Blind computer programmer aims high

By Alia Al Theeb, Deputy UAE Editor

At a first glance, nobody would notice that a woman sitting behind a computer - totally engrossed in her work - is actually blind.

Najat Saeed Hussain is a woman of substance who takes her duties seriously and has never allowed the fact that she is both blind and deaf to stand in her way.

Najat uses a hearing aid to communicate. Gulf News caught up with Najat at her workplace at Dubai Health Authority premises to get an insight into her unique and determined personality.

"I was not born blind, but I totally lost my sight after two accidents. One accident was when I was hit by a ball in my eyes as I was playing with some children. Few years later, I lost sight in my other eye in a similar incident," she said.

She recalled her painful endeavours to regain her sight through a series of treatments, which turned out to be unsuccessful.

"I used to get injections for my eyes, but then there was bleeding and I felt pain in my entire face. I had to undergo several treatments, but at the end, I lost my hearing ability and today I hear using [a] hearing aid," Najat said.

Najat's studies specialised in operational research, which, according to her, is a broad field based on dealing with numbers.

Najat graduated from Hertfordshire University in the United Kingdom with a bachelor's degree in 1999. She lived in London for 10 years during which she learnt Braille and walking with the use of cane. Najat also learned to do some craftwork.

She also learnt to type on a typewriter before the proliferation of computers.

Najat went to the Royal National College for the Blind in the United Kingdom, which is a rehabilitation centre for blind people. It was there that she developed her skills and learnt how to use a computer, while being instructed by a Libyan man at the college.

"I came back to the UAE in 1985 and worked in the health department after I worked as a computer programmer for one year in the United Kingdom and did some basic language there," Najat said.

She said her dilemma she faced on coming back was on what she was going to do for living.

"I was appointed as a computer programmer at the health department, but I did not really get the chance to excel, as I had learnt sophisticated computer programming in the United Kingdom," she said.

This was because many people could not look beyond the fact that she was blind, she said.

After all the struggle, Najat says the place she is working at currently at, as a computer programmer, is what she was looking for.

"Here, I found my identity because my work involves dealing and communicating with people directly. This way I benefit others and I also learn from them," she said.

Her daily tasks also include answering emails and processing online requests through emails.

"My colleagues often ask me how can I deal with the computer and carry out this kind of job while being blind. I have one answer for them - which is [that] a blind person can do whatever he or she wants if they really wanted to and had the will to do it," Najat said.

Despite going through a lot in life, Najat is ambitious and is intent on realising her dreams.

"My wish is to see more attention given to blind people here, even by commercial companies.

"There needs to be more awareness and guidance for blind people so they can reach to top levels."

Special needs: Appeal for computer

Najat Saeed Hussain appealed to concerned authorities and centres for people with special needs to provide her with a computer equipped with the Braille system and talking programmes so that she can continue her studies and perfect her skills at home.

"In the United Kingdom, we could rent the computer along with other equipment to use at home and then return it to the centre when we finish. I wish I could get those equipment to continue my studies," she said.