Blind Tsinghua grad aims to inspire others

By Cheng Si (China Daily) 10:40, July 03, 2024

Liang Jiangbo at Tsinghua University. (Photo/Official WeChat account of Tsinghua University)

Thirty-nine-year-old Liang Jiangbo, who became the first blind person to earn a postgraduate degree from Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University last month, said he plans to devote himself to helping more disabled people better integrate into society.

Born in Bengbu, Anhui province, Liang said his disability made his educational journey tough and bumpy.

"My parents' efforts gave me the chance to attend a local regular school … when I was 10," he said. "Then I went out of the province to special schools for the blind in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, at 13, and Qingdao, Shandong province, at 18 for high school courses.

"The three schools gave me different memories and life perceptions. I had a very interesting time at the regular school, even though I just sat in on some classes, as my peers there didn't treat me as a disabled person. We were playing together, sharing snacks, and monkeying around."

Liang said he truly realized he was a blind student at the special schools because they tried to dissuade him from trying to get into a regular university and instead encouraged him to learn massage and think about running a shop to make a living.

He was admitted to Beijing Union University in 2006, where he majored in acupuncture and massage therapy. While at the university, Liang also made a point of engaging in social activities to build better connections.

He said that applying for a place in the social work master's program at Tsinghua was not an impulsive act.

"It was my dream school when I was a child, and my work experiences — editing and proofreading Braille at a publishing house and serving at a foundation for the disabled from 2013 to around 2020 in Beijing — set my mind on continuing my education," Liang said.

"Both of my previous jobs served people with disabilities and I thought I could provide them more benefits and let them better integrate into society through my efforts."

However, there were no study materials for visually impaired people wanting to prepare for the postgraduate examination.

"I had to convert the materials into speech-recognition formats and spot possible mistakes during the format conversion process," Liang said.

After preparing for almost a year, Liang took the postgraduate examination in late 2021.

"For regular students, the time for a single subject test is about three hours," he said.

"But for me, I was allowed to extend the time to four and a half hours as it took longer to read the Braille."

Liang said he was thrilled when he received his letter of admission from Tsinghua in June 2022.

"My hands were trembling and I failed to open the letter myself," he said. "But I carefully touched and felt the words and emblem printed on the letter.

"The time studying at Tsinghua went so quickly, and I've observed some interesting changes in my classmates. They treated me discreetly at the very beginning as they had no idea how to communicate with and get on with disabled people. They would ask me if I needed any help when I stood up, moving to get some water. Things changed after we became more familiar, and sometimes I might even do them a favor.

"Those changes are the reason I chose the major as I wish for people with disabilities to get proactively involved in some social activities and community life. Human beings are a diverse bunch and we disabled are part of that diversity."

Liang said he would join a social organization focused on public benefits to serve and advance the social integration of disabled people.

He also plans to organize some public lectures to let more people get a clearer picture of those with disabilities.

Liang said he may pursue a doctorate in social work in the future.

"I wish to grow into a scholarly practitioner in the public welfare sector, and push forward events benefiting the disabled with more professional and rigorous surveys and evaluations," he said.

"I hope my story can be inspirational, as I've proved that any dream can be reached."

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


Related Stories