WBU-AP(Junior Group) Excellent Work
I Am Able
Philippines Maria Teresa H. Tandiama (24/ Female )

I have neither seen nor heard much. My left eye has been totally blind since birth while my right eye has always had low vision. My left ear has been totally deaf from birth while my right ear can partially hear sounds, thereby necessitating the use of a hearing-aid. I used to think that mine was the worst and most pitiful situation in this life. However, as I grew in knowledge and wisdom, I learned that losing my senses was nothing worse thanlosing my life's vision.

In spite of the physical challenges that I have to face, I believe that there are still many things to be grateful for. My family loves me despite my multiple disabilities, though they may not show it all the time. They understand my needs and do their best to meet such needs. In addition, I have so many friends who value me. Some of them are not even disabled but they accept me and understand my condition sincerely.

There were times when I felt envious of the people who had no disability, especially those who could read regular print from any distance. I always felt shy every time I went to public places. I could not read fast as I had to put the book very close to my right eye. I had to do that to read the text. Despite my eye condition, nonetheless, I still love reading.

Before I learned Braille, I wondered whether I could finish my studies and how my life would be when I became totally blind in the future. Then everything turned around when, with the help of my Special Education Teacher, my eyes and ears were opened to two life-changing miracles, Braille and the White Cane.

I recall having displayed utter reluctance with regards to learning Braille. At first, I thought there was no need for Braille since I could read Large Print. However, when I noticed that my eye easily got tired of reading, I began to realise the value of knowing and practising Braille. I used to ask help from a sighted person every time my eye got tired, but with Braille, this was no longer necessary. Moreover, since I could read Braille, the pain I felt in my eye due to exhaustion was lessened. Best of all, the people who initially discriminated against me started to show their appreciation of and respect for me. They became more aware and enlightened about the needs of the differently-abled. Some of them even made the effort to learn the proper way of guiding visually impaired persons like me.

I visibly remember how ashamed I felt at the prospect of using the White Cane. But when I decided to give it a try, it proved to be most helpful, especially when I had to walk at night and there was no one to guide me. I could not help noticing the different responses of people when they saw someone with a Cane. Some people simply moved away from me while others kindly offered me assistance. Nevertheless, I cannot deny that now I am really enjoying my independence which I had never thought possible.

After acquiring Braille plus Orientation and Mobility skills, my doubts and fears have started to disappear. I comprehend how important both Braille and the Cane are to me even if I can still see. Joy fills my heart whenever people openly tell me how amazed and inspired they are in knowing that I can do what the sighted are able to do even though I am different from them.

Through Braille and my White Cane, I have gained confidence and realised my worth; I used to wallow in despair, frustration, anxiety and self-pity; but everything has changed after I had acquired Braille and proper mobility skills. Because of my sense of independence, I am no longer fearful of losing my remaining vision and I know I can stand and survive on my own. I have completely accepted my multiple disabilities and I have even considered them as blessings. I am more motivated to face the world and to share the gifts I have been blessed with.

I wish to become an educator of my fellow vision and hearing impaired learners. I want to teach them not only how to write Braille, to walk independently using the Cane, or to communicate via Sign-language. But more significantly, I want to show them the value of accepting our impairments and developing our strengths in order that we may become productive citizens in society. Whatever I do, I aim at advocating for the rights of my fellow persons with disabilities, proving to the world that in spite of my physical limitations, I am able.

I feel The Maker's love in the presence of people who have big hearts for me and my fellow differently-abled persons. They are the kind souls who are understanding and supportive of us. They help us lead normal lives and they know deep in their souls that all we long for is to be treated not with pity but with understanding, patience, acceptance and love. They look not on our limitations but on our potentials and abilities. They know full well how we desire to be treated fairly in society, to be regarded as equals with those who are not physically or mentally impaired. We have a more obvious disability, it is true, but this does not define us or make us less than who we are. We can certainly do many things, albeit in diverse, creative and sometimes even humorous ways.

Like the well-renowned Helen Keller, and many other unnamed individuals who triumphed beyond their physical limits, we, the differently-abled aim and strive to live life to the fullest, thereby showing that we, too, can achieve success.

For many this may be far from reality; as for me, I sincerely believe that through God and with God, everything is a possibility. I may not have seen or heard much, but still I am determined to do more to achieve and make life meaningful for me and for everyone else.


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