The nation’s first blind female doctoral graduate, Lai Shu-lan (賴淑蘭), moved many to tears during a speech she made at the National Chung Cheng University graduation ceremony on Saturday.
The 57-year-old stood out among the university’s 3,160 graduates — including bachelors, masters and doctoral students.
She was diagnosed at the age of 26 with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, which caused her vision to start deteriorating irreversibly.
Despite 20 years of medical treatment, her world slowly turned from color to black and white and, eventually, to grey-black. However, she remained defiant in the face of her illness and in 2002 she obtained her masters degree.
Speaking of her journey to become a doctor of philosophy, she said that “it was a very difficult process, but learning helped me get back nearly all the abilities I had before I became blind.”
“Blindness has also made me reflect on the meaning of life and existence, and has made me cherish every moment more,” she added.
After completing her dissertation on the effects of logotherapy treatment for people who lose their sight in adulthood, she said that she hopes to apply her findings to adult education and design an education program for people who go blind once they are already adults.
Lai also said that she no longer fears what the future holds in store for her.