How can you study when you cannot read a regular book or copy notes off the blackboard? How can you go to university when you are blind?
Nhem Synath, a 25-year-old freshman in English literature at Pannasastra University, participates in class and takes exams; and she was born blind.
The young woman from Banteay Meanchey province has grown up in Phnom Penh for most of her life under the roof of the Krousar Thmey organisation, a school for blind and deaf children. She doesn’t remember when she arrived at the NGO. From an early age she was taught by the teachers at the NGO: “Your disability is not a weakness.”
“I think that disability is not my problem because I can also do some of what the other people can do,” Synath explained.
Like other students, Synath has to read when she gets home, but she reads tactilely – her fingers touch raised letters written in Braille, a form of written language made for the blind.
Not only can Synath read, but she can also write in Braille. “I need a slate and a stylus. I have to put paper into the slate and then I use the stylus to write,” Synath said, adding: “I can use any kind of thick paper – even newspapers are OK.”
Surprisingly, Synath can even use computers. “I use a computer for writing documents and doing assignments,” she said.
Besides doing assignments, Synath needs a computer to read the audio files she records at school and also to listen to documents she gets from her teachers. “I just ask for sources from my teachers, and then I copy them into the computer.”
Her blindness hasn’t even stopped Synath from going abroad.
“I joined a youth leadership program in Japan in September last year, and I arrived in Cambodia in July this year after spending 10 months there.”
Synath told LIFT that she feels very proud of what she has done so far. “I never thought that I could come to university and I could get these opportunities,” she said, expressing her feelings about her achievements.
When asked what pushes her to her remarkable achievements she replied: “I want the public to stop discriminating against disabled people.”
With her ambition, Synath is proof that a disability doesn’t mean you can’t aim high and become successful.
“I want to do a master’s degree in English abroad and then become a university-level English teacher.”