updated 07/23/2012 AT 6:05 PM ET
•originally published 07/23/2012 AT 6:55 PM ET
Christine Ha is heating up the competition in the MasterChef kitchen.
But as the Fox show’s first blind contestant she’s inspiring people around the world with her ability to prepare all kinds of dishes under pressure.
“I have gotten a lot of amazing letters from people, messages – just an outpouring of love and support,” says Ha, who chatted with PEOPLE at the Television Critics Association summer tour in Beverly Hills on Monday.
Ha, who spoke with reporters with competitor-turned-friend Felix Fang, said that viewers have sent letters sharing their own challenges and told her she’s helped them realize they can be overcome.
“There are a lot of people with vision impairment, people who have spinal injuries, people who had to deal with death of loved ones that are now applying to grad school, applying to culinary school, changing their vocations,” she says.
Ha says she feels lucky to be in a position to hear how she’s inspired others.
“People are telling me I’m like their hero,” she says. But “I’m so blessed and touched for them to share their stories with me.”