• Sat
  • Aug 23, 2014
  • Updated: 2:09am
PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 6:59pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 April, 2014, 2:06am

A different perspective of Hong Kong

Peter Kammerer says being visually impaired doesn't mean you're unaware of the world around you - far from it, in fact

Do you see what I see? A reader who commented on my recent column about the influx of mainland tourists being unproblematic clearly doesn't. To paraphrase and embellish the reader's position: someone who is visually impaired isn't likely to notice anything untoward, even if it happens to be a few tens of millions of people with suitcases. In response: are you serious?

I'll ignore the apparent belief that someone without sight doesn't know what they are talking about. Similarly, I'll assume that this reader has had limited exposure to people with physical differences to him or her. With that in mind, let me reveal what I can see that others can't. Welcome to my world.

Lose the use of one sense and all the others sharpen. A crowd of people can not only be heard, but sensed because they block noise and environmental conditions such as the wind or the heat of sunlight. As six in 10 mainlanders smoke and only one in 10 Hongkongers do, it's possible to guess the source of cigarette smoke with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Now for the clincher: if someone speaks Cantonese differently from the way locals do, or even another Chinese dialect, there's a chance they're not from Hong Kong.

My dentist's assistant is in awe of me. "How on earth did you find your way here without someone helping you?" she wonders. Well, truth be told, I didn't: beyond my knowing the way there like the back of my hand, there's always someone in Hong Kong at any time of day or night watching out for you. Most of the time, if my path is blocked, someone will gently grab an arm and nudge me aside.

From years of experience, I just happen to know that my dentist's building is the only one on that stretch of road that has a ramp rather than a step at the entrance - I can easily find that with my cane. The lift is negotiated by the helpful doorman pressing the right button.

I have to duck before sliding into the dentist's chair to avoid hitting my head on the low-hanging light. Paying the bill is easy because the various denominations of banknotes and coins are different sizes. Getting home isn't a problem because I have braille-encoded bus numbers in plastic sleeves produced by the Hong Kong Blind Union ; the bus stop is past the McDonald's - the smell of French fries from the street is overpowering - and there's a metal-posted timetable where the bus picks up passengers that can be found by tapping it.

My computer, mobile phone and clock all have speech capability to tell me what I need to know.

I can read, communicate and write as quickly as anyone else. The convenience of buses and the MTR and their provision of braille, tactile surfaces and spoken destination announcements make getting around a straightforward matter for the visually impaired.

Adapting and technology mean that people who can't see as well as everyone else no longer have to sit at home unemployed or do menial jobs as they once did. Throw in an inquiring mind, common sense and local knowledge and they can even shed fresh light or a different perspective on a situation.

Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post

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honger
Peter,
Excellent and poignant piece about the travails of sight challenged souls like you. Shame on those who picked your handicap to attack your views.
To borrow a phrase from the bible: "They have eyes but do not see." Such are the likes of impala et al, they don't see much of anything since they prefer to "look" thru blinkered shades of discrimination and hate. This includes belittling the abilities of the handicapped.
ssslmcs01
I agree that people who "pick on" others handicaps are shameful but having read many of Peter's columns and the comments that follow, I can't recall having read any (comments) that did (pick on his handicap).
Could you point one of them out to me?
honger
i see u were one of those who posted at least 3 times to Peter's earlier comment. Here, if u insist:
"And let’s not forget that just because someone is blind, it does not stop them from being stupid or insane."
I also see that u are one of the mainland hating, anti china trolls prowling on thsi platform who tries to shut up anyone with a dissentign view, Peter, for instance.
honger
Obviously, u didn't read his comment properly:
"A reader who commented on my recent column about the influx of mainland tourists being unproblematic clearly doesn't. To paraphrase and embellish the reader's position: someone who is visually impaired isn't likely to notice anything untoward, even if it happens to be a few tens of millions of people with suitcases. In response: are you serious?

I'll ignore the apparent belief that someone without sight doesn't know what they are talking about. Similarly, I'll assume that this reader has had limited exposure to people with physical differences to him or her. With that in mind, let me reveal what I can see that others can't. Welcome to my world."
HK_eh!
impala is right. great to milk the tourism trade but please ensure the infrastructure and impact to people living here is minimized. that is not the case now, govt is passive and only the big landlords are milking it with watch and other luxury shops.
this hit home for me last Thurs, was in TST ~4pm for a meeting, coming out of the MTR, a young chinese couple had their young son (looked 3 yrs old) pull down his pants near the side for a pee, just like a dog!
Thought it only happen in the news. I didn't see this happen in London or Paris last year, part of it must be Chinese think HK is like China, OK to act "Normal", and by the way, feel free to come to Guangzhou or Dongguang and take a pee on the street too.
But in a "****" city, they show more refrain. it's not a chinese city lah.
lui.thw@gmail.com
I don't know if you have been to LKF on Friday night, you will find lots of people, white and Chinese, **** everywhere.
HK_eh!
ha, it's funny, the scmp filter **** out the word g * w * e * i * l * o in my comment above. is this a derogatory word now, I must remember this next time I'm out with my w * h * i * t * e * y friends.
blue
"w * h * i * t * e * y friends."

Cool. You a local or expat?
impala
In my comment in response to your previous column 'Anti-mainlander whingers miss the point of big city living (SCMP, March 17th) I stated that you had no idea what you were talking about. I suspect you are making a reference to that when you today write about the "apparent belief that someone without sight doesn't know what they are talking about."

And you are completely wrong (again). Nowhere in my comment did I make even the slightest reference to your visual impairment, which is indeed completely irrelevant here. Other commenters did, and shame on them.

In the aforementioned column, you displayed ignorance of the problems ordinary Hongkongers face in their day-to-day lives due to the 50~60 million mainland 'tourists' our city receives every year. Your argument came down to: it isn't so bad, except during rush hour in Causeway Bay; just go somewhere else in the city, or shop online and stop whinging.'

As outlined in my comment then, you chose to ignore, or perhaps were/are simply not aware of an enormous pile of real problems people all over Hong Kong face because of an unsustainably high number of mainland 'tourists' that is the result of a triple policy failure: no (luxury) sales tax, unlimited tourist visa issuance and failure to plan sufficient relevant infrastructure (for tour buses, for suitcases and other public transport needs).
lui.thw@gmail.com
Really, we have bigger problems to face like climate change and food security. Why don't you reserve your energy and worry about the bigger problems?

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