Blindness or visual impairment does not mean the end of the world. Like the rest of us, those who suffer from these conditions can also make their mark on society. Merrick Ho was diagnosed with chronic glaucoma when he was still a child, leaving him with only 1% vision. Yet that didn’t stop him from pursuing his dreams. Since earning a professional life coach certificate five years ago, through one-on-one coaching, he began to provide life guidance for individuals, guiding them through problems with families and work. He also conducts lessons on life problem solving skills for corporates. He may not be able to see, but he's able to help those with perfect eyesight navigate life.
Merrick majored in social science at university. During his year two internship at the Hong Kong Blind Union, he was guided by a coach who helped him find the way in both his personal and professional lives. That experience helped him pave the way for a career in life coaching.
“That was my first contact with a life coach. After that, I began to study and take lessons required so that I can become one myself. As soon as I graduated in 2017, I started my career as a life coach,” said Merrick, one of the first four visually impaired professional life coaches in Hong Kong.
Since 2017, he has dedicated his time to life coaching. Through conducting lessons, he aims to inspire students to think and to look for solutions to their problems through brainstorming. Those who took his lessons came from all walks of life: social workers, teachers, entrepreneurs, executives, and salespeople. They have one thing in common – all have normal vision.
Being articulate and able to tell engaging stories are some of the prerequisites for a coach. But Merrick believes that being a good listener and the ability to ask powerful questions are even more important. “I once taught a lesson for salespeople, who came to us because they wanted to get involved in volunteer work, so they had to acquire some skills. I spent time teaching them about the importance of non-valued judgement, active listening, and powerful questions. And afterwards, they all thought they’ve learned something useful.” Another case involved a mother. At the end, after five deep conversations, he was able to help her work out the issues with other family members through her mother-in-law. These were all satisfying experience as a life coach.
The course Merrick completed is being offered through IAC - International Association of Coaching; and they cover both theory and practical training. The courses include fieldwork and training guided by instructors, totaling about 110 hours of work. Merrick has earned the certificate by the time he graduated from university at the age of 23. He is currently the Hong Kong Chapter Leader and Greater China coordinator for the IAC. This year, he began working full time at the human resources department of a multinational company’s Hong Kong office. At the same time, he has continued to devote time to public services and teaching outside work.
With the goal of nurturing the next generation of life coaches, Merrick earlier submitted a proposal to Link Together Initiatives about providing professional coaching training for youth at Ebenezer School & Home for the Visually Impaired. The project, which was named “Live The Vision – Visually Impaired Professional Life Coach Training cum School Collaboration Project” won Link’s support.
“I wish to take the lead to train more visually impaired people to become life coach. This would help broaden and deepen career choices and opportunities for us. Just like myself, I want more of us to benefit from the training and to pass that on to the next generation.”
In fact, there is a visually impaired member, Jess Shek, at Link’s Human Resources Department. Though born with blindness, Jess has constantly been working to upgrade herself. She holds a Masters’ Degree in translation from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and has strong English and Chinese language skills.
Cheerful and resilient, Jess’s primary responsibility at Link is internal staff communications, which involves compiling internal memos and notices. She is also working on revamping the communications system within human resources.
“There’s a common misunderstanding that blind people can only perform certain types of jobs, such as massaging. In fact, many of them have university degrees and are highly capable. Employers should do more to unearth their potential and not just focus on their limitation.”
As Jess explains, those who are visually impaired are keen on giving back and not just worrying about what they can take from society. To use herself as an example, she would never want to receive preferential treatment because of her disability. At her previous job, she was told she could use the executive washroom, an offer that she declined.
Jess also admires the culture towards visually impaired people in some overseas countries. “They have innovators who would constantly come up with new tools to assist visually impaired people. An example is equipment to help them drive. It would make noises when it detects cars in front. Their guiding principle is to help you perform task like normal people, and not limiting what you can and can’t do.”
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