Zheng Jianwei – Postgraduate (international)

Jianwei comes from China and studied for his Master's in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages at the University of Essex.

Why did you choose to study in the UK?

I had a dream that people with visual impairments could one day be free to pursue their dreams like people without disabilities. In China, graduate schools did not offer an entrance exam to blind candidates.

When I was growing up, my teachers told me that my only options were to be a masseur, a fortune teller or a beggar. I taught myself English when I was 26. There were no braille textbooks available, so I worked like a manager of a printing house, scanning, asking family members and friends to do proofreading or even typing for me and then printing material into braille.

Did your experience in the UK encourage you towards your goal?
In the UK, I found that diversity was respected and disabled individuals were given opportunities. The university offered me an academic assistant and software for the visually impaired.

It was still hard work, and it took us hours together to scan all my reading material into my computer so I could use the screen reader. But it was support that helped me on the way to achieving my dream.

What does the future hold for you?

I keep researching and trying to practise inclusive education in my English teaching. I give public speeches, media interviews and seminars.

I have won awards for my work, and have been honoured to have met Chinese President Xijinping, Prime Minister Likeqiang, Vice Prime Minister Liuyunshan and Vice Prime Minister Zhanggaoli.

For me, the most important thing is to enhance awareness of disabilities and the spread of the social model of disability in my own country.

What is your advice for other disabled students like yourself?

I would encourage disabled people in China to overcome the confines of their own disabilities and of society to pursue their dreams.

I am proud that the number of disabled candidates taking IELTS has grown greatly since I took the exam. I want to spread this understanding and help dispel social stereotypes.

Jianwei was the first blind candidate from southwest China to take the IELTS English language test and study abroad. He now works as a private English teacher and campaigns to encourage disabled and blind people to follow their passions and gain access to education. This case study was originally posted by Study UK and is published with kind permission.