Seeing a world with sound
By Siham Al Najami, Staff Reporter/GULF NEWS Published: August 03, 2007, 23:12
Dubai: Imagine a world with no colour, a personal world with no boundaries, a world without any visual inputs.
One such world belongs to Dana Nashwati, a 20- year-old who lost her sight at the age of 13 after a severe bout of flu, which affected the nerves around her eyes. She can still see a blur of colours and shapes in her dreams, although it is now gradually turning into only shades and sounds.
She can still visualise things by learning to identify the characteristics of an object. “I still use colours to identify people I haven’t seen before losing my eyesight. I visualise individuals by giving them a colour by the sound of their voice,” said Nashwati.
Khalfan Bin Dhaher (left), Ahmad Al Jafli (right) and members of the Blind Association.
She tries to help visually-impaired people to learn how to match colours to sounds. She is surrounded by her friends from the Blind Association, who occasionally escape busy schedules to enjoy a day with nature and good company.
Among the group is Khalfan Bin Daher, who was demonstrating his knowledge of guessing people’s age and skin colour by feeling their hands. In a few minutes he was able to correctly guess the age of the person next to him. “I don’t know how people look like, but through the sense of touch I can find out about the person’s age and skin colour,” said the 18-year-old.
“I can see light when it directly hits my eyes. That’s the only thing I can ‘see’, but I would love to learn how to match colours. I would like to know if red goes well with blue,” he said.
He explained that he sees things the way his imagination visualises it. “My dreams are usually shapeless and colourless. But then reality will always be defined by perception,” he said.
Ahmad Al Jafli, 20, enjoys listening and composing music. The media communications student and radio presenter said he can recognise the mood of a person by carefully listening to every unconscious movement and sound.
“People can control their expressions, but they are usually unconscious of certain movements due to discomfort, happiness,” he said.
Nashwati points out that people are increasingly taught to be visually-driven. “This undermines the significance of their other senses,” she said.
Mona and Sharifa Al Hashemi, they visualise objects by the sound they make. “I identify objects by listening to the sound they create. I dream with sounds,” said Mona.
All the group members were born visually impaired except for Nashwati.
“Losing your eyesight is obviously difficult, but your visual impairment is not always a restriction. The visual element can be deceptive at times. I learned to understand matters and people better because I take the time to listen to their views … you learn the art of listening,” she said.
The groups of friends feel the country needs more awareness about the needs and wants of visually impaired people. Most shopping malls and buildings are not accessible for the visually impaired, they said.
“We still have to depend on someone to get from one place to another. We all want our independence. We always try to challenge ourselves … but we need the resources and means,” Bin Daher said.
Have your say:
Do you know someone who is visually-impaired? What is it like to spend a day with them? Tell us your experiences.