As children, we all dare to dream big, whether it was hoping to some day travel around the world to imagining a fantasy job.
But sooner or later we let certain obstacles and the pressures of life get in the way of our dreams. However, this isn’t the case for 20-year-old university student Crystal Chow Yuen-ning. Behind those cloudy eyes, Chow still has hope for the future.
Born with albinism – a condition in which a person’s skin, hair, and eyes lack pigment, and so are white – Chow also suffers from visual impairment.
“The best metaphor for my visual ability is that you have very serious myopia, [or] near-sightedness … yet there is no treatment for it, not even wearing glasses or laser,” explained Chow.
Chow faces many difficulties and challenges daily. Even basic transportation has become a problem for her, because she has difficulty reading bus numbers. Often she misses the bus and has to wait for the next one.
Even though there are ways to get around this problem, such as asking bus drivers to stop and holding up a big card with the bus number written on it, she refuses to accept such help.
“I do not want my everyday life to depend on a card. I am independent, like everyone else,” Chow said. “I do not want to be helped by others on such basic matters.”
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She adds that it is still scary for her to go alone to places she is not familiar with, yet she believes that some day soon, she will be able to overcome that fear.
Apart from her daily struggles, Chow also has had some trouble with her studies. One of the symptoms of albinism is nystagmus – rapid and repetitive movement of the eyes. This sometimes makes it difficult for her to read.
“While some people can read quickly, it takes me double or maybe triple their time to understand one sentence,” said Chow, who is studying special education for children at the Open University of Hong Kong.
This affects her revision and performance in exams. “I take hours to study while my classmates might only need half of my revision time, yet [they will get the] same, if not better, results,” she added.
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When asked what drives her, she said it was her dream of becoming a kindergarten teacher.
“I want to be the kind of teacher that tells children that, despite difficulties, as long as we keep fighting, and study hard, all those physical or mental obstacles are just dust compared to the success we will have in the future.”
Chow said she hopes that other young people can find ways to deal with their struggles. “I wish they would try harder. We all have our struggles and difficulties. I have struggled my whole life, but here I am. I just wish they’d realise that it is okay to fail, but it is not okay to give up,” she said.
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Chow attributes her success not just to her perseverance, but also to the improvements in technology. “I can take a picture of my notes and magnify it on my phone,” said Chow, adding that this makes her studying more efficient.
The services provided by the Hong Kong Society for the Blind have also helped her cope with her visual impairments. However, she believes the government can do more by encouraging employers to hire more disabled people.
She urges others to try to understand them. “I hope that Hong Kong people can understand our needs,” said Chow.
“It is never bad to offer us a helping hand but please do respect our decision if we want to complete a task by ourselves because at the end of the day, we still want to be seen as people who have our own abilities.”