This article is part of The Ismaili’s Coping with Challenges series, in which we highlight stories about members of the Jamat who have dealt with uncommon difficulties in their lives.
I have been blind for 23 years. For two decades however, I could not bring myself to say, “I am blind.” The stigma associated with blindness and stereotypes associated with disability brought on a sense of inferiority. The social narratives around blindness are often constructed with words such as weak, burdensome, and helplessness. But this doesn’t have to be the case.
It is said that in order to be brave, you must face your fears, and then you must plunge in. Firefighters, police officers, and first responders do it all the time. “You don’t know what you can do until you try it,” my husband often says when I have doubts about my abilities. “If you cannot do it, that’s ok. But do not quit before trying.”
Three months after I was discharged from the hospital, he drove me to the Lighthouse of Houston, a community for the visually impaired. It was one of the scariest days of my life. I had barely recovered from the blood disorder that nearly took my life, and I was completely blind. He was to leave me there alone with my white cane for the entire day so I could learn to use a computer by sound and touch. At the end of the week, the instructor said I was not ready for the program. I told her if she did not let me come back the next week, then I may never come back again. She relented, and I stayed in the program for two years, learning to type strictly by touch and to use applications purely by sound.
Soon after, I was accepted to enrol in a master’s program, fulfilling my father’s aspiration for one of his children to pursue postgraduate studies. After graduating, I decided to continue in full-time education with a PhD program. I graduated in August 2021 with a doctorate in psychology. My father never imagined that one day, the world would refer to his blind daughter as Dr. Nadia Esani.
Along my journey I have learned that visual impairments and blindness have genetic, environmental, pathological, and accidental causes. An individual may be affected physically, emotionally, cognitively, behaviorally, and socially. How well a person will cope with blindness depends on an adequate support system, orientation and mobility, access to adaptive technology, rehabilitation, and other resources such as a guide dog, transportation, housing, healthcare, government benefits, and employment.
Technology can play an enormous role in determining how well a blind person will function. Smartphone apps designed specifically for blind users, for example, can significantly alter the trajectory of individuals utilizing such resources.
Visual impairment comes with both challenges and rewards. I find it embarrassing when I’m talking to someone and they walk away without letting me know. I find it frustrating when people insist I guess who they are. Blindness is not a game, but a reality for those who live it. But I also find it empowering when I come across opportunities to enhance my potential.
Today, I am proud of who I am and what I have accomplished. I am no longer ashamed of my blindness. If I need help, I simply ask for it. My journey has been long, and at times treacherous, but I have never swayed from my objectives. The desire to overcome obstacles placed in my path has given me the courage to keep moving forward.
Dr Nadia Esani currently works as a Case Manager with The Ismaili Council for USA. She received her Bachelors and Master’s degree in family studies from University of New Mexico and Texas Woman’s University. She recently graduated from California Southern University with a Doctorate in psychology. Her dissertation was predicated on the benefits of recognizing complex posttraumatic stress disorder as an official mental health diagnosis.