I got to know of Demola Adeleke after Nkiru Njoku shared one episode of his “Blind Chronicle”. The fact that I had a blind classmate in the University didn’t prepare me to meet a blind writer. Definitely not the fact that Cobhams is a notable producer.
Demola Adeleke, a Mass Communication of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, writes “Blind Chronicles” which is published on Crisp.ng and Facebook. The chronicle opens up on his life as a blind Nigerian.
In this exclusive interview, Demola Adeleke opens up on losing his sight to glaucoma; life after losing his sight; the idea behind “Blind Chronicles”; the misconceptions about blind people and very personal stuff — relationships; shopping; pairing up clothes; and just about everything about his life. I’m sure you’d enjoy.
VUN: You weren’t blind from birth, so briefly explain how you got to lose your sight?
Demola Adeleke: When I was 7, I started experiencing what my parents mistook for Apollo; i.e. reddish eyeballs and a slight blur in my vision. So we trailed on that ignorance until it became worse. By the time I was in JSS 3, just before I started my JSCE, my sight had gone really bad, that I could hardly walk independently. So, I told my parents about the sudden decline in my sightedness and they took me to the hospital. Meanwhile, I had been going for appointments at the eye clinic since that first time I made a complaint about the blur in my vision. But, the hospital I was going to, Adeoyo hospital in Ibadan, couldn’t categorically tell what was wrong with my sight. So, after the drastic decline in my vision in JSS 3, a friend of the family recommended UCH in the same Ibadan for us. Hence, I started going for treatments there. There, the diagnosis they ran showed that I had glaucoma, an eye defect that increases the eye pressure. Unfortunately, I eventually lost my sight after like 2 years of frequenting UCH for appointments. That was in 2009.
VUN: How has your loss of sight changed your life?
Demola Adeleke: Let me just say, it has somehow made me an introvert. When I still had my sight, I used to be a very sociable person; I would go to my friends’ house to visit them, but ever since I got blind, I’ve always enjoyed being alone. I like my quiet moments, imagining, thinking and feeling like I’m in a separate world of my own. My blindness, however, wouldn’t give me all the privacy I once had in my sighted days; because of my frequent need of “eye-sight” to get some tasks done. I request help from my folks and in turn, they get to know what I want to do — which assuming I’m not blind, it would have been confidential.
VUN: Which training did you receive to be able to cope with the blindness? When, where and how did you get the training? Training here refers to reading Braille, orientation and mobility training, independent living skills or any other training offered to visually impaired people.
Demola Adeleke: In 2012, I was enrolled to a blind school at Ogbomoso, Oyo State. The school is run by the state government. In the school, I was rehabilitated to deal with blindness and move on with life. I was taught the writing and reading method of the blind (Braille). Also, I was taught how to type using the manual typewriter. With that, I can type printed words for “non-disabled” persons to read. I as well learned some mobility skills — how to walk around independently in an environment I’m familiar with, using the guide cane. Although, I was very poor in the mobility lesson. I also do not like using the guide cane. I consider it attention call. I didn’t receive any independent living skills in the school, the only thing I was taught is mobility, nothing more. Although, I was supposed to be taught how to cook, iron and do some other little chores as claimed by my fellow visually impaired friends who attended a different rehabilitation centre. My training at the school was supposed to last for a year. But, I spent only four months, the reason being that I was very fast in learning all the lessons taught.
VUN: Lots of blind people feel people’s faces to be able to identify them. Do you do that? How else do you recognise people?
Demola Adeleke: Talking about misconceptions about the blind, I think you just blew one. I’ve met with more than a hundred blind persons, but, none has picked up feeling people’s face as a means of recognition. The blind simply listens to people’s voice to recognise. It’s like we have a more sensitive ear which instantly records people’s voice or something. So, anytime we hear the same voice again, we, most times, recognise it without having to ask who the owner is again. We also get to recognise people through the texture of their hand or palm, their perfume and also the usual prank they play on us. Ask any blind person about how he recognises and he will tell you the same thing I just did.
