Making Sense of His Senses - Zahier lost his sight as a teenager. When he was warming up during a Physical Education lesson, his retina detached. The vision in his left eye suddenly went red and he likened it to having his eyes open while underwater. While this could have plunged anyone’s world into darkness, being blind didn’t stop Zahier from living life to the fullest – as a sensory panellist, a musician, and a father.
When you lose your sense of sight, you learn to navigate life in a different way. For Zahier, his other senses play a huge role in shaping who he is. Zahier’s sense of smell is integral in his daily life as a sensory panellist. He smells different fragrances and gives feedback on it. He had to undergo intense training, memorising 50 scents all categorised into ‘families’. Training is rigorous over the course of a few weeks, with refresher training every three months.
Besides his keen sense of smell, Zahier is a self-professed audiophile. A hobby of his is trying out different brands and models of headphones. “I even know what kind of technology is used in the headphones by listening to it and the certification that the headphone models require,” he explains. He further explores this love of music as a musician. He performed alongside other artistes on national television for the President’s Challenge. Zahier picked up the guitar shortly before he lost his sight, but his natural talent allowed him to continue to make music without a hitch.
Even with all these achievements, being a husband and father are roles he is most proud of. He spends his free time exploring with his 2-year old toddler, the library being one of their favourite places. His pillar of support is his wife. When he first met her through his cousin, he was worried. “I wondered, and I asked her why she chose me instead of anyone else, because there are many things that I cannot do. I asked her if she was sure she wanted to be with someone with a visual impairment. Her reply was, she sees everyone as having their own strengths, and she didn’t see my disability.” As his family looks beyond his disability, he hopes that this mindset extends to the community at large too.
This is especially true for the workplace. When asked how we can foster a more inclusive environment, he says it’s important that people ask him what he can do instead of assuming what he can’t. Another example is not to move furniture around without informing blind colleagues. This is because for some with visual impairment, they learn routes by memory. A change in environment might cause them to bump into things unexpectedly. There can also be more IT support for the visually impaired. Computers in offices are often not accessible, without a JAWS Screen Reader to read aloud what’s on the computer screen.
These are the ways where inclusivity has helped him become a valuable employee, and something he continues to advocate for. Zahier might have lost his sense of sight, but he has never lost his sense of purpose.
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