He has rarely been seen in public, and he is unlike other people with disabilities we have seen. He is neither angry nor bitter, and he is not filled with hatred. He is not full of self-pity, and he is not miserable. He is a humble, little man, both humorous and witty. What he experienced during his first thirty years was special, but he admits he is just an ordinary person.
As a public welfare organization advocate, Cai Cong is now a partner to a Beijing welfare group and a disabled organization; he is also the CEO of Someone magazine. He is a non-visual photography instructor and a program producer. He was born in 1986 in Hubei Jingzhou, and at the age of 10 he began losing his vision (his vision is now only 0.2008). In the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games he participated in a disabled video advertisement, and in 2017 he appeared on the talk show Qi Pa Shou.
In Chinese culture, the most popular people in society are featured on the show Qi Pa Shuo. Using his witty humor, Cai Cong attracted stars Ma Dong, Can Kangyong, and He Jiong, all of which gave him a standing ovation. Other top stars, like Xiaosong, praised him and stated Cai Cong was possibly one of the best guests ever to appear on the show.
His view of “the world should not have disabled people” shocked the audience, and for some time Cai Cong became the main focus and center of media discussions, to the point where media stations competed for coverage and news on him.
Call him a marvel, call him a sinner, but his popularity was due to his witty comments, humorous responses, and his interest in the rights for disabled people. It was also a response to the way he broke the stereotype of the typical disabled person and his/her image. As a person with a disabled identity, it all added to his image and made him ever more popular, but Cai Cong cannot truly feel the impact of his popularity.
“Disability is our characteristic, but not a disadvantage”
In 1996, Cai Cong was a 10-year-old boy in Hubei Shashi, and his vision worsened to 0.02.
That year, while at the Spring Festival, his father pointed to a car and asked, “Do you see the car’s license plate?” At that time, Cai Cong did not realize there was something wrong with his eyes and responded “Where? I cannot see it.” Despite how close he got to the car, he still could not see the license plate number. As a result, his father took him to the hospital for help. The diagnosis revealed that Cai Cong suffered from glaucoma.
“Such a handsome child, but he can no longer see.”
Cai Cong’s parents did not know that their child had moved from the back of the classroom to the front in an effort to see the blackboard, but still found it too difficult. But he had a good teacher, and his friends did not abandon him. They even formed a small reading group in which his friends read to him. During this period One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, and other famous novels gave him strength. They helped his understanding that pain, loneliness, and happiness have the same value and are equally important.
“I am already like this, what is more difficult than what I am now.”
Cai Cong worked hard to study, attend school, and play with his friends and classmates. During the final exams, Cai Cong was first in the class, and he became known as “the other person’s child”, which was a compliment in that he was what all parents wanted their children to be like. His excellent academic performance increased his confidence and allowed him to start looking forward to his future.
Despite how well he did in school, he could not complete the normal college entrance exams. Before he took the tests, his vision deteriorated even more, and the necessary papers became very unclear. He asked the staff for assistance, but the Education Examination Institute rejected this. In desperation, he decided to go to Changchun University Special Education Institute, a school that accepted blind students. Here, he met a large number of blind people, but for the first time he was told what kind of future he could have: massage. But this made him wonder—“why can the blind only work as masseuses?” There were many students at the university, and they all had different talents (like singing and dancing). This was when Cai Cong became determined to change the fate of the blind and the paths they could take in their futures.
After he left the university, he was restless. During the previous three years, he used non-visual photography training to assist the blind students to shoot from their hearts. The argument that “the blind shoot whatever” since they cannot see and cannot know what they are doing, Cai Cong believes “the feelings of the blind can also use a camera to convey beautiful scenery”.
His marriage is an example of him following his heart. Many expected Cai Cong to marry someone who wasn’t blind so she could take care of him, but when he found love, he did not avoid his feelings. His wife is also blind, and he wants their love to prove that the blind can pursue happiness.
Once your beliefs are firm, you are more able to accept yourself. At one time, his teacher asked, “When you are on the toilet and cannot see, how do you wipe your ass?” Cai Cong did not take the question seriously, but thought, “Do you need to see in order to wipe?” Just when he believes everything is okay, questions referring to his daughters force him to think more deeply.
On Cai Cong’s desk is a picture of the three of them: himself, his wife, and their daughter. Out of love for him, Xiao Jia, his 26-year-old wife, quit her job in Jiangxi and moved to Beijing where she became a makeup artist, who is teaching the blind how to apply makeup. When they decided to have children, those around them did everything to stop it. Despite their preparations and decision to care for the child whether s/he was healthy or not, their risky behavior to abstain genetic testing drew harsh criticism.
