'The world is prettier when everything is blurred'
Chiu Wai-chi walks slowly, her dim eyesight making it difficult to find her way.
Before leaving home, she must make sure she has dozens of pills and the syringes and testing needles that she needs to check and maintain the sugar level in her blood.
The 26-year-old was diagnosed with diabetes when she was nine and her loss of sight is one of many complications she has battled over the years, during which she has earned a design diploma and developed a passion for drawing and painting.
'My world is blurred,' she says. 'I have forgotten what the world looks like when everything is sharp.'
Forced to give up work when her health suddenly deteriorated two years ago, Chiu went to painting lessons run by Arts with the Disabled Association's Jockey Club Inclusive Arts Programme. She also learnt pottery, chair-making and sand arts that the association offers under the same programme.
'I went to drawing and painting classes when I was a kid, but I didn't learn painting systematically until now,' she says. 'The classes allowed me to really focus on painting.'
Chiu has lost more than 70 per cent of her vision and would be totally blind by now if an operation two years ago had not succeeded.
'There was a very difficult period when I realised diabetes had damaged my vision,' she recalls. 'I love colour but now I can't tell the differences between colours when they are similar, such as red and orange, or deep blue and black.
'My images on the paper are not what I have in my mind. But I have got over this. Now I think it is quite good. The world is prettier when everything is blurred, and there is plenty of room for my creativity and imagination. The big contrasting colours on the paintings are my trademark. Since I can't see the world clearly, I am more relaxed now. '
Because she cannot read or see details, Chiu paints and draws as she pleases or from memory. 'I fill in the details with my imagination.'
One of her acrylic paintings, Ships, is an exhibit at the association's annual 'A Bit More Than Arts Festival', showing at the Jockey Club Creative Centre in Shek Kip Mei until November 2. A colourful wooden stool she made is also on display.
She started teaching recently at the Hong Kong Down Syndrome Association, instructing children once a week in numbers, cooking and painting, and hopes to become a professional illustrator.