“Hello, my name is Amirah and I am a student at RNC. Within this blog I will be talking about being a woman with a visual impairment (VI) in a multicultural society.
As a woman, there are many challenges that we have to face in life. In my case, it is my visual impairment. My eye condition is called Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). I know it can be a little bit hard for some to talk about being VI but I believe that you shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and let the world hear your voice. Someone you may know or haven’t met could have the same eye condition as you and know exactly what you’re going through.
I grew up in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, and I have always been at mainstream school. There were 1,200 people in my high school with a diverse range of students from different backgrounds. For as long as I can remember in school I was told you can’t do this and you can’t do that, especially any subjects with visual aspects and I found myself socially excluded from things because of my disability.
I started RNC in September 2017 and the subjects that I currently study are as follows: Audio Media Production, Performing Arts, Braille, Maths, Independent Living Skills, Mobility and ICT.
I was born in the UK but come from a Muslim background and I am proud of my culture. However it’s a challenge being a teenage girl, being Muslim and having a disability. In the Muslim communities people tend to exclude themselves if they have a disability of any kind; if a child has been diagnosed with an eye condition then the parents tend not to talk about it. There is this feeling amongst families that they’re ashamed and they think they’ll be criticised for not being normal as if something paranormal has happened to that child!
I am so lucky that my parents have always been so open about my VI, they’re happy to talk to other parents and they’ve always encouraged me to be take part in activities and be involved with VI groups. I’ve been part of RANS (Rochdale Additional Needs Service) since I was a baby and I’ve met other girls there who have VI and they’re Muslim too, they’re a bit younger than me so they know that I can relate to what they’re going through. Girls find it hard being open about their VI because they’re worried that they will be judged by the Muslim community. I know what people say, I’ve heard it all my life ‘She’s got a disability, she won’t become a wife, no one will want her, she can’t provide for herself, she’ll have to live with her parents forever’. I tell the girls that’s not the case – these views aren’t true and shouldn’t be acceptable in today’s society. I can show them that I’m at RNC now and I’m achieving – we shouldn’t let VI block our pathways to success.
My parents have always brought me up to be positive and to be happy with who I am. I can remember when I was young my dad said to me ‘I’ll always be there for you but I won’t be here forever.’ He has always drilled it into my head that I need to be able to stand on my own two feet. He taught me things like money management since I was a young child and has always wanted me to be independent.
Since being at this college, I have made so much progress over the past 6 months; I’m so happy to have achieved my BTEC level 2 in braille already. I’m also much more independent, from coming and going home on the train on my own to being able to develop the essential skills for my future. I can do so much for myself which I didn’t really do at home, even basic things like making my bed and doing my laundry. It’s really boosted my confidence to know that I’m able to do things like use a washing machine and keep my clothes neat and to make sure they’re washed. In the kitchen when I buy food I have some staff support with reading out the instructions on packaging and then I make braille notes of this so when I want to make food, I know what the cooking instructions are.
Part of the reason for wanting to write this blog was to show people that just because you’re VI, it doesn’t mean you’re alone. Through RANS, I was part of a scheme about raising awareness of VI and went out to schools to speak to them because they had VI pupils who were not confident with their disability. I was happy to do this and spread the positive messages that being VI doesn’t have to be a barrier.
Being a typical girl I do like things like shopping, fashion, make up and even floristry! I started flower arranging last year and you don’t need to be fully sighted to enjoy this, I’m able to see the colours and it’s all very tactile. I don’t think having VI should exclude me from this, I love putting things on social media and sharing photos of what I’ve been up to on Instagram – you don’t need to be sighted to use it! (You can follow me @ strawberry.255). I hope that via social media I can inspire people to open up, sometimes people with VI try to hide their disability or they don’t go out on their own because they’re scared that people will stare at them, but I know that’s going to happen and I just ignore it because I’m happy with who I am and I won’t let their negativity get in my way.
After I leave RNC I would like to teach Braille, Independent Living Skills, ICT or Mobility to other people with VI because I will be able to relate to students and the situations that they face in the world of education. Therefore as a teacher with VI I can provide the student with guidance and support to be successful in the future.”