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Amanyi … Visually impaired who cares for the deaf

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Amanyi Obeya Ignatius

Amanyi Obeya Ignatius is partially sighted. In fact, his situation could actually pass for complete blindness, but thanks to some medical jargons that still leave him in the peripheral of not been a totally blind man.
 
However, his physical challenge was not with him at birth; the twist of life became cruel on him when he was about enrolling into in JSS 1.“I became blind after I had a fever. It was discovered that I had a small boil on my forehead, but unfortunately, by the time the boil got dissolved, I discovered that I cannot see clearly again. I could only see shadows of images, but cannot identify them. The doctors eventually reasoned that my blindness may be linked to the history of glaucoma in my mother’s family because my mum and her elder sister both have sight problems,” Amanyi said.

Amanyi’s dream of enrolling into the Nigerian military thus became extinct. “I was writing a common entrance examination to go to St. Francis Secondary School from where I hoped to enroll into the Nigerian Defense Academy, Kaduna. I was then in St. Mary Primary School and my teachers could only feel pity for me, but there is nothing they could do.”

Out of anger, Amanyi refused to go to a blind assisted school, as recommended by his poor mother who has been vending to take care of him and his siblings since the death of their father. “It was very difficult for me to accept the fact that I cannot see again. I continuously refused to study with the visually challenged in the school I was taken to and that really delayed my education,” he said.

However, eventually, Amanyi became interested in education again because his old schoolmates will not leave. After their classes, “they would retire to my house and gave me feedback on what they have learnt in school. Gradually, I became challenged and my interest in education was developed again. But sadly, I have to now do this with other visually challenged students,” he lamented.

Amanyi eventually went to rehabilitation classes where at some point he also studied with some other children without any physical challenge. He grew in his study and was admitted to the University of Jos (UNIJOS) where he got a degree in Special Education for the visually handicapped, but not without some challenges.

“It was not easy studying at the University of Jos. I had only my elder brother who also has his own family to help, but I became very fortunate when I had about the MTN Foundation scholarship for the blind. My friends told me about it and I went ahead to enter the competition. After the screening, I was very glad when I was contacted to have been successful, but the scholarship meant I must maintain a 2.5 CPGA every semester to continuously to be eligible till I pass out” Amanyi said.

At UNIJOS, Amanyi’s encounter with the deaf clicked the instinct in him to build something that will make life easier for them. He created the deaf doorbell known as OB Bell to help the deaf know when someone is knocking on their door while inside.

“The rooms for the blind and the deaf at the Village hostel are facing each other. Sometimes, when visitors knock on the door of a deaf person, they have to do that very hard for the deaf person inside to know that someone is knocking because the vibration must get to a certain level before the deaf person can feel with his body that someone is knocking at the door.

“So as an intervention, I have designed what I call the OB Bell for the blind. The bell is an improvement on the regular doorbell, but I have introduced light into it. So, when the bell switch is pressed outside the door, it rings and also brings on the light for the deaf person inside to see. Once the light comes up, the deaf person can then open the door,’ Amanyi explained.

When deaf persons are sleeping, they can still make use of the OB Bell. According to Amanyi, “since the body of the deaf person can still generate some sensitivity, I have designed the bell to generate enough vibration to wake the deaf person, while at sleep when he cannot see the light.”

But all of this would not have been possible without the support of the MTNF scholarship. “I could describe my scholarship, as God sent. The Foundation has treated me like a child by providing me with money and materials. Through the scholarship, I was able to buy my computer and also networked with organisations like Anglo-Nigerian Welfare Association for the Blind (ANWAB), which assisted me with the installation of the JAWS software for the blind, which I used with my computer. I have also been equipped with some entrepreneurial skills, so, I render a few other services with which I support myself on another front,” he informed.

Still, on the OB Bell, Amanyi is appealing to investors to buy into the project, so, the product can be improved and produced in large quantities to cater for the deaf in our society.

He said, “I am not really looking for fame, but just to fulfill my dreams of helping others who are physically challenged. Having been able to come up with this device, I will be glad if the deaf in our society are made happy, at least if they cannot speak, they can see and feel. The device is not perfect yet, but I am looking forward to technical partnerships that will help improve it.”

While taking care of the deaf, Amanyi is also not forgetting the blind. He intends to study to the highest level and conduct studies that will help address health and other societal issues affecting the blind. “I want to become of Professor of Blindism. I read materials on it online and discovered it is an aspect that is still less researched.  Blindism deals with behavioural characteristics of people with visual impairment that is not commonly attended to, but is affecting the blind. For example, you notice that most blind people will always face up when they speak or continuously bend their head to one side when they move or speak. These are some of the issues I hope to research on and come up with findings that will be of help to everyone,” Amanyi said.

Despite his condition, Amanyi is determined to push the frontiers of youth development particularly those with physical challenges. As a member of the Conscious Youth Movement, he aggressively creates awareness about people with disabilities. He also features on radio programmes where he speaks to these issues.

“All I want is a world of equal opportunities where despite any form of challenge one may have, he/she can still stand a very good chance so long as the society is willing to provide the needed support,” he concluded.

 


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Amanyi Obeya Ignatius
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