Here’s a question for you: how do you lip-read when everyone is wearing an anti-pollution facemask? One hearing-impaired woman from Great Britain found out while doing an internship in Beijing. She tells her story to the BBC in "Toxic Talk: Trying to Lip Read in China."
Before leaving for Asia I had seen pictures of people in front of a dimmed Tiananmen Square wearing facemasks to protect themselves against pollution. It had never occurred to me that this would prevent me from seeing people's lips moving.
Most days, the city's pollution levels would be high and the majority of people chose to wear a mask to save them breathing in toxic fumes. It meant I had to ask people to remove their masks if they wanted to talk with me, which was often initially met with looks of confusion.
Since she is not completely deaf, she was able to take Chinese lessons, which proved to also have its unique challenges.
An additional challenge is that in Chinese the same word can have several meanings denoted by four tones—up, down, flat or dipping the sound—which I can't hear so I really have to concentrate on the context surrounding the word.
She encountered many people for whom she was the first person with a disability they had ever met, and also became aware of the marginalized lives that the disabled people lead. Despite all that, however, her experience was a positive one, and her love for China shines through in the post.
In case you missed them, here are some recent ChinaSource posts that dealt with disabilities.
Tim Baker recently wrote about the service that Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village provides for disabled children, and shares the encouraging story of a young woman setting out to live independently in Beijing.
Finally, as churches in China look for ways to be salt and light in their community, many are increasingly looking for ways to reach out and minister to those with disabilities. At Chinese Church Voices, we have translated articles about a church that reaches out to lepers, and the opening of a church for the blind.