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September 16, 2019

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Young pioneer turns a blind eye to destiny with sound self-belief

Ma Yinqing has turned a blind eye to the popular notion that blind and visually impaired people are destined to work in the massage industry.

The 24-year-old visually impaired Shanghai resident is probably the first among her peers to start a business in the field of audio program production.

Ma, whose sight was damaged when exposed to ultraviolet light as a premature baby, developed her passion for audio-drama production in high school and later eased her way into the role of a part-time audio program producer.

The visually impaired, who often have a heightened sense of hearing, are suitably competent for such work.

But there are differences in how visually impaired people produce an audio program, which usually includes a read-out text, music and sound effects. They use screen-reading software to help them navigate the sound-editing software. Since screen readers cannot read multiple tracks, the visually impaired can’t create multiple tracks in the same project, like others. Instead, they can create one new track at a time and then have to merge it with a previous one.

“Visually impaired people might be just a little less efficient than normal people in producing a program, but the difference is insignificant and the quality of production is not affected,” Ma said. “All it takes is patience.”

After graduating from a school for blind children, Ma was steered into Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine to study the Chinese therapeutic massage tuina.

Massage has become a standard career path for the blind and visually impaired, but Ma instinctively knew that it was not the job for her.

Ma’s team employs several former tuina therapists. One of them is 30-year-old Yang Le.

“I always wanted to know if I could make a living without doing tuina,” he said. “Now I earn as much money without having to work until 10pm every day.”

Yang said those with impaired eyesight can master the software for audio production in three to six months, but those who are completely blind can take longer.

Ma said she was prompted to start her own audio production team after her application for a job as an audio project coordinator at a firm was rejected.

“I was very dismayed at that time because when a visually impaired person with acute hearing is turned down for a job like that, it doesn’t bode well for others in the same situation,” she said.

In June 2018, Ma started to assemble a team of producers. She registered her new company in February this year. The move, she said, gives the community of visually impaired people new opportunities. “Many of them want to try their hands at this, but they have no access to training geared for the visually impaired,” Ma said. “Training provided free by charities is too basic.”

Ma’s team now totals 15. Ten are visually impaired. “I usually don’t give visually impaired colleagues assignments that are too demanding, such as a sci-fi book project with sound effects almost every 30 seconds,” she said. “But some ask for the harder tasks, and their productions are very satisfying. I am willing to take risks in such cases because I know all too well the importance of accepting new challenges.”

Ma expends much of her energy on discussing produced projects with assignment-givers.

“The way visually impaired people produce a program means that when something needs to be revised, the producer has to do it all over again instead of just correcting something in a saved sound project like normal people do.”

Ma’s visually impaired employees don’t have to come to the office to work. She sends them assignments by e-mail every morning. All communication can be done over the Internet.

Ma and her team are now looking at producing their own audio products.

“We can potentially tell our life stories to encourage other people, and we can share our experiences and personal health tips with listeners,” she said.

Ma said her success to date rests on the support of people who have given her business advice, like An Zhencan, vice president of Fan Deng, a reading service provider and mentor.

In turn, she is as inspiration for students at the school for the blind who harbor thoughts of starting their own businesses one day.

“I tell them, just try and you won’t have any regrets,” she said.


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