She was 19 and studying for a bachelor’s degree in economics in Shiraz when she was diagnosed.
While growing up with a visual impairment, Dr Hasanloo told SBS Persian that she always tried to hide her disability.
But by the third year of her university degree, her eyesight had deteriorated to the point that she decided to give up.
Instead of giving up hope, however, she says this turning point only made her more determined to learn and educate others.
- Zhila Hasanloo is a disability advocate and founder of Ability Beyond Boundaries
- At 19, Dr Hasanloo was diagnosed with a rare progressive disease that caused him to lose his eyesight
- She came to Australia 12 years ago to undertake her doctorate in education at the University of Sydney.
A new career path emerged as in the following years she obtained a bachelor’s degree in musical performance at the University of Tehran, followed by a master’s degree in educational psychology at the same university.
“After meeting blind people, I realized that some of them were musically gifted. I started working with a lady who was a music teacher and I took a test to enroll in a bachelor’s degree in musical performance, ”she says.
Dr Hasanloo says that as a legally blind student she was able to learn the skills and techniques that help her today to help others.
“Diversity is beautiful”
Twelve years ago, she immigrated to Australia on a student visa to study her doctorate in education at the University of Sydney. After completing the course, she established the non-profit organization Capacity beyond borders.
Dr Hasanloo says the organization’s original goal was to raise awareness among the Persian community in Australia about people with disabilities and their rights.
As a provider of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the organization refers people with disabilities to support services and runs projects that enable participants to develop the skills necessary to actively participate in their community.
The goal of Ability Beyond Boundaries has always been to build a welcoming community for all, whatever their abilities, because everyone has their own abilities, and that diversity is magnificent.
“Our society can only prosper when it has a high level of tolerance and welcomes everyone,” she said.
The Iranian-born lawyer also works as a project manager on disability and inclusion at the New South Wales Department of Education.
World Braille Day
World Braille Day is celebrated on January 4 to raise awareness of the challenges that blind and visually impaired people face in their daily lives.
Established by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2018, the date also marks the birthday of Louis Braille, who at the age of 15 invented the tactile system for reading and writing.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 2.2 billion people worldwide are visually impaired.
Dr Hasanloo says she would like to take the opportunity to raise awareness of the daily challenges faced by blind and visually impaired people.
Vision 2020 Australia, the national body working to prevent preventable blindness and improve vision care, believes there are more over 575,000 blind and partially sighted people living in Australia.
Dr Hasanloo says that during the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing measures and lockdowns still isolated many people with disabilities.
Drawing on her first-hand experiences, she emphasizes the importance of radio and podcasts for providing accessible information in many languages.
“Radio and podcasts are considered the media of the blind because they are fully accessible to them.
“For this reason, I think SBS has been a very good initiative from the Australian government, as well as other initiatives like NDIS. It’s amazing, because he values diversity, almost not verbally. It means recognizing all people, their rights and their cultures, ”says Dr Hasanloo.
Respect for differences is very important. It is not only about employing people with disabilities, but also respecting their special needs and differences, and being flexible towards them, otherwise their jobs will be worthless.