If you are lucky, at some point in your life you meet a very special person who totally changes how you perceive the world. For me, Ana is that special person. I first met her online, on Zoom. A friend recommended I speak with her when I started research for a project I was working on. After the call I was so fascinated by her personality that I asked her if she was willing to be part of my project.
Ana made me think about the world differently. She made me more sensitive to the environment around me and, after spending time with her, I started listening to everyone and everything more carefully. She is passionate about helping other people. When you are with her you can sense her inner strength as well as her sincerity and determination. After meeting Ana, I decided to turn the project into an essay about her, and the project became very personal and special for me.
“In the beginning, when I walked around, I thought I was seeing things. At the age of five, I thought I was seeing little black dots. I thought I could still see a little. Then the specialists told me that I was blind. But some blind people have very sensitive hearing. They hear something and they think they see it. When I pass a wall, I hear the wall. When I pass a tree, I hear the tree.
I do not like open spaces very much, because I get lost. When I cannot hear things well, I feel almost like I am floating in the air. When I can hear objects, it makes me feel much more secure. When I get lost, I often click my fingers to find out where I am. Then I can guess what place I am in.
As a child, I really liked the color red. So after I lost my sight, I thought everything I liked was red. Even now, if I like a dress, I have a feeling that it is red. For me everything good is associated with this color.
I lived in my native village until I was five. Even after losing my sight, I still knew all the roads and where everything was. I knew where things stood: a tree, someone's house. I knew the color of our neighbor's gate. Now my memory is fading, I have a lot more to think about these days. I am starting to forget the colors I remember from the past.
I have struggled my whole life. I have struggled with my inner self and also with the outside world. I have a dream that I very rarely talk about. I would like to be a free, cheerful girl who does not have to fight, who does not have to defend herself against the outside world. I would like to be a girl who can do anything, not a girl with disabilities. I struggle to establish myself as a non-disabled person, but it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because there is always at least one person who pities me.
Sometimes people say that there are a lot of dysfunctional people in this world. I really dislike this phrase: I believe that every single person is capable of something. Everyone’s life has meaning, even though we may not see it.
Sometimes I like to say that in a country where everything is slow and monotonous, only insane people can make changes. I want to be this kind of insane person in order to change the existing reality. Not only for people with disabilities, but for everyone.
I do not want anyone to pity me or support me because I am have a disability. Many people do that. I want to be free, not someone who is always “oppressed” and “needs help.”
It is often written that women with disabilities face twice as much discrimination. This phrase has always annoyed me. I am not ashamed of my blindness, but I am tired of the problems it causes.
I have promised myself that I will break stereotypes about people with disabilities in Georgia. This is my main goal now. I do not look at the behavior of others. I want to be myself.
Every person is unique. The terms blind community, community of people with disabilities do not exist for me. For me such terms as community are associated with stereotypes. Perhaps it is just me, but I cannot stand it when people are divided into certain categories. In my opinion, each category creates a preconceived notion about a particular issue. I do not consider myself as a representative of any community. It is important to show people your unique personality.
But there is a need for people who will advocate for other people with disabilities because they are very passive in Georgia. There need for active citizens, who change the current situation by becoming advocates for their fellow citizens. This is why my civic activism is related to people with disabilities, I see huge problems and I am eager to change them. One day I want to live in a city that is accessible for everyone.
I find humor in a lot of things caused by my condition. There is no point in getting upset because others can do a lot of things that I cannot, to start thinking about that. If I start thinking about it, I will not be able to do anything except stay at home and spend all my time thinking about it. It makes no sense. It’s really not worth it. I prefer to stand up, be strong. However, sometimes I get really tired. Imagine, I constantly have to prove something; sometimes I even have to act like a different person.”
The edit of the images and text by Chai Khana.
The photo project is recipient of Tbilisi Photography & Multimedia Museum Grant for South Caucasian Female Photographers. May-October 2020 mentored by Gregoire Eloy/Tendance Floue. The project was financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).