The London 2012 Paralympics demonstrate that a disability does not have to disable life.
Victoria Oruwari, a classical singer from Nigeria living in London, lost her sight at the age of seven but enjoys life to the fullest.
She says the city’s unique landmarks make London convenient for blind or partially sighted people. She asks me if I have noticed the raised bumps that are often found before a road crossing. She says they are a great help, as she can feel them with her stick and knows she has to cross.
I feel a pang of guilt for always complaining about how uncomfortable they feel under my feet.
There are also other, unplanned aids which help Victoria find her away. “Smell guides me to find places,” she says. “The strong smells from stores such as the Body Shop and Lush become signs of when I need to turn a corner, for example.”
A helping hand
I ask her if people usually offer their help. “Sometimes…” she replies, with a pause. “I try to avoid asking help from people wearing high heels as they always seem to be in a hurry!” she adds, laughing heartedly.
Victoria says London makes her feel safe. “It’s a blessing because there are lots of people around,” she says. “Blind people feel safer in city environments as there are more people to watch out for them.”
Victoria’s inner and outer beauty and positive energy make a deep impression on me. “There’s more to life than being able to see,” she says.
She clarifies herself, by saying she is “not advocating blindness. After all, it is a disability, but it isn’t a complete obstacle to living.
“I don’t feel like a lot has been taken away from me. I can still appreciate music, movies and see people from a different point of view.”
As we walk outside, I slow my pace, thinking that it will be a help to her. I tell her to let me know if I walk too fast as that is a bad habit of mine. She immediately quickens her pace saying she usually walks fast too – she was slowing down for me.
“Let’s stay in touch,” she says, smiling, as we go our separate ways.
When I reach home, I visit her website and read through her array of achievements and her burning passion to sing and mentor young musicians. Also, listening to her voice unexpectedly blows me away. (Enjoy her version of Ave Maria here.)
In a society where people struggle with their sense of identity, Victoria exemplifies a truthful sense of self-acceptance and a boundless zest for life. London also helps her live an independent life where a disability is a physical impediment, but not an emotional one.
Image courtesy of Victoria Oruwari.
Find out more about Victoria Oruwari. Visit www.victoriaoruwari.com
This article is also published here: Sense of London