Feature: Paralympic champion lights up world for blind children

Updated: 2022- 05- 20

NANCHANG, May 19 (Xinhua) -- Six years ago, Jia Juntingxian topped the podium at the Paralympic Games in Rio, gaining global fame as a professional runner despite her visual impairment.

Now she has turned her attention to another worthy cause, teaching reading skills to visually impaired children in her home city of Pingxiang, east China's Jiangxi Province.

In the classroom of Pingxiang Special Education School, the retired athlete teaches Braille to five children, gently guiding their hands as they feel the raised dots on Braille textbooks.

"I received love and help from many people when I was young," said Jia. "Now I want to pass on this benevolence."

Jia was born to an ordinary worker's family in Pingxiang in 1986. She was diagnosed with congenital eye disease after birth but later discovered a talent for athletics.

In 2016, Jia and her teammates won gold in the women's 4x100m T11-13 final at the Rio Paralympics, setting a world record in the process.

Among her students is a 17-year-old boy surnamed Lin. He has been learning braille with Jia for the past three years and has become an avid reader.

"I don't want to put the books down, even during lunch or at bedtime," said Lin.

Another student, who gives her name simply as Xixi, said she finds great joy in reading, especially Chinese classical poems.

Jia teaches her students to explore books with their hands, and to cherish the knowledge that they gain through the process.

"I hope my students build self-esteem through independence. Books give them a door to dignity and independence," said Jia.

In addition to Braille classes, Jia also provides physical education classes for the visually impaired students. They learn how to use white canes to walk steadily, as well as amusing themselves with games such as passing the ball in response to sounds.

As the head of Pingxiang's blind association and a municipal political advisor, Jia pays close attention to the rights and interests of disabled people.

In 2021, Jia proposed the erection of audible traffic signals for blind pedestrians. Her advice to local authorities on dog management has resulted in more indoor public venues allowing the disabled to enter with their assistance dogs.

Jia and her husband founded a massage salon and currently employ 16 visually impaired people, with an average monthly salary of 3,500 yuan (about 518 U.S. dollars) per person.

The Paralympic champion was also awarded the China Youth May Fourth Medal this year, the top honor for outstanding young Chinese people.

Official data shows that from 2016 to 2020, more than 1.8 million disabled people were newly employed in China. According to a three-year plan issued by the State Council, 1 million new jobs will be created for persons with disabilities in urban and rural areas between 2022 and 2024.

Jia intends to continue making her own contribution, providing hope to more blind children through education.

"I understand the difficulties these students face, because I experienced them before," said Jia. "Seeing a small improvement in them gives me a great sense of accomplishment."