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Ability not Disability

Written by a 16-year-old student with vision loss

by Clare Kennelly on 05-12-1921

I am a 16-year-old Transition Year (TY) Irish student living in Cork. This blogpost is going to highlight some of the obstacles I’ve overcome in recent years as a young person with a visual impairment.

  • National Council Achievement

In April of this year 2021, I had a discussion with my youth worker around advocating for young people in youth services and especially those who live in disadvantaged communities. I attended an event called a regional seminar to meet other young people from my region to make recommendations to our youth organisation, Foróige as to how best they could support us.

It was at this seminar, I realised I did not only have an interest in supporting others but also a passion for advocating for myself and others. I ran for election onto a local reference panel and was successful in this process. This meant making a speech in front of 30 people which is something I never thought I had the confidence to do. I then ran for election again to make it onto a National Council of young people which is an integral part in the running of the youth organisation. I have delivered numerous talks; speeches; workshops since beginning this journey and not for a second am I allowing my disability hold me back. Rather, it is driving me forward and I am learning to overcome all challenges faced and seeing how people are open to supporting me when needed.

  • Remaining in Education

Another recent huge achievement of mine is I completed my Junior Certificate achieving above expectations and all honours. Once I entered 4th year, I highlighted to my school I wanted to use Assistive Technology, my Mercury 12 appropriately. It is in 4th year, I became more open and confident in telling people about my disability. I felt my school wasn’t supporting me appropriately so with the help of my local youth worker and the NCBI (National Council for the Blind of Ireland), we arranged an intervention with the school. The NCBI highlighted the challenges associated with my disability, and the school responded appropriately by allocating me the supports I need such as, Special Needs Assistant ( SNA) supports and Mercury 12 set up. The SNA can help me in writing and reading which was something I found difficult in the past. I feel a lot more confident going into senior cycle with these supports in place. 

To be honest, a realistic alternative for a period of time, was to leave school and completely disengage from education. The point to highlight here is facing up to my issues and standing up for myself has paid off massively as opposed to keeping quiet and shying away from my adversities.

  • Confidence & Esteem

In summary, I am blessed to be able to reflect on the last 12 months and acknowledge the improvements I have made with my confidence and self-esteem. The underlying feeling is that I am now “normal”. I have been introduced to other young people who experience other challenges like my own.  Also, due to the NCBI and Clare from Inclusive World Training, I know I am no longer alone and other people live just like me. Engaging in programmes such as the NCBI TY LENS programme, has me now feeling it is my world, and I can achieve all I put my mind to. I have already overcome the harshest of traumas, losing my dad and my sister but still going forward. It is empowering to know I am able to achieve all these great things even while experiencing vision loss.  As a result of the work, I have done over the years on myself, I know that I will get that dream job in the future, I will live in my dream home, I will live a happy and successful life and that is because I focus on my abilities as opposed to any disability.