“You two cannot see. What if the child inherits this and is also blind? Isn’t that irresponsible? Aren’t you afraid s/he will be embarrassed that both her parents are blind? Have you not considered your possible child’s feelings?”
Others accuse him and say it is irresponsible to not consider his daughter to which Cai Cong replied, “I cannot see the picture book, then my daughter and I can listen to the book. We can also talk about movies.” This reveals his frustration in realizing there will be many obstacles for them.
The birth of his child has made him firmer in his belief that life is equal and more clearly aware of what children mean to their parents. Cai Cong states, “most people think the sole use of having children is to have someone to look after them once they are old. Those children will become better than their parents (a Chinese philosophy that parents are the dragons, and children are the phoenixes—that each generation becomes more powerful than the one preceding it). I am not like that. My wife and I feel we should enjoy the life that God has given us. I love this child, not because of what she may become in the future or that she will take care of me when I am old, I love her because she is a child who is equal to every other child in the world. She is just as valuable, and no disability can change this.”
“Give them 1000 answers. But there will always be 1001 questions.”
Today Cai Cong has become too tired to respond to questions. He believes that as long as everyone upholds the stereotype for people with disabilities, then nothing will change. This problem will always exist. Not the “wonderful” from wonderful, not the “evil” from evil.
In addition to taking care of his family, Cai Cong works for the disability group promoting its rights. “Cong is our big brother. When he is here, we are not afraid of anything.” When Cai Cong’s name is mentioned at the office, colleagues show their support by giving him a thumbs up.
Uber was bought by “di di?” and this new company ceased providing for the blind. As a result Cai Cong and the group for disabled rights launched an adocate movement and demanded an evaluation of the transportation system. When Huawei and OPPO mobile phones were first released, there were similar problems. Cai Cong encouraged everyone to write to the networks, but to also help modify the initiative in his letters. The event was covered by the news and gained mass media attention due to the determination of Cai Cong and the groups that he led.
According to Cai Cong, much needs to be done to improve the education for the blind in China. “China’s education for the blind is still in its infant stage. Special education schools still insist the only career option for the blind is to be a masseuse, and many blind students still go into the massage industry.”
In his opinion, that profession is not good or bad, the problem is that the blind in China do not have the power to choose what to learn and what to become. In contrast, the employment opportunities for the blind in the United States is relatively open (ex: lawyers, teachers, programmers, etc.). Additionally, in America, visually impaired children attend ordinary schools, and they are given the opportunity to grow up just like others. Cai Cong has said that when people with disabilities are given encouragement, they are ready to enter society with confidence. Unfortunately, when they enter the real world and are faced with the social inequality and non-tolerate attitudes, they become understandably frustrated. In addition, the parents of the disabled are victims to these attitudes and may feel ashamed of their disabled children. As a result, many disabled children find it difficult to enter society, which is most likely why the disabled are never seen on the streets of China.
In an effort to change the living conditions of the disabled in China, Cai Cong reached out via radio shows and magazines. To him it was not work, it was what his heart wanted to do. He went onto Qi Pa Shuo in an attempt to raise awareness for the disabled, change their living environments, and teach others to treat the disabled with more respect.
Cai Cong has done all of this in an effort to raise awareness for the disabled, and it was not for personal fame. Before appearing on the lecture show Wonderful Speech, he refused offers from many other programs. These other shows were more about his life and an attempt to gain sympathy from the viewers, but Cai Cong wanted to educate viewers on the lives of the disabled.
Another reason to why he appeared on Qi Pa Shou was because he agreed with the show’s values. “Over the past decade I’ve been concentrating on what people with disabilities can do. I would spend all day considering various theories, and the more I thought, the further I got from real people and real lives.” Cai Cong has said, “Wonderful Speech believes that nothing is right or wrong, but is there to promote diversity”.
The audience of Qi Pa Shou saw that Cai Cong was the first disabled person ever selected from the hundreds of thousands of applicants. During the first two rounds of the show, he surprised many through intense debate. On the program, he spoke of how he was unlucky to have a disease, but he had such a cheerful tone, many viewers were left with much to think about. After the show more learned of him, and he earned the “wonderful debut” title.
“When blind people want to be successful, it is strange or odd. When blind people deviate from the rest, they are evil or stupid.” These are the opinions of most people, and according to this logic, Cai Cong should be called strange and evil. But, his illness does not infer that he is stupid or a demon; he is someone who has learned to accept himself, become engaged in disability-related work, and provided a voice to a societal group.
[/am4show ]by Kang Chenyuan
This story is part of a series of articles published as an exclusive editorial exchange between China Press for People with Disabilities & Spring Breeze and ABILITY Magazine.