Almost three years have passed away since I first started working on accessibility from June 2017. When I reflect on those memories, I have to admit that I did not always have changeless enthusiasm and clear goals in my mind. I went through painfully self-examination behind every project:
Was I framing one research problem too ideally?
Was it possible to push this project into real-world product beyond academic paper?
Did we make ground-breaking technical progress or just re-invent the wheels for a clever idea?
Before I learnt to coexist with uncertainty, volunteer activities have become my simple joys to get rid of these ruminations. In these activities, I know every effort and moment of mine is somehow helpful to one or more people instantly. From working as a walking guide for a piano tuning technician, to holding the volunteer activity to invite forty elders to the campus; from conducting experiments in the cramped dormitory of masseurs, to accompanying a professor to attend annual meeting of China Disabled Persons' Federation; from discussing potential ideas with tech enthusiasts on an online forum, to hearing a modern movie provided by a describer in a historical Chinese quadrangle…I might have talked with almost a hundred visually impaired people with different living conditions, cultural backgrounds, education levels and careers. I treasure the friendship with so many talented, intelligent and admirable people. They not only discussed research questions with me, but also inspired me with their tenacity and courage. I often feel that what I have gained from them is far more than what I can do for them: They encouraged me to further my studies and taught me to keep positive mindset towards difficulties. The former sheds a light on where to go for my career, and the latter reminds me of how to live a better life.
I think it will be a pity if only the accepted research papers are recorded as the time goes by. In this blog, I hope to write down the stories behind research and how these experiences impact my research and life.
Chapter 1 Uninformed Optimism
I can still clearly remember our first meeting with the department chair, Prof. Xu, as new master students in the interdisciplinary program of Tsinghua. Prof. Xu asked us, "What do you hope to do during the following three years?" My answer is, I want to help the underprivileged, for example, people living in remote mountain areas. Born in an ordinary family, I deeply feel the importance of education and how living condition and education give me more freedom on architecting my life with my efforts. But what about those who have talents and efforts but lack conditions and opportunities? Prof. Xu replied with a smile, "Well, that's a good desire, and you should learn to make a living first." Frankly speaking, I hadn't considered about what I would do after graduation by that time, I was just a naive master student with uninformed optimism.