A 40-year-old man, Abdulrahman Awal, has defied odds and authored a 63-page book titled ‘The Blind Man’s Perspective’. Awal challenged the perceptions he believed were wrong about the blind, insisting that of the categories of people living with disabilities, blind people suffer stigmatization more. Daily Trust Saturday reports.
Abdulrahman Awal said he lost his eyes to cancer at the age of 1 and has since then struggled to live a normal life through encouragement from parents and loved ones.
Also, despite his visual impairment, Awal said he moved on to acquire his first degree in Counselling Psychology from Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University through his little businesses, though he was sponsored through primary, secondary and NCE levels by his parents.
“When I was in primary school, there was a poem I recited during the Children’s Day that reads “I am blind; I cannot see. That does not mean I am useless and hopeless in the society. How I wish, people would understand me and give me the right push and I will surprise the world. When I recited that poem then, I didn’t know what it meant but because I didn’t forget it, when I grew a bit older and I understood the meaning, then I took up the challenge that I would not allow the disability to deter me from becoming what I want to become.
“One of the stories I cannot forget; I was checking online to see how to guide a blind man on the dining table. Then, I came across a lot of descriptions that I didn’t even know how to implement. Then, I went into research with people that are physically challenged to know how they do it and I realized that they were contrary to what I saw online. For example, if you put food on the table for a blind person, and you want to tell him the positions of his cup and spoon, we use the clock description to tell him. For example, you could say the cup is at 12 o’clock of the plate, then he knows that the cup is at the top. If you say the spoon is at 6 o’clock, he knows where the spoon should be. That is how we describe it and it was contrary to what I came across online. And so many things I couldn’t even find.
“When I started having access to the internet, I thought it could solve some of the questions I couldn’t answer about myself with special needs. So, when I used the internet to find solutions to things that bothered me, I realised that the materials I came across were not written by blind people. They were written by other people that were not blind based on their perceptions about us. So, I decided to write the book to correct the notions from a blind man’s perspective.
“Things like the psychology of the blind, I came across a lot of things written online, but they were not written by blind people. So, many assertions were not true. For instance, many assertions said that blind people are aggressive people. And when I look at myself, I am not aggressive and I know many blind people who are not aggressive. So, is that not contrary to the truth? Why is it so? Then, I realized that it was all about people’s mindset. Even the so-called normal people, some are aggressive because of so many things they have encountered in life and so many challenges they’ve had that they couldn’t manage, and such experiences led to aggression. So, if somebody has a sound mind, I don’t think there would be any reason for aggression. I realized that people say so many things about blind people that are not really true. So, I felt I should put some things down that reflect the real situation about a blind person.
“The book centrally talks about how blindness is not too much of a problem the way society thinks of us. It talks about living with somebody who is blind and it also tells you the little challenges blind people face in our society. It provides answers to some questions that many people have asked,” he said.
Awal told Daily Trust Saturday that it took him seven months to complete the manuscript of the 63-page book while it was published within one month. “I used my laptop, mobile phone and iPad to write. And each time an idea came, I quickly brought out my phone and type it. I didn’t use paper to write. Editors and proof-readers were engaged during the publishing process.
“The challenges I faced most of the time were about the typesetting. I was conversant with the typesetting as a visually impaired person, but I have a friend who’s a Customs officer helping me with that aspect. He makes sure that the write-ups were being typeset in a way that it could be read conveniently by those without visual impairment,” he said.
Awal says he believes in the saying that there is ability in every disability, and as such has continued to venture into different businesses including consultation services on business startups.
He also engages in social media interactions, especially Facebook, with the aid of a screen reader which helps him follow every discourse.
“In 2003, I got to know about a technology called ‘the screen reader’ and the screen reader reads out the screen to the blind. So, with this technology, I search the internet just like any other person because I have mastered my android keypad and I acquired the skills of doing that and I have been a good user of the internet.
“With the aid of screen reader, I engage in social media discuss of issues of interest with people. I am on Facebook,” he said.
According to him, the experience in Father O’Connell Secondary School where he had his secondary education was remarkable, saying that “Father O’Connell, who was the principal was a champion in helping people with disability in Niger State. So, he made the school very conducive for me but it was very competitive for me as well because nobody was going to score you high when you had failed. I had to use other tactics to read so I could compete with students who had no visual impairment. That level playing ground took away the stigma between me and other students and I was doing well.”
He added that “when I got to the university, a lot of people felt I was a problem or liability to them but I continued to strive until I graduated. Those who got to understand us found us to be good partners and even those who discriminated us earlier became our best friends. Even among lecturers, some were easy going while some were very tough not only to people with disability but I learnt how to go around them and I succeeded.”
Awal, who has worked as an education officer with the Niger State School for Special Education, said he was into various businesses to make ends meet.
“I have been in the painting business since 2009. I have also been doing other businesses including consultation for people who want to start small businesses and I have done that for a lot of people.
“Disability is not a challenge; it is just a way of life. What really matters in disability is you mastering your difficulties and knowing how to go about them. Even if I am visually impaired, I know the value of paints, I know the types and I have my boys that bring them to sites and I have my supervisors who supervise to ensure they don’t give me a poor job,” he said.
Awal said he also worked as a special reporter with Badeggi FM, a radio station in Minna, where he anchored a programme in Hausa Language titled “Na kasa ba kasawa ba” (Ability in Disability) saying that “sometime I do special reports. I help the station cover events if I am sent to a gathering and send report to the studio. After writing the report with the aid of an application called Dobe-on, I record the report on my phone and send to the studio. I also conduct interviews and send to the studio directly.”
He said blind people are blessed with special retentive memories that help them recall events and recognise people easily through their voices.