My name is Bi Qiting and my nickname is ‘Small Wolf’. I lost my eyesight when I was 14. I am training to become a swimming instructor because I want to help other people with disabilities to get out of the home, exercise and enjoy life more.
My nickname comes from a children’s book entitled “The Dream of Being a Wolf King”, about a female wolf raising her cubs with the hope they would become wolf kings. The book inspired me so much that I wanted my name to refer to it!
I grew up an ordinary child although I couldn’t see with my right eye since birth. However, my vision started to deteriorate in 2014 and a year later, I completely lost my eyesight. I had to stop studying and never graduated.
I had nothing to do and felt desperately frustrated. I kept asking myself what I would do with my life. Even worse was that it seemed that no one paid attention to my feelings or opinions. I was expected to follow the family’s arrangements and not make any decision for myself, even on the colour of my clothes. My parents didn’t have any hope for me.
Light was brought back into my life in 2016 when I became a professional swimmer, with the support of the local federation of persons with disabilities.
In 2017, I took part in the Guangzhou Swimming Championships and won a gold medal for the first time. Then in August 2018, I won three golds and a silver at the Guangdong Provincial Games. This inspired me and amazed others. My parents began to recognize my ability and my potential.
However, in 2018 I was injured during a training session. My world collapsed and I was stuck at home again.
Luckily, in February 2020, I joined a vocational training programme run by the China Chapter of the ILO Global Business and Disability Network. It was called “Path to success”. The training taught things like creating a resume and interview skills. I learned a lot.
After joining the group, I discovered that all of its members were people with disabilities. We gradually got to know each other and began to chat and exchange ideas. I found that I was not alone.
The strong sense of belonging gave me courage and strength. I was determined to return to society and make a living.
I decided to become a swimming instructor focusing on persons with disabilities who have very few opportunities to exercise, despite the clear benefits sport can bring to their lives. I want to help them get out of the home and enjoy their lives more.
I have also passed a diving exam and received a certificate. I am practising coaching and saving people underwater.
There is a widespread belief that there is no way for you to become a swimming instructor if you are blind. 'What if your swimming student is in danger?' people ask.
Although we cannot see, we compensate by using our ears more. We tie a bell on the trainee so that we can ‘hear the danger’ and find her or him quickly if they are choking or sinking. We also teach by giving more detailed and clearer descriptions.
Before a student fully learns how to swim, I keep in constant physical contact with her. The best thing is that I understand her, because I have the same visual impairment and I know which movement she cannot understand well such as how to kick her legs. I will tell her how to straighten her legs like a ballet dancer rather than a bicycle rider, or I will let her feel my feet to show her how to stretch and kick.
You should understand that each of us is a person. You should see us first as a person instead of someone who has a disability. Disability is just one of our many characteristics. Then, focus on what we are able to do.
For the young disabled person my message is the outside world is not as scary as you have imagined, it's far less intimidating. When you step outside, you will discover many new things. After going out, you will start to make friends, take part in activities, try fresh experiences, get more insights, and establish your own social network. These will be valuable assets for your employment and much else.
My next plan is to obtain a free diver certificate because I want to dive in the sea. Many people think diving in the sea is meaningless because I cannot see anything. After hearing this, I feel sad. Why do you think it is pointless for me to dive in the sea? Can't I experience something new and different?
I want to prove them wrong.