Ang Ziyu (right) leads other members during a training session designed to help visually impaired students bound for college travel independently in Shanghai this month. FANG ZHE/XINHUA
SHANGHAI-After taking a few steps, Chen Huixian stopped at the end of a crosswalk as roaring vehicles passed by and finally made up her mind to cross the road.
She continued her steps carefully, with her head up, while waving her hands.
The small step that might seem familiar to most people was a big leap for Chen, 23, a college-bound student who has impaired vision. It was the first time she had crossed the road on her own.
On Aug 16, Chen and 19 other young people completed a free one-week training course for visually impaired college-bound students in Shanghai.
The course, initiated by Shanghai Youren Foundation and Shengbo FM, a social service center for the disabled, aims to help visually impaired students grasp survival skills before entering college. Training visually impaired students to perform tasks like traveling alone, using computers and fostering social skills is expected to help them adapt better to their forthcoming college life unaided.
By the end of this month, Chen will leave her hometown in Shandong province and head to a university in Beijing to start a new life. Before her departure, she attended the preparatory course and experienced many firsts there: using a cane for the blind, crossing a road independently and visiting the mall alone.
"The first step is always difficult. After entering university, I will walk around by myself every weekend and participate in some charity activities," Chen said.
Ang Ziyu, a high school graduate in Anhui province who has retinitis pigmentosa, which can cause tunnel vision and eventual loss of eyesight, took the college entrance examination for the second time this year. After securing good grades this time, Ang wants to study at a university in Beijing, a city more than 1,000 kilometers from home, so he has to prepare himself to face many new challenges.
Ang joined the preparatory course in Shanghai, where he learned how to use apps for navigation, public transportation and online payment independently.
"Just like Chen, many blind students grew up in a relatively enclosed environment, such as special schools. They are well protected by their teachers and relatives, and thus may not use a blind cane," said Yang Qingfeng, who initiated the preparatory course.
"However, they will face a bigger world and communicate with more people after entering university, as well as encounter many unexpected difficulties. Only by living and doing work on their own can they live life without depending on others, and develop personalities and values independently."
There are over 17 million visually impaired people in China, nearly a quarter of them under 30.
Yang said the number of visually impaired students admitted to universities nationwide every year is in the hundreds, and the group could become role models for people with visual impairment.
"We would like to spare no effort to prepare them for their smooth entry into universities," Yang said.
The course has been organized three times so far, with 51 students attending the program.
Yang said organizers have been optimizing the course, and this year, apart from necessary living skills, content about career planning and international affairs had been added.