New law lights blind masseurs’ career path

(CGTN) Updated : 2018-03-08

Li Chunnan is in his 50s but he has yet to fulfill his dream of working as a medical masseur in the Chinese capital. Li’s inability to advance in his career isn’t because the man is unqualified – with 30 years of experience in the industry, he is licensed and has already passed many professional exams – but because he is visually impaired.

Li is one of China’s 3.8 million people with visual disability who have few employment opportunities. For the great majority, the massage industry is the “default” vocation.

New law lights blind masseurs’ career path

Li Chunnan was blinded by food poisoning in 1977. [Photo/CGTN]

But amid the darkness that has shadowed the career paths of many blind people because of social prejudice and preconceptions, a new glimpse of light has recently emerged.

The Traditional Chinese Medicine Law, which came into force last July, empowers qualified blind masseurs and masseuses to enjoy the same rights as sighted people to work in medical institutions.

New law lights blind masseurs’ career path
Few employment prospects

“[Before the law], if [a blind person] applied for a job at a hospital, you were surely going to be rejected. It wasn’t justified for you to work there,” Li told CGTN. He works for Beijing’s Blind Massage Guidance Center.

“For blind people, there are few choices for employment. In China, most blind people work as masseurs,” said Yan Jing, director of Beijing’s Blind Massage Guidance Center.

But working in the massage industry is not the first choice for many masseurs and masseuses. In their youth, they had other aspirations for life.

“I wanted to try landscape engineering but didn’t accomplish that because of my eye issues,” Qi Hong told CGTN. He has been working as a medical masseur in Beijing Massage Hospital for 34 years.

New law lights blind masseurs’ career path

Qi Hong began losing his sight at four years old. [Photo/CGTN]

“I studied accounting at school back when my eyesight was relatively good, but I found I was unable to do the job,” said Wang Hailong, a blind medical masseur with Beijing Massage Hospital.

When dreams clashed with reality, some blind people were forced to choose the same path that those before them have gone.

Qi and Wang were lucky to join a hospital that offers a friendly working environment for blind medical masseurs.

However, out of 52,700 people with visual disability in Beijing, only 63 have a decent job at a hospital like Qi and Wang, according to Yan.

New legislation

“Strictly speaking, it was illegal for blind people to work as a medical masseur in hospitals, according to the 1992 Law of the People’s Republic of China on Medical Practitioners,” Li told CGTN.

“The law on medical massage opened a new door for qualified blind masseurs to work in hospitals. I think it will bring more jobs and better income,” said Li.

“Blind masseurs are usually marginalized in society,” Wang told CGTN. But the implementation of the law would help them enjoy their legal rights of working in medical institutions.

New law lights blind masseurs’ career path

Wang Hailong, a blind medical masseur with Beijing Massage Hospital. [Photo/CGTN]

The new legislation is an effort to protect the rights of blind people in China.

“Before the law, most of the blind medical massage students worked as masseurs after graduating from specialized universities. They had few opportunities to apply their medical knowledge,” said Zhao Jian, a masseuse with Beijing’s Blind Massage Guidance Center, who graduated from the Capital Medical University.

New law lights blind masseurs’ career path

Zhao Jian, a masseuse with Beijing’s Blind Massage Guidance Center. [Photo/CGTN]

“After the law, they have opportunities to work in hospitals. I believe it is a big hope for every graduate majoring in blind medical massage,” Zhao added.

“I think Article 62 allows blind people to engage in society fairly and equally, and enjoy the fruits of social development and dignity in employment just like others. This is the essence of the legislation,” Yan told CGTN.