by Audrey Schading
As a teacher of English as a Foreign Language for over 30 years to blind and visually impaired adults, I’m extremely privileged to have the opportunity to work with students from all over the world.
Zhujung Meng (she prefers to be called Maple) is a student and friend whom I continue to have the pleasure of working with as she prepares to return to college.
In 2009, Maple and her mother came to New York City from China in order for Maple to continue pursuing her college career in public relations and counseling.
During her first year at Pace University, she worked exceptionally hard in order to maintain a much-appreciated scholarship. She studied for a year and a half, became a self-made online entrepreneur selling goods to China, all while dealing with necessary brain surgery.
In December 2010, Maple lost vision after her surgery, due to an optic nerve injury.
She’s still not quite sure how, but her story was picked up in China, and was publicized on TV, radio and in the newspapers. She received many letters of support, including one from a member of a Chinese-speaking church near her home. She and her mom responded to the outreach, and were happy and grateful to receive a warm welcome there.
Soon after that, Maple’s eye doctor referred her to The Lighthouse Guild where she received mobility, ADL, Braille, keyboarding and ESL services.
I remember how much fun we had in the beginning with specific spelling and pronunciation challenges, all of which we worked out using recordings, the Braille alphabet and JAWS! She quickly learned all four skill areas of English as she simultaneously progressed in learning all of these necessary skills.
Currently, Maple is working with electronic Braille and learning Spanish.
As a counselor, she feels it will be best to know Spanish as well as Chinese in order to communicate with more people. Knowing Braille in all three of these languages will also be a strong asset.
Maple is grateful for the support of both her church community and the blindness community, which have been with her every step of the way. She wants to use her knowledge with her career in order to give back to both of these loving communities.
One dream Maple had was to become a U.S. citizen. She proudly recently fulfilled this dream, which took much hard work and determination. She and fellow classmates helped prepare, and then study from, brailled citizenship question/answer flash cards. This was a great addition to the brailled citizenship booklet, which took much time to read and understand. Though audio supplements were used, Maple relied heavily on her Braille reading, as it helped her with spelling and pronouncing all of the challenging words and phrases.
Maple currently plans to resume college class in September, 2024.
All the best to you, dear Maple.