VUN: How did the idea of writing your chronicle come about and what do you hope to achieve with the chronicles?
Demola Adeleke: I just felt I needed to let the world know what I go through like a blind person. So, I picked up my phone one day and started writing. Prior to the first episode of my Facebook series, “Blind Chronicles”, many of my Facebook friends didn’t know I am blind; same as my secondary school friends who last saw me when I still had my sight. So, I felt I was living a fake life by making people believe I was sighted. Hence, I shared how I lost my sight with the Facebook community. On what I intend to achieve with the series, I simply want to give people an insight to the blind world; how it feels like to be blind; the challenges the blind go through in the society; clear people’s misconceptions about the blind and also entertain them with some funny personal experiences as a blind person.
VUN: Can you briefly talk about how you write, especially as regards doing your typing.
Demola Adeleke: My devices, phone and laptop, have an application on them that reads out all the items displayed on the screen for blind users. So, I can write and post stories with my devices without having to seek people’s assistance. On how I type, I noted earlier that during my rehabilitation classes, I was taught how to type using the typewriter, meaning I learned how to identify the keys on the typewriter without having to look at them. Since the keys on the typewriter, computer and mobile phone are all arranged in a similar format (the QWERTY arrangement ), I only applied the skills I learnt with the typewriter on my computer and mobile phone.
VUN: One of your chronicles dealt with the challenge of finding love as a blind person. Matter of fact, that was the first of your chronicles that I read. Now, talk about your personal experiences with love; the challenges; the number of people you have dated; reasons for the breakup and just everything you feel comfortable relating. You can point out how different it has been from when you had your sight.
Demola Adeleke: I wouldn’t talk much on this; especially on the question inquiring the number of girls I’ve dated. I can’t help but consider it mischievous. Girls want a guy that can protect them; they want a guy that will hold them when they are falling; but, as a blind person, I lack those qualities. The girls I’m meant to protect end up protecting me instead. So, it’s usually a turn-off for them dating a blind guy. I’ve had a couple of relationships with girls. Surprisingly, those ones who I dated claimed to love me unconditionally and sincerely, it seemed so. Although I’ve tried courting some girls, they gave the excuse of not wanting to go into a relationship yet. Whereas, that was not their main reason, they only did not want to date a blind guy who they wouldn’t be proud to introduce to their folks. Sorry, but this is all I can answer.
VUN: What are the biggest misconceptions about blind people and what can be done to correct them?
Demola Adeleke: The number one misconception people have about the blind is that we are dumb and brainless. That is why I will be standing with a friend and someone will be asking for my name from the person I’m standing with; as if I’m invincible. Perhaps, they think our ears get deaf the instant the sight vanished. It’s so so annoying and frustrating. Another misconception is seeing the blind as all being poor. People often offer monetary assistance to any blind person they come in contact with. Even, when the blind person is wearing a dress better than theirs. I really don’t know what brought about this misconception. But, I’m suspecting it’s because there are blind beggars everywhere. On what to do to correct these misconceptions, I think people only need to get out of their ignorance and see the blind. Especially, the educated ones, in a more positive light. If I could go to school and study in the same class with the “able-bodied” students, then you should know that I’m no dunce. I think making my series, “Blind Chronicles” go wide in circulation will also expose people to what they should know about the blind. We are not brainless, and not all of us are indigent; we are only blind, simple!
VUN: You recently graduated from the University. What possibly could have been different if you had your sight?
Demola Adeleke: Assuming I had my sight, attending lectures wouldn’t have been a problem for me. I would have done some things without having to rely on friends. In my course, Mass Communication, there were times when some exam questions would require drawing. I usually, did not do well in those exams, as I didn’t have the required organ — eyes, to better attempt such questions. Although, some of the lecturers did consider me at times by telling me to attempt other questions that do not sight intensive.
VUN: As a young graduate, what career path do you intend to pursue and why?
Demola Adeleke: I think I like creative writing. I love writing anything creative. I see myself becoming an author, movie scriptwriter and a content developer some day. Why do I want to pursue a career in creative writing? It’s my passion.
VUN: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Demola