano was a wonderful living thing. Truly, I had the dream of becoming the conductor of a symphonic orchestra.

After years of schooling, I came to realise that music could become more powerful when connected to the computer. When I discovered that with the computer one could produce a symphonic orchestra, I decided that I should have a computer of my own. After a year, my dream came true and I could have access to music with the help of a talking screen-reader.

Initially, I found it very difficult to understand what the computer was saying. I had to study and probe for three long days before I began to feel more comfortable. Gradually, I was able to make out such words as "My Computer", "Recycle Bin", "Winamp", and so on. However, listening to full sentences was a much more challenging task to overcome.

Learning to listen to the computer thus exposed me to the English language. It made me aware of the importance of learning English and awakened in me the dream to master the language. Thus, I managed to complete the intermediate level English course and this enabled me to learn many more useful things in connection with the computer. Now I could read the newspapers, identify locations with the help of the Global Positioning System (GPS), and even recognise colours! - would you believe it?

After graduating from the institute, I applied for a job at a radio station. My education had equipped me with audio-editing skills and I knew that audio-editing would be the most common and useful work required for radio in the 21st century.

Furthermore, I was aware that there were many people who would prefer the natural sounds rather than artificial ones. For example, I realised that blind people were better at sound editing of the human breath than people with sight. While sighted people had the tendency of cutting out the sound of the breath, blind persons would retain the sound of the breath. Percentage-wise, in fact, about 80 percent of blind persons are capable of picking out the natural sounds in the environment in comparison with only 20 percent among the sighted.

As a further example, it seems to be quite a simple thing for a blind person to centre on just one sound with a vacuum head-phone while sighted people find it rather difficult to imagine behind closed eyes. Therefore, with the ability to use this wonderful sound technology, a blind person is better able to create the 7.1 surround sound effect when watching an event such as a football match, which is a great sport, at a stadium even though one is actually just sitting at home.

In fact, blind persons are capable of identifying sounds from all sides, angles and directions with their ears, which is truly an undescribable skill. In the case of the sighted, listening is just left and right for them.

Sometimes I am rather fearful that I might see again because then I would lose my listening skills. I really marvel at the fact that I can count thirty beats in one second just like a singer or a musician.

There is this proverb which says, "If you want to kill a country, you first have to kill the writer". Indeed, the blind have their own writing and it is this that gives them such power!


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