My name is Amelia Khan and am 26 years old, I am totally blind due to a condition called Peter’s Anomaly. I currently work in the charity sector and enjoy working in the field. Making a difference in the world we live in is something that I’m passionate about. In my spare time I enjoy catching up with friends because let’s face it, you can never have a dull moment laughing about the mishaps of celebrities, talking about how life would be so much better if you and your mates ran the country or pulling pranks on your unsuspecting acquaintances. I also enjoy trying out new sports and have a keen interest in gadgets and technology.
Life growing up
When I was younger, I had some residual vision, but lost it at the age of 21. Science tells me that my retina detached resulting in total blindness, but I’ve convinced myself that my brain decided I was too skilled to need eyesight to get on in life. All jokes aside, while this had a huge impact on my life at the time, I often reflect on how it’s taught me to appreciate the small things and empathise with those who are going through life-changing experiences.
I attended mainstream school from nursery right the way through to university. Despite having some residual vision, I used Braille and screen readers throughout my studies. Being in a mainstream setting definitely presented me with challenges, both socially and educationally. Socially, I found high school particularly difficult, mainly due to bullying and being excluded by my peers. Educationally, I found that not getting materials in accessible forms and teachers not understanding that I needed extra time to complete tasks really limited my progress. I did have some outstanding teachers, but I also had those who really showed no understanding at all. I really liked it when Offsted came to the school, because my access requirements were all met and were tiptop. I attended Loughborough College to do my A-levels and as I was supported by a specialist college (RNIB College), I felt that by far this was my best experience in terms of education. Firstly, I was able to stay in a mainstream setting, but having the expertise of people supporting VI people meant that my support needs were met while studying. This support then provided me with the foundation to be confident in managing my support at university. Having had the chance to work out what worked best for me in terms of assistive technology and the tasks I needed support with really put me in the driving seat to manage my support needs in higher education. This made the process of sorting out DSA, communicating with lecturers and disability support really smooth. Of course, credit has to be given to the university, as they really listened and did everything they could to support me. They would have got extra marks if they had also written my assignments, but I’m sure I’ll forgive them for that…
I lived away from home both at college and university and I honestly believe it was the best decision I made. Understandably my parents were worried, what parent wouldn’t worry about their 16 year old moving away from home, but despite their reservations at the time, they now understand why it was good for me to have had the experience. I really improved on my independent living skills, made a lovely group of friends and my family now know that I will be able to live independently when they feel that they have had enough of me.
As someone who comes from a South Asian background, I know how difficult it was for my parents to allow me to leave home and added to their concerns about my welfare, I have a lot of respect for them. Sometimes parents find it hard to know how to support their child, so instead of letting them be free to learn, they become over protective, which isn’t healthy for either party in the long-term. Although my parents never really knew how to support me, they have come to believe in me and now encourage me to do the best that I can do. Having watched me go through the challenges over the past 10 years, they know that I am able to manage my sight loss and have the ability to ask for help when needed. They are always on hand to help in any way they can, which means a lot to me. Coming from an ethnic minority background did have it’s challenges, but I wouldn’t change my experiences for the world. Feel free to visit my blog in which I discuss life as a South Asian, Blind Muslim growing up in the UK.
Thank you for reading my story and I hope it has been of use to you in some way.