“I know how important it is to have the guidance of a voice in the darkness,” said Yang Yi-wen (楊怡雯), formerly an assistant manager in a hotel’s service department, who, at the age of 35, suffered detached retinas due to complications arising from diabetes.
Within half a year, she went from having good vision to living in darkness.
For the past seven years, she says she was consumed by sadness, but has now come around and is helping to make recordings of books with a group of volunteers.
Yang is one of a group of volunteers taking part in a project sponsored by the Taiwan Digital Talking Books Association to produce a series of audio books for the visually impaired.
Visitors to the association’s Web site (www.tdtb.org) can visit the section “Spiritual Garden” (心靈園地), and hear essays recorded by the volunteers, which are accompanied by soothing background music.
Yang said her journey has not always been an easy one.
“When I started to lose my vision, many friends helped me. However, nobody understood the fear I felt in a world of darkness. At that time, I did not have contact with other blind people, nor with the welfare groups helping the visually impaired, because I did not want to become like them,” she said.
Yang said that for those who lose their eyesight in mid-life, the biggest barrier to overcome is one’s own “denial, and being unable to accept oneself.”
After living in denial for seven years, she said she eventually could not stand it any longer, so she went out of her way to seek social support.
Yang recalled that as she began to learn how to use computer equipment and the Braille system for Chinese characters, she felt like a baby learning to walk for the first time.
After being able to reconnect with society and regain many of her previous abilities, Yang said that now, looking back, she regretted that she did not start her “new life” sooner.
Yang uses a computer designed for the visually impaired to make recordings and produce audio books.
She inputs the text from a book, puts on headphones and listens to the computer voice read one sentence back to her, then she reads and records the sentence out loud.
Aside from recording the uplifting short stories, volunteers produce digital talking books from recommended publications.
The list includes books such as Farewell to My Life (生命告別之旅) by the late Cardinal Paul Shan (單國璽), Let the Sunshine Light Up Your Heart (讓陽光灑在心上) by Lee Wei-wen (李偉文) and Love Staying Life in Africa (愛呆人生) by Lien Chia-en (連加恩).
For some of the audio books, the association said it has secured the copyright and they can be sold on the market, and these are also suitable for elderly people with eyesight problems.
The association said it recently received a request from a visually imparied person wishing to hear the biography of late Apple Inc founder Steve Jobs. So the volunteers are now recording the book’s text, it said.
One of the volunteers is Wen Feng (溫風). The 57-year-old retired teacher was afflicted with cancer twice.
When she was sick and bedridden, family and friends came and prayed for her, for which she said she is very grateful, and has never forgotten the experience.
Since then, she has understood the values contained in the idiom “Utilize your limited lifetime to contribute the most with your talent,” she said.
“Making sound recordings was a dream from my childhood. I never thought this could be fulfilled at this stage of my life. Because I have varied life experience, when reading the books, I can project emotions for the various characters,” Wen said.
Wang Li-yu (王麗玉), another volunteer, is a housewife who joined the project a year ago.
With the idea of “sharing good things in life with good friends,” Wang said she selects her own books and does her own voice recordings, and has now completed eight talking books.
She said it is like reading books for her children at home.
“We want people to hear the good stuff contained in these books and to reflect on their lives. If we can touch some people or inspire them, then all the work has been worthwhile,” she said.