BY NAZRINZULAIQA HASBI
HELEN Keller once said that the only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.
Being blind and deaf did not stop her from becoming a prolific author, political activist and an educator.
Her success story has been an inspiration to many.
One such inspiring individual is Norhasfalinda Hamdan, a student of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).
She is pursuing a degree in Linguistics at the Faculty of Language and Communication, Unimas and is currently in her second year.
She said it all started when she was two years old during which she had high fever. Her vision continued to deteriorate and she was later certified Orang Kurang Upaya or Person with Disabilities (OKU) at the age of seven.
“I was supposed to be operated on when I was five years old. However, due to certain unintended consequences, my family decided not to proceed with the operation.
“However, I continued with follow-up treatment and was required to wear spectacles throughout the treatment and later declared having stage two blindness at the age of seven.”
Refusing to accept her disability as an obstacle, this Kampung Goebilt resident wanted to prove that she is as capable of obtaining higher education qualification.
One of her Form Six teachers was her strong motivator to pursue higher education.
“My Form Six teacher encouraged me to further my studies because she said I had the ability.
“She believed in me and this gave me greater determination to try and do the best in my studies.
“In addition, I also believe that only by getting a good education that my future would be guaranteed.”
Asked how she felt when she found out she was accepted to pursue her studies in Unimas, Norhasfalinda, the youngest among six siblings, said it was nerve-racking.
“No words can describe my feelings then. I was excited but at the same time worried. I was happy that I was able to further my studies, but at the same time, I was worried about the challenges that I had to face.
“I have also heard that the degree journey is not easy. But it does not break my spirit to continue my journey since there is nothing easy in this world for me.”
The 22-year-old said she was capable of enduring all the difficulties in university life, the same way that she did in her primary and secondary school years.
She went to SK Pendidikan Khas (B) Kuching and later SMK Batu Lintang, doing her Form Six at SMK Matang Jaya.
She admitted that she struggled to adapt since Day One at Unimas but she was not giving up.
“I was scared because I was worried about my varsity mates’ perception and opinion towards me. Often, I would distance myself.”
Norhasfalinda later found out that it was just her own negative thoughts.
“My uni mates actually treated me okay. I’m the one who was always distancing myself from them because I thought that they did not want to befriend because of my deficiency.”
She said her perception changed when she realised that her classmates and lecturers always showed concern for her. “I feel so lucky and grateful for that.”
To make it easier for her to learn, especially in reading, Norhasfalinda said she used a tool to help her during her studies – RUBY HD, which costs her RM2,600.
She said having physical classes was so much fun but due to the pandemic, students were required to do online lessons, and this, she admitted was very challenging.
“It is hard for me to explore the app at the first time and also I had to deal with an unreliable Internet connection, thus making it tough for me to comprehend what the lecturers were saying.
“Besides, my eyes hurt too much after looking at the laptop or phone frequently.”
Norhasfalinda admitted that there were times she thought of giving up studying, especially during the pandemic.
“However, I get up and self-motivate myself by saying, ‘If others can do it, I too can do it’.”
She is also grateful for the help from her lecturers and course mates during online lessons.
She advised students who are struggling in online learning to get used to the new norms and to be mentally strong.
Norhasfalinda also hoped that things would return to normal soon as she missed the university environment and prayed that lectures could be done next year as she will be in her final semester.
She is currently undergoing her industry training at Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) and cannot wait to finish her tertiary studies. “Once I graduate, I am planning to pursue my interest in creative writing.”
Norhasfalinda explained that she is passionate about creative writing, especially poetry.
She often submitts her poetry to Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP). Her poems titled “Tentera yang tidak kelihatan” and “lstimewa” were once published in Utusan Sarawak.
She also loves to exercise because she wants to live a healthy life and fill her free time. She has participated in sports such as running since primary and secondary school, then, she quit the sport in 2014 after the Sukma Paralimpik.
Norhasfalinda also joined the lawn bowls club after winning a tournament in Unimas, but due to the pandemic, she played only one game as all tournaments had been postponed.
Through her involvement in sports, she could release her stress and admitted that she learned how to socialise with people. This is because some of the team members have the same problem as her so it was easy for her to get along with them.
Norhasfalinda’s story aims to inspire and motivate the public, especially students, to continue to survive in the face of adversity.
She is a person who has proven that people with visual issues can accomplish great things in life.