More than 85 million people in China identify themselves as living with disabilities, according to the 2010 National Sample Survey on Disability. Only 1 percent have received higher education, as opposed to 40 percent for non-disabled Chinese. As of 2017, there were 12.6 million visually impaired people in China. The majority of them become blind masseurs, fortune tellers, or performers to beg for money due to the limited education available or the acceptance of their “fate”.
However, there are still some who have broken the stereotype and fight for their dreams and Cai Cong is definitely one of the most famous in Beijing. From the idea that “Not every blind person should be a masseur”, he participated in a disabled video advertisement during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
He started a new career an IT software tester two years after his Olympic appearance, and has shown no signs of stopping since. In 2013, Cai founded Someone Magazine under the One Plus One Group for Disability community and became one of the most acclaimed guests of the popular talk show in China, Qipa Show (qípā shuō, 奇葩说). Now, Cai helps other visually impaired people find more paths and opportunities in life.
Beijingkids: What motivated you to start Someone Magazine?
Cai Cong (CC): We hope to create a platform to let disabled people share their opinions, resolve misunderstandings, and enlighten the consciousness of the rights of the disabled. We want to have a magazine that features stories from the perspective of disabled people. Before we focused more on the audio channel for the visual impaired, we still have it now. But it’s not enough, we also want to let people that aren’t disabled know how we live, in an in-depth idea instead of imagining it. Like many blind people, they don’t want to go out because society doesn’t really understand how we live, it’s still an invisible group here. Lack of confidence to go out for most visually impaired people is a big problem. But if people treat us normally, it will be better.
What’s the relationship between Someone Magazine and One Plus One (OPO) Group for Disability community? What do you provide on OPO?
CC: OPO gave birth to Someone Magazine. OPO tries to prove that disabled persons are not “good-for-nothing” but rather have creativity and value. In the past decade, OPO has blazed a pioneering path, created a precedent for development of Chinese DPOs, echoed with China’s alignment with the international community in terms of disability affairs, and propelled gradual change in the environment for disabled people in China. We offer several ways to help the disabled: a public education center, PWD service center, media production center, Disabled persons’ organizations (DPO) development support, and a social enterprise development center.
Are there any specific stories about these centers that assist disabled people?
CC: Actually there are a lot of stories, especially those who have specific skills in IT, or even in law, they want to do more things. For example, in our group, we’ve supported a guy with a dream to be a lawyer. Jin Xi was the first blind person in China to undertake a law degree at a regular university, after which he obtained his Master’s degree in Law. Since graduating in 2016 he has interned and worked at a law firm, thus becoming the first fully qualified blind lawyer of China. He is currently pursuing his PhD in the Soo Chow University Taiwan. He has represented various people with disabilities and intends to promote rights for People with Disabilities. Another example is that we have suggested to the government to set related policies that will allow blind people to take the Gaokao (China’s college entrance examination). In addition, we collaborated with Renmin University Law School and Harvard Law School to further protect the rights and interests of the disabled. Some ways they did so was by establishing the first legal clinic for the disabled in China, and created a forum for disabled people’s rights and protection.
How have you addressed some of society’s questions regarding your ability to be a father?
CC: Before we planned to have children, my wife and I were questioned by the people around us. We are both visually impaired so people were worried that our children would inherit the disability from us. They felt that even if the child was born with normal vision, he or she would face considerable social prejudice. We discussed this topic extensively and reviewed the philosophical and psychological implications of either choice. In the end, we still decided to have a child. There are all kinds of problems in life, why should being visually impaired be the biggest problem? It all depends on one’s attitude. Children think they are normal until people keep telling them that they aren’t because they can’t see, they are pathetic. So, as a dad, I will just encourage my daughter to strive for her dream no matter what.
See more of our coverage on disability and inclusion here.
Photo: courtesy of Cai Cong, cover picture by qq.com