Like the common adage ‘disability is not inability,’ Emmeline Muhawenimana, who is visually impaired, has gone about her life believing that nothing could stop her from achieving everything she wanted. Muhawenimana is finalising her studies at the University of Rwanda and has been able to excel both academically and in daily life activities. She is a visional and self-motivated girl who believes in herself and willing to work hard for her success in life just like any other person. “As visually impaired people, even if we need people to help us sometimes, it doesn’t mean we need them in everything and every time. We need them just like any other person does. Even if I am alone I can do as much as any other person can do. All I need is to get used to the environment I am within,” Muhawenimana says. As she was growing up, she couldn’t stop wondering why she was the only one who was visually impaired among the six children that she was born with. She had complications which resulted from the society’s attitudes towards her, including her family. Emmeline Muhawenimana developed visual complications in her childhood that resulted into her blindness but she has defied odds to pursue an education of her dreams. Pictures/ Courtesy Her siblings oppressed her, she narrates that often times when she would ask her sibling to find for her something they would ask if they are the ones that caused her blindness. Also one could bring an object and put it in front of her to test her whether she can see it. When she began school, people around her never stopped mocking at her, asking her parents why they would take someone who cannot see at school. She wondered if anyone loved her even though her parents never stopped encouraging her. Her blindness story Emmeline was born in Burundi with proper sight, until at the age of three when she fell sick of a strange disease. “My parents told me it started when I had a very high fever to the extent they thought I was dead, then they took me to the hospital and it took some days for me to recover from that disease and when I recovered, it’s when they found I couldn’t see anymore.” She explains. When she began school at the age of six, the school took responsibility for her treatment. Medical checkup was done and they found out she had cataracts, a disease that can be treated and cured if the patient is monitored early, but for her things went awry due to some doctors at fault. Luckily, she got an operation and started medication, after which she started experiencing some improvements and began seeing some things like light, and close objects. It is during the medication period when her attending physician went abroad and unfortunately, the new doctors gave her drugs that did not improve her eyes. Some people have volunteered to help Muhawenimana so that she can be treated, but nothing has changed, according to the last checkup that was done in 2018, the doctors confirmed that she cannot heal. Life at school She studied her primary school in Burundi, and later came to Rwanda where she continued her secondary level at Gatagara in Rwamagana and later continued to the University of Rwanda where she is now finalizing in the faculty of Journalism and Communication, majoring in Communication. The 21-year-old shares that as she was growing older she never felt uncomfortable because it’s something that she grew up with, besides some people in the society trying to intimidate her. She says her previous schools cared about her, especially her secondary school which was specifically for visually impaired students, where she felt comfortable and accompanied. It was however a bit more challenging when she joined university because there were very few people like her, some lecturers were not used to such cases. Often times, lectures would come to a class and teach randomly not keeping in mind that there are people who cannot see and go on explaining lessons on a projector as they also use body languages which could make it challenging for her to study with usual people. Another challenge was during the exam period and the visually impaired had no revision notes because it’s a process for the person responsible to prepare their notes using the dedicated technology, and also due to low equipment’s for them to use. The student adds that even though they cannot see, their other senses are stronger in a way that she can recognise someone by hearing their voices or touching them. She uses technology tools like telephones and computer machines like other people do with the help of dedicated applications. She can do every home activity. She believes that it would be helpful for the visually impaired if schools try to bring enough equipment, disabilities’ resource rooms and all other things that help students in their learning processes. She also points out that the society still needs to change the mindset about people with disability, like parents who have such children should not undermine them in anyway but rather support them to go as far as they can, and also the people with disability should feel responsible for their future and life and not taking disability as an excuse. If they can study any far then they can do other things rightly. Emmeline is so happy about the course she is pursuing because most of the work with in this field is done using technology. Her plan is to be self-employed up on her graduation. She would also like to do things related to technology like teaching them, or work in industry related things.