HKDSE 2020: How one student with a disability pursues her dream of becoming a graphic designer

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  • Mary Lam Ka-yan has cerebral palsy, a disorder with impairs her visual perception and the movement of her limbs
  • She did basic copybook exercises every day to increase her writing speed in preparation for the public exams
Kelly FungGigi Choy |
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Mary Lam Ka-yan would do copybook exercises every day to increase her writing speed for the HKDSE. Photo: Handout, provided by Lam Ka-yan, Mary

Mary Lam Ka-yan remembers the anxiety she felt as she fought to squeeze out paint during her visual arts practical assessment when she took the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exam in April this year.

The 21-year-old, who is pursuing her dream of becoming a graphic designer, has cerebral palsy, a disorder which impairs her visual perception and the movement of her hands and legs.

“I was granted extra time to finish the exams as this disorder has affected my writing speed and ability to paint. At times I would need help from assistants at the exam venue as I have difficulty squeezing the paints and performing precise movements with my hands,” she said on Wednesday.

Mary said she is passionate about cartoons and landscape painting. Photo: Handout, provided by Lam Ka-yan, Mary

To prepare for the university entrance exams, she would do basic copying exercises every day for 10 to 15 minutes to speed up her writing skills.

The student from Hong Kong Red Cross John F Kennedy Centre, for pupils with physical disabilities, received a total score of 19 points with satisfactory results in both English and Chinese subjects, and a stellar 5* in the English oral exam.

But her lower than expected result in visual arts may not guarantee a spot at Polytechnic University’s School of Design, her dream.

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Still, Mary said she would not give up despite the setback.

“On the one hand I will continue my journey by self-learning art, on the other hand, I will work on my languages and see if I can make something of it,” she said.

She hopes to become a graphic designer that specialises in books and promotional materials, and already has ideas about how to make eye-catching and interesting works.

Mary has always been in tune with her artistic side, even from a young age.

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“When I was young, I used to paint with my sister a lot,” she said. “My primary school teachers cultivated my interest in art, later I studied visual arts in secondary school where I was able to widen my perspectives in different art forms.”

Due to the pandemic, Mary could not go to scheduled tutorial classes at school during the study leave period. However, she tried to minimise the effects of school closures by redoubling her efforts at home and drawing on support from her teachers.

“Teachers really cared about us and offered online classes from time to time to clarify some concepts with us,” she said. “They were very supportive and even created an online message board to encourage us before the exams.”

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