It can be society’s view that disability is a one-size-fits-all label that defines a person’s lifestyle.
However, not all disabilities are the same, nor are they all visible. As someone who has lived with a disability my whole life, I see disability as a characteristic which forms part of a person’s identity and personality. I believe people with disability can achieve anything and lead happy and meaningful lives. What really defines a person is how they choose to live their life.
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like giving up? I have. A few weeks before graduating from high school, I had my eyes set on my own independence. I had a list of things I wanted to do to reach that goal, one of which was getting a job.
At first, I didn’t think I could achieve this goal. I didn’t know a lot about who I was and what I was capable of, which made it hard for me to imagine what my future would look like in the workplace. Throughout my journey to employment, there were many events that led me to question my place in society. I was rejected a few times, which knocked my confidence. But no matter how many times I was rejected, I was determined to reach the end of the line no matter what. Things began to make more sense after I discovered during a conversation with my mum that I have a disability known as Cerebral Vision Impairment (CVI) – a brain-based vision impairment that affects how I see the world. From that moment, everything about me made sense.
Knowing I have CVI has been a revelation. The funny thing is, I only found out a few months before I accepted my role as Editor of this newsletter. Since then, I have embraced my disability and have a much better understanding of who I am, which has made it easier for me to navigate everyday life. All I had to do to win a job offer was reach out to the right people who could support me, develop a set of strategies to help me overcome obstacles along the way and the rest was pretty straight forward. Thanks to that, my motivation grew stronger, eventually leading me to finally achieving the goal I had worked so hard for; an achievement I am proud of. Not only am I proud, but the experience I have gained has given me the confidence to continue achieving future goals using those same strategies.
For most of us, having a goal to work towards is important. In my case, that is certainly true. It has given me a sense of purpose and something exciting to look forward to. For all of us, whatever goal we set our minds on, we must know ourselves and understand our limits.
For me, knowing who I am as a person helps me decide how I want to succeed, and determine the type of support I may require from my support network.
In the past, I used to get lost and easily lose my way everywhere I went. The more I became aware of my disability and how to overcome the associated challenges, the more confident I became in completing simple tasks, such as getting to and from work or finding something to buy at the shops.
Having a disability may present extra challenges, but that should not stop you from following your dreams. The good news is, there is always a way. Because I have CVI, many of the challenges I face revolve around finding visual objects, such as a bookstore or train station. That is why I always plan my daily activities in advance, so that I don’t feel overwhelmed. Digital technology has opened the door to new and more creative ways to empower people with disability to be in control of their lives. For me, it plays a key role in helping me get around different places on my own. Before I go to an unfamiliar place, I use Google Maps to help me plan and trace my routes from start to finish.
Since I find reading a map to be challenging, I also use the application’s satellite imaging feature to preview my journey and get to know the environment I will be travelling through.
Thanks to these strategies, I can now manage my life more independently. In fact, I recently just returned from my first solo trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
To be well prepared for my trip, I used Google Maps to craft an itinerary that suited my needs and interests. This included understanding Dubai’s city structure, pinpointing any attractions I wanted to visit, and planning my journey to each place using both the app’s satellite imaging feature and Dubai’s public metro system website. Doing this removed a lot of stress from my shoulders and made my holiday more enjoyable. Thanks to all the hard work I did, I had a map in my mind the moment I arrived at my destination. I knew exactly where to go for each day and how to get there without getting lost.
Going on this milestone trip is by far, one of the most empowering moments in my life. It taught me that travelling the world alone with a disability is possible. It all comes down to exploring your interests and finding a destination with services that meet your needs. The experiences I gained whilst in Dubai not only sharpened my confidence but changed my overall outlook on life as a person with disability.
For people with disability, I want you to know that everybody is different and that we all have our own unique talents and limitations.
Living with a disability doesn’t mean you can’t live a normal life. It just means that you may do certain things differently and need extra support to get to where you want to be. As difficult as they may seem, every situation we come across in our journey turn into experiences that teach us valuable life lessons that cannot be taught in a classroom. These experiences allow us to create a long-term action plan to help us find a solution that will bring us closer towards achieving our potential. Through each experience, we grow into resilient and independent individuals. In my case, that has meant I am working in a job where I use my skills to advocate for people with disability, I am travelling the world on my own (with plenty more trips on the horizon) and am working to grow and expand my network through the people I meet in every step of my journey.
Life is not supposed to be an easy road. Every decision we make comes with consequences, both good and bad. Failure is a part of life, and there are more times when we fail than succeed. Every time we fall, we only get stronger and closer towards achieving victory. That is resilience. It is about accepting who we are and redefining expectations through our achievements.
If we believe in ourselves and are prepared for the unexpected, anything is possible. If I could turn my dreams into reality, so can you.