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Ma Yinqing works on a sound project.
Ma reads out a script in brailles.
Ma Yinqing has turned a blind eye to the popular notion that blind and visually impaired people are destined to work in the massage industry.
The 24-year-old visually impaired Shanghai resident is probably the first among her peers to start up a business in the field of audio program production.
Ma, whose sight was damaged when exposed to ultraviolet light as a premature baby, developed her passion for audio-drama production in high school and later eased her way into the role of a part-time audio program producer. The visually impaired, who often have a heightened sense of hearing, are suitably competent for such work.
However, there are differences in how visually impaired people produce an audio program, which usually includes a read-out text, music and sound effects. They use screen-reading software to help them navigate the sound-editing software. Since screen readers cannot read multiple tracks, the visually impaired can’t create multiple tracks in the same project, like normal people do. Instead, they can create only one new track at a time and then have to merge it with a previous one.
“Visually impaired people might be just a little less efficient than normal people in producing a program, but the difference is insignificant and the quality of production is not affected,” Ma said. “All it takes is patience and one’s own taste.”
After graduating from a school for blind children, Ma was steered into Shanghai Traditional Chinese Medicine University to study the Chinese therapeutic massage tuina.
Massage has become a standard career path for the blind and visually impaired, but Ma instinctively knew that it was not the job for her.
Ma’s team employs several former tuina therapists. One of them is 30-year-old Yang Le.
“I always wanted to know if I could make a living without doing tuina,” he said. “Now I earn as much money without having to work until 10pm every day.”
According to Ma, the money is sufficient to live on.
Yang said those with impaired eyesight can master the software for audio production in three to six months, but those who are completely blind could take longer.
Ma said she was prompted to start her own audio production team after her application for a job as an audio project coordinator at a company was turned down.
“I was very dismayed at that time because when a visually impaired person with acute hearing is turned down for a job like that, it doesn’t bode well for others in the same situation,” she said.
June 2018, Ma started to assemble a team of producers. She registered her new company in February this year. The move, she said, gives the community of visually impaired people new opportunities.
“Many of them want to try their hands at this, but they have no access to training geared for the visually impaired,” Ma said. “Training provided free by charities is too basic.”
Ma’s team now totals 15. Ten are visually impaired.
“I usually don’t give visually impaired colleagues assignments that are too demanding, such as a sci-fi book project with sound effects almost every 30 seconds,” she said. “But some ask for the harder tasks, and their productions are very satisfying. I am willing to take risks in such cases because I know all too well the importance of accepting new challenges.”
Ma expends much of her energy on discussing produced projects with assignment givers.
“The way visually impaired people produce a program means that when something needs to be revised, the producer has to do it all over again instead of just correcting something in a saved sound project like normal people do,” she said.
Ma’s visually impaired employees don’t have to come to the office to work. She sends them assignments by email every morning. All communication can be done over the Internet.
Ma and her team are now looking at producing their own audio products with intellectual property rights.
“We can potentially tell our life stories to encourage other people, and we can share our experiences and personal health tips with listeners,” she said.
Ma said her success to date rests on the support of people who have given her business advice, like An Zhencan, vice president of Fan Deng, a reading service provider and mentor.
In turn, she functions as inspiration for students at the school for the blind who harbor thoughts of starting their own businesses one day.
“I tell them, just try and you won’t have any regrets,” she said.