- Thursday, 24 November 2016 11:45
Ho Yuen Kei focuses all her attention on the court, narrows her right eye to concentrate, and then lifts up a short stick to give a red ball a gentle push.
The red ball rolls down the ramp and crosses the prescribed line, thus earning her a point. This would sound like a simple series of actions, but for Yuen Kei it is the result of hard work, mature thinking and sound judgement, and years of persistent effort. She represented Hong Kong in boccia at the Summer Paralympic Games at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Yuen Kei is a sufferer of congenital Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Sitting for a long time is already an ordeal, not to mention standing, and she has to lie down for a rest every three hours in a seated posture. "When I was preparing for the DSE at home, I was reviewing the topics and materials lying down, getting up only to attempt the sample questions and past papers." Yuen Kei had attended a special school since she was very young and her dream had always been to complete her university studies.
Yuen Kei eventually made it to the China Studies programme at the HKBU, and she is now in her third year. A self-confessed foodie, she compares university life to helping oneself to an all-you-can-eat buffet. "When at the special school, we were very well taken care of, like plants in a conservatory. With support in all aspects it was like food being brought up to our mouths. At the University the choice is much larger and more varied, and one acquires knowledge out of one's own initiative. It is like helping oneself to a buffet, when one chooses the food that he or she likes and enjoys."
Like any other university student, Yuen Kei enjoys her studies, her life in the hall of residence, and serving as a student society executive. More recently she started a blog titled "A Wheelchair Guide to Good Eats All Over Hong Kong", and introduces worthy restaurants and other places of eating to those who are physically challenged, with information on wheelchair access and facilities available on the premises. The blog has earned her, willy-nilly, a lot of likes on the net. There was a time when she did not have high self-esteem because of her disability, but now her perspective is widened, her heart is at ease, and she is a much happier and vivacious person altogether.
Feasting on a buffet from the wheelchair has not brought about any form of discrimination from her peers. All she gets from those around her is respect and encouragement. Yuen Kei has been playing boccia since secondary school, and has participated in a lot of competitions both local and abroad. Earlier this year, she came first in the Fazaa World Boccia Championship in Dubai in the individual B3 class, and she is now placed 12th overall in boccia worldwide. "Every year I go overseas once or twice for competitions, and every time I have to seek leave of absence from the University. My professors are most kind and offer me private lessons to help me catch up", Yuen Kei said in deep appreciation.
The University also offers its support in terms of material resources. "I had wanted to replace the base of the ramp for some time, and I was very grateful for the support from the Unit for Students with Special Education Needs of the University, which enabled me to do so." Now that Yuen Kei is well prepared and poised to face the challenges ahead, she is setting her eye on a place among the top ten boccia players in the world, and giving proof to the fact that a wheelchair-bound athlete, can also achieve excellence.