Visually impaired student wants to empower disabled community

One of Mellissa Walker’s short-term goals is to use ergonomics to empower the lives of members of the disabled community.

In a recent interview with THE WEEKEND STAR, the visually impaired Sutton district resident said that persons often find it challenging to fit into the working world because of their disability, so she wants to assist them through ergonomics.

Ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. It is the process of designing or arranging workplaces, products, and systems so that they fit the people who use them.

Walker, who was born with one of her eyes closed, said that she became interested in the field as she, too, has struggled to function in society.

Now a final-year student at The University of the West Indies, she is pursuing a degree in occupational environmental health and safety.

“Over a period of time, my eye gradually began to open up, but it has been stagnant for a number of years now. I don’t have 20/20 vision in either of my eyes. During high school, it was really rough because I had issues where I couldn’t see the board properly, and that sometimes affected my grades tremendously. There were persons who thought that they are better than me, and I was picked on because I looked different. They tend to focus on my weak areas and not that I have other strengths,” said the 23-year-old student.


Walker lives with her mother, Odeth Perkins, and other relatives in their Clarendon community. Showering her mother with praises, the bubbly student credits her for all her achievements. Despite earning a meagre salary, Walker said that her mother managed to fund her education even when it seemed difficult.

“I grew up in a very low-income family, and I am far from being from a wealthy background. My mother, especially, has to work assiduously to ensure that I get a very good education. Growing up, I was treated as any other child. I was always told to be myself, which is really an asset in these times because you have a lot of families who push their children to do stuff that they are really not comfortable doing. Mommy always called me ‘Miss President’ from I was very young, and I didn’t know the importance of these empowering words until I got bigger,” she said.

The Denbigh High School past student said that she is hoping persons will become more educated about the disabled community, as too often, they are ridiculed by ‘able’ individuals.

“Even now, some persons will see me and shout out ‘Open up the eye for me!’ and ‘Stop quint yuh eye dem so’. At first, it used to agitate me, but not anymore. I used all that bullying as a stepping stone. In high school, who would have told me that I would have become a prefect and even the deputy head girl. I gained many different awards over the years,” she said.

Walker is also encouraging parents to stand by their children despite their struggles.

“I want to organise a forum where I can motivate and encourage parents to be a backbone for children with disabilities. I have met parents who are ashamed of their own child, and they need to realise that their child is a human being and that he or she is special,” Walker said.

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