Dear Sighted People…
…blindness is an unfortunate handicap but true vision does not require the eyes. … Helen Keller
According to the World Health Organization over 2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment. Most of which is as a result of uncorrected refractive errors and cataracts which if treated early can reduce or prevent blindness. Other causes include age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, corneal opacity, and trachoma. A person is said to be “blind” if they are deprived of all sight or their sight require the aid of special facilities to obtain education, training or employment. To shade a light into a world that very few of us understand is our Stratizen Annah Kiilu a 4th year student, pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce. Her warm smile only glues you to the seat as she narrates her experience at a place she now frequents, the Kenya Society for the Blind in Nairobi West.
Tell us some more about this odyssey?
Back when I was in second year I got an opportunity to do my community based learning at the Kenya Society for the blind. It is an experience that has enriched my life and caused me to rethink the opportunities out there for all of us. However, that was not the case when I first started. I must confess at some point I wondered what I got myself into. Other days I found myself in deep thought and would weep silently and wish things were different not just for me but also for those around me. But behold I was the one slacking on the job while everyone else was moving on with their daily routine with or without sight. I continue to work on administrative duties and in the process I am gradually learning to read the braille.
What keeps you going?
Like in all aspects of life I have come to learn to appreciate the small steps that I make. I tend to not worry much about tomorrow but focus on accomplishing the tasks at hand. Each day is a new day, one that cannot be re-lived or revived, now I purpose to strive in all I do. Some days are fruitful and others involve being a voice for my colleagues. For example, I remember being in a meeting where one of my colleagues was being snub despite visible lifting their hand to share a comment. While, I can still feel the tingle from the adrenaline rush that day, “Excuse me! I called out to the moderator, why are you continually rebuffing my colleague here, I believe they too have a contribution to make”. The silence of that moment was so loud, I could hear my breath.
What do the blind wish the sighted knew?
That many are developing countless ways of perceiving a universe that desists eyesight. They are at a different level of embracing “our defined normal” but once mastered they are able to live a full, productive, and independent life just like you and I. They also have varied and intriguing interests that don’t involve blindness. For example, some of them like to knit, while others love to cook and playing goalball. Just a mention, we do monthly activities together that I help organize for example last month we went to Karura Forest for a walk. With that said more than anything they need collaboration, not charity. As I have come to learn the phrase “do things with us, not for us”. That is empowerment. Blind or sighted, we’re all riding through the world and just trying to figure out life!
It’s been one year since I joined the Kenya Society for Blind and urges us all to remember the words of Mark Twain “Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see|”.
To learn more on how you can help visit Kenya Society for the Blind or follow them on their Facebook page.
This article was written by Annete Karanja.
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