(only available in Chinese)
At first, Lai Ping did not notice that her vision was narrowed till she accidently bumped into a pedestrian when she was walking on the street. Taking a friend’s advice , she went to seek clinical consultation. Then, she was diagnosed as suffering from Retinitis Pigmentosa. Her vision was narrowed and it was difficult for her eyes to adapt to darkness. In the worst-case scenario, she may turn completely blind as time goes by. Now, Lai Ping has lost most of her vision and there is only a tiny circle left in her eyesight. Therefore, she needs to keep a certain distance to see things and objects. “The doctor told me that there was no way to cure my illness. After that I had never been out on the street at night, until I learnt how to use the tactile stick.” Lai Ping knows that she is suffering from an incurable disease, and hopes that she will not become completely blind in her life-time.
After being diagnosed by the doctor, Lai Ping hit her low point in life. The psychological fear of using the tactile stick is most perplexing. Initially, Lai Ping was very stressful once she used the tactile stick in fear of being regarded as a completely blind person by the community. Yet, with the encouragement from her friends and for her own safety, she decided to overcome her fears and actively learnt how to use the tactile stick. In the beginning, Lai Ping was willing to use the tactile stick only at night. As she met more tactile stick users and became friends, she acknowledged the advantages of using the stick and decided to use it all day long. To help other visually impaired people to overcome their fear, she has started to be an instructor of visually impaired people since 2012. She teaches members how to live and embrace themselves as a visually impaired.
The relationship between Lai Ping and the Hand in Hand Capable Theatre started at the Hong Kong Society for the Blind. Lai Ping’s ophthalmologist introduced her to different social groups and networks of the blind people in Hong Kong after her diagnosis. She met various visually impaired people and the fear towards her own disability gradually disappeared. Lai Ping joined the Hand in Hand Capable Theatre in 2013 after her first trial with her son in a theatrical performance organized by the Hong Kong Society for the Blind. Performing in various plays. Lai Ping noticed that she was able to reveal the temperaments which were rarely expressed in her ordinary life including being angry and yelling at the others. These were all interesting and reflecting experiences to her.
On the other hand, enjoying her time in the theatrical troupe, Lai Ping has met a lot of people with different types and levels of disabilities as well as the able-bodied. She treasures this inclusive community where the disabled and the able-bodied communicate in a forthright and respectful manner and people are all taking care of each other. Apart from practices and rehearsals, they often have their own social gatherings and leisure activities. In 2017, the troupe went to Sweden for cultural exchange. They visited local barrier-free theatre groups and the related facilities. The most impressive thing in Sweden for her was the local buses featuring built-in stairlifts. They allowed the disabled to sit with the able-bodied friends without being isolated. Through participating in the Hand in Hand Capable Theatre, Lai Ping discovered that her disabled friends could live their lives fully and wonderfully, and hence, so could she!
Lai Ping hopes the society could understand more about people with disabilities. They are not completely disabled. The public please do not assume that they are unable to do anything and please do not presume that they often need help. All they need would just be a chance. The life of people with disabilities could also be fascinating that well beyond imaginations. They may not be necessarily more disadvantaged than the able-bodied. Disability can somehow help a person to start a new chapter in life. The most important thing is that people with disabilities have to embrace themselves as who they have become, understand their own ability and make an effort to meet their own needs. Eventually, they will fully integrate into the society.
Written by: Justin Ng
Photography by: Benny
Original story in Chinese, English translation by: Justin Ng