The Best of Sisters
Issue 95 August 2012
Canadian sisters Rabia and Uzma were recently recognised for their work on disability issues, and were awarded Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medals.
I was born with the eye condition retinitus pigmentosa, which has caused the gradual degeneration of my eyesight since an early age. We didn’t find out about it until I was eight years old, when teachers realised that I was having problems seeing the board at school. However, I couldn’t quite grasp the label of blindness until I was at a summer class before High School, and the teacher introduced me to the class as legally blind.
Uzma, who is 11 years my junior, was brought up very differently. Because my family knew about her eye condition since birth, she went to a nursery specifically for visually impaired kids, so she walked into kindergarten saying she couldn’t see the board and needed assistive devices on her desk. Whereas for me, it took me a long time to be able to do that, so I would pretend to take notes, rather than admit that I couldn’t see the blackboard.
Rabia and I both have a very positive outlook on life, and we’re proud of who we are, without letting our disability bring the negative out of us. We choose to overcome barriers and do what we can to achieve our goals. I was able to learn a lot from her growing up. I looked up to her and admired her for all the success that she has had in her life. She was always there to give me advice, if I was ever not sure what to do. Either she had been through something similar, or she knew the right people to speak to.
I would say that I am perhaps more adventurous than Rabia. Because I was diagnosed with the eye condition a lot earlier in life than Rabia, there were different opportunities for me growing up. I have taken up several outdoor activities, like blind downhill skiing, which I started a year and a half ago. That is something that Rabia would never ever do!