According to the World Health Organisation, around 36 million people in the world suffer from blindness. An estimated 1.4 million children under the age of 15 are irreversibly blind. They do not have the privilege to “see” the world in the way most of us do.
What will we do if, all of a sudden, we realise that we can’t see? The very thought of it is frightening enough. Maybe we will not be able to live the lives we had always imagined, maybe our lives will be over. Or will it? There are some people, known and respected all over the world, who would disagree. Instead of letting their blindness handicap them, they have shown the world that with firm determination, no challenge is big enough to stand between us and greatness.
World Braille’s Day was observed on January 4, and keeping that in mind, let us take a look at five famous visually impaired people in history
This list would not be possible without the mention of Louis Braille, a French educator and the inventor of Braille – a tactile writing system used by the visually impaired all over the world. Blind since childhood as a result of an accident, Braille not only embraced his condition, but also championed it. Educated at the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in France, he later worked as a Professor at the Institute. Braille was born in 1809 at Coupvray, France, and took his last breath in 1852 in Paris.
Helen Keller was the first deaf-blind person in the world to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Although she lost the ability to see and hear at a very young age, she eventually grew up to be a prolific author, a political activist. Her teacher and lifelong companion, Anne Sullivan proved that with dedicated care and attention, no physical disability can limit a person’s march towards success. Keller lived to be 87 years old and took her last breath in Connecticut, US, in 1968.
Ray Charles lost his sight at the age of seven. It could not, however, stop him from earning prominence as a singer-songwriter, musician, and composer. Often referred to as “The Genius,” he was ranked tenth by Rolling Stone on its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of all Time.” A musical biography based on 30 years of Charles’ life and titled Ray
, was released in 2004, where Ray Charles’ character was portrayed by Jamie Foxx. The famed American was born in 1930 and passed away at the age of 73 in 2004.
37 year-old Asish Goyal may not be as famous as the others on the list, but he continues to build a rich legacy. Goyal turned completely blind at 22 due to the disease retinitis pigmentosa. However, it could not obstruct his enrollment as the first blind student at Wharton Business School in Philadelphia. He graduated in 2008, earning an MBA with honors. Now a former trader at J.P. Morgan, the global financial giant, Goyal received India’s National Award for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities in 2010. He was also named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2015.
Perhaps the most famous blind painter in the world right now, John Bramblitt did not start painting until he became legally blind at the age of 30 in 2001. Bramblitt’s works have been sold in over a hundred and twenty countries, and has been covered by global media. Bramblitt is the author of the award-winning book, “Shouting in the Dark,” which highlights the darkness cast on his life due to blindness, and how he found the path towards light through art.
Human determination has the capacity to overcome any odds, and there is no challenge that can stop our march towards glory if we take care of each other regardless of the challenges we face. It has to be on an individual, family, and societal level. And it is only then, that we will be able to prosper together in a better and brighter world.