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Researchers help pioneer ways to enrich lives of visually impaired, An Baijie and Hou Chenchen report.

By An Baijie and Hou Chenchen | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-24 15:53

Zhong Jinghua explains the tonal Braille system for learners, in 2023.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Inclusive education

According to the Seventh National Population Census of China in 2020, there are more than 17 million visually impaired people in the country. Zhong says that both the government and society are increasingly focused on educating this group.

When Zhong began working in education for the visually impaired in the mid-1980s, fewer than 5 percent of children in the group were enrolled in schools. At that time, he was a math teacher at Changle Normal School in East China's Shandong province.

As China began building up its standardized special education, Changle Normal School underwent a major transformation in 1985, becoming the Changle Special Education Normal School. And Zhong became a teacher for the visually impaired.

In 1988, he participated in a sponsored training session by the Caterpillar Foundation in Qingdao, Shandong. He and 32 other graduates became the first standardized teachers for the visually impaired. In 2003, Zhong headed to Beijing Union University and focused on Braille research.

At least 95 percent of visually impaired children now have access to schooling, based on a major program for promoting special education.

"The national social science fund prioritizes special education research projects. Moreover, when our project requires interdisciplinary support, researchers from esteemed institutions like the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Tsinghua University, and Beijing Language and Culture University generously lend their expertise," Zhong says.

Zhong says he will dedicate his life to empowering the visually impaired and expresses the hope for more opportunities for visually impaired individuals to access education and become teachers themselves because they understand the needs of the community.

After completing the tone annotation project, Zhong will focus on word segmentation of Mandarin Braille.

"It is not easy to do one thing well in a short life. My whole life is wrestling with the six dots," Zhong says.


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