Visually impaired man ready for college

Zhang Yaodong, a blind student at Hubei University of Chinese Medicine in Wuhan, plays the erhu, a traditional Chinese instrument.
PHOTO: Visually impaired man ready for college

CHINA - Since he was an infant, Zhang Yaodong of Gansu province has been dealing with physicians for his eye disease.

As a result, he wanted to become a physician of traditional Chinese medicine to help others like himself.

However, this has not been an easy dream to fulfil, especially for a young man who is blind in his left eye and has lost most of the sight in his right. Over the past 12 years, Zhang found it difficult to study in ordinary school; attend gaokao, the national college entrance exam; and get enrolled in an ordinary university.

In April, his family was on the verge of giving up to try a special university for blind and visually impaired students.

Finally, their hard work paid off: Zhang was enrolled by Hubei University of Chinese Medicine in Wuhan on July 27.

"For students like me, it is a great triumph to be enrolled by a university," said the 18-year-old Zhang.

"I just want to focus on every day's work now, which was exactly what I've done the past 12 years."

More than 13 million Chinese are blind or visually impaired, accounting for 18 per cent of the world's blind population. It took years before people like Zhang could take exams, especially the gaokao.

In 2008, China revised its law on the Protection of Disabled Persons, which now says that blind and visually impaired people must be provided with Braille and audio materials and assistance from staff members when they take exams.

In 2012, a student from Qingdao, Shandong province, applied to take the gaokao and was rejected. The reply of the Ministry of Education said ordinary universities didn't have the capability to assist blind students.

But on March 28, the ministry announced that this year, for the first time, the blind and visually impaired will be allowed to take the gaokao and will receive the necessary assistance and tools to enable them to do so.

In May, the education authority of Gansu confirmed that Zhang Yaodong could take a gaokao suited to his disability. Another student from Henan also received the same confirmation.

Hu Huiyuan, director of the university's publicity department, said the school will assist Zhang with his studies and daily life after he arrives in September. The school is still working on the details.

Zhang was given special paper with large type and a magnifying glass in a special room during the exam. However, he didn't get extended time, unlike the other blind candidate, in Henan province.

Both Zhang Jian and his wife, Li Xiaotao, have devoted themselves to helping Zhang Yaodong with his studies.

Now Zhang Yaodong can speak English and Japanese, and likes to play musical instruments.

"I think parents like us shouldn't give up too early," Zhang Jian said.

Fu Gaoshan, the founder of the One Plus One Disabled Person's Cultural Development Center, an organisation in Beijing that fights for the rights of disabled people, said both parents and universities should adjust their mindset and understand it is not difficult for blind and visually impaired students and normal-sighted students to study together.