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Technology a shining light amid a world of darkness
 
Date:2019-10-15  Source:Xinhua
 With a smartphone in his hands, Li Jian slays monsters to earn gold and resources following the voice prompts provided by a piece of screen reading software he installed.

He cannot see, yet blindness does not prevent him from stepping out of his house, "walking ten thousand miles and reading ten thousand books," thanks to technological advancements.

Li, 33, is a massage practitioner in Yinchuan, capital of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. When he was 12, he was diagnosed with retinal detachment as a result of trauma and gradually lost his sight. Then, he transferred from a common school to a school for the blind.

He recalled that, in the past, the blind took portable radio receivers with them wherever they went. To minimize the disturbance to others, they usually turned down the volume and held it tightly to their ear.

"Just like making phone calls," he said.

At that time, his only form of entertainment was listening to stories and traditional Chinese operas on the radio receiver, and occasionally reading books in braille. Such books, however, were very limited.

"Nowadays, I can enjoy various kinds of entertainment. I usually read novels, listen to music and chat online. More than that, I surf my Weibo account and update my WeChat page," he said.

Screen reading software can translate characters on the screen into audio for the blind and visually impaired, so that they can type and communicate with other internet users.

It is among a slew of new technologies that meet the demands of the blind and empower them to step out into the world.

Li is also a movie fan who loves seeing new movies in the movie theater. "In the past, when there were no car-hailing apps or online maps, I hardly dared venture far from home," he said.

China has over 12 million blind and partially sighted people.

With increased public awareness and strengthened government efforts, the living conditions of visually impaired citizens in China have been greatly improved, with better access to education, books in braille, as well as disabled-friendly furniture.

"Information accessibility allows the blind to freely use smartphones and computers, which brings great changes to their lives," said Yan Bo, president of the Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired of Yinchuan.

According to Yan, the Disabled Persons' Federation and the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired host regular barrier-free training courses teaching those like Li to use mobile phones and computers, so that they can better fit into society.

Tuesday marks White Cane Safety Day, an international event designated by the World Blind Union to help the public better understand blindness and visual handicaps. With the development of the country and the attention of numerous related organizations, many blind and visually impaired citizens have found their lives become easier.

Li Zhijun, a 40-year-old literature lover, was once a secondary-school teacher in Yinchuan. Due to chronic eye disease, his eyesight dropped sharply beginning in 2005, and he had to give up his job.

For Li, technology allowed him to better pursue his dream. "Smart book-reading devices and screen reading software met my needs," he said.

In his spare time, he reads novels and shares audio clips on Ximalaya, a popular audio sharing platform in China. He also does daily typing exercises with the help of special software, hoping to create literary works of his own in the future.

He believes the advancement of technology narrows the gap between the blind and visually impaired and other people. In the future, artificial intelligence will better serve the blind and offer them more convenience.

"I heard that driverless vehicles will be widely promoted soon. I'm looking forward to it," Li Zhijun said. 

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