• Chris McMillan

Blind student learns to read Braille with lips

CNN International

17th July 2013

Blind student learns to read Braille with lips

From a young age, Hong Kong student Tsang Tsz-Kwan has read Braille with her lips.

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Tsang Tsz-Kwan may look like an average student in Hong Kong with her standard-issue blue shift dress with a Chinese collar and sensible black shoes. But her ordinary appearance and shy manner mask a steely determination to triumph over tremendous odds.

She recently scored within the top 5% for nearly all her subjects in the city's college entrance examination -- despite being blind and severely hearing-impaired from a young age. She also lacks sensitivity in her fingertips, which denies her the ability to feel the raised dots of Braille characters.

Rather than admit defeat, the 20 year old found an alternative way to read Braille -- with her lips.

"In Primary 1 (the equivalent of Grade 1 in the United States), I noticed that she was always leaning forward," said Mee-Lin Chiu, a teacher at the Ebenezer School & Home for the Visually Impaired -- the only special needs school in Hong Kong dedicated to the blind.

"She told me it was because she could read more clearly with her lips than her hands."

Tsang herself admitted: "I know it's not a common approach and it sounds rather strange. Even I myself don't know how it came about," she added, calling it "miraculous."

In actual fact, the lips, tongue, and fingertips are particularly adept at spatial discrimination — they can perceive two points that are only 1-3 millimeters apart, according to the classic anatomy text, Field's Anatomy, Palpation and Surface Markings. In comparison, the legs or back of the hands can only detect two points with a separation of more than 50-100 millimeters.



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