Hao Chen loves to run. The 28-year-old has already completed countless marathons. The loss of his hearing at the age of one also taught him the necessary willpower. Since then, Hao Chen has repeatedly faced obstacles – and overcome them. What he expects from the assistive technology industry and how he rolls otherwise, he tells us on REHACARE.com.
Hao Chen: A good day is waking up in the morning and enjoying a leisurely breakfast. Living in a world surrounded by sign language, where everyone communicates using sign language. Find a quiet place to read half a book after breakfast. Cook a light meal by myself at noon and take the dog out for a walk after lunch. Watch nature documentaries before taking a nap. Go for a 5-kilometer run or mountain climbing in the afternoon, to sweat it out. Stroll along the beach at night, watch the fish jump and the boats come and go, and draw on the sand. Pick up my favorite fruit on the way home, turn on the computer and watch sign language short-movies, and finally write my diary for the day, and then go to bed after writing. I feel this would be my idea of a perfect day.
Which auxiliary means or daily living aids are indispensable for you?
Hao Chen: I think hearing aids, AR subtitle glasses, and apps for voice-to-subtitle conversion are essential. With these aids, I can get timely information from the outside world and communicate smoothly with others.
What would you like to see from society and your fellow people in dealing with people with disabilities?
Hao Chen: Disability affects everyone – regardless of age, gender, race, and cultural background. Everyone encounters physical or other invisible obstacles in their daily lives to some extent. Therefore, disability is merely just a part of the diversity of human life.
I hope that society and the public treat people with disabilities from an equal perspective, with empathy and kindness. Disability does not necessarily become an obstacle in social interaction. Good etiquette starts with tolerance, not resistance. People with disabilities are human first, so they deserve the same respect as people without disabilities.
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, once said that people with disabilities are one of the largest untapped talent pools in the world. So, people with disabilities should be able to show their own value and integrate into society on an equal footing with the support of assistive devices.
Which assistive device would urgently need to be invented and/or improved?
Hao Chen: I think there is a need for a safety alarm function for the hearing-impaired. It could be in the shape of a watch, an alarm clock, or a keychain, so that people with hearing-impairments can quickly receive alerts in daily life, traffic situations, etc., to avoid accidents caused by fire, earthquakes, traffic etc., and have no regrets.
Hao Chen (l.) expects the industry to involve people with disabilities in the process of developing new assistive devices.
What has been your biggest challenge so far that you have mastered – and what has helped you?
Hao Chen: A high fever deprived me of my hearing when I was one year old. At that time, it took me five years to learn to speak and communicate normally with others. I think it was willpower that drove me to do this. Although the progress of learning pronunciation was slow, I worked hard along every step of the way and never gave up. Now I constantly surpass my usual self and exceed my limits. I have already run many 42-kilometer full marathons, and I will continue to run in the future.
What can the assistive technology industry learn from the Corona pandemic to make life easier and/or better for people with disabilities in the future? Hao Chen: I feel that the assistive technology industry can build a wider inclusive community for people with different types of disabilities. They should follow the principle of "if we are not consulted, don't make decisions on behalf of us", further strengthening the accessible concept in the fields of technology, life, and workplace, including promotion of a social accessible environment and awareness of social equality, diversity, and tolerance.
If nothing was impossible: Who would you like to meet one day and why?
Hao Chen: I hope to meet and hug Nick Vujicic someday in the future. His book "Life Without Limits" gave me great inspiration and encouragement and taught me to always work hard to turn obstacles into opportunities. He was rejected 52 times, and finally got an opportunity to speak for five minutes. At that time, he chose to share his story with millions of people in more than 25 countries across five continents. He empowered more people to see that everything is possible.
What was your best REHACARE experience?
Hao Chen: I haven't participated in REHACARE yet, but I will definitely visit REHACARE Shanghai in August this year. I have a hunch that it will be a different and truly amazing experience. I look forward to the perfect success of the Shanghai exhibition.
What I wanted to say...
Hao Chen: Thank you REHACARE for all your efforts to spread and promote social integration. A spark will always start a fire, and love and hope will eventually break through the haze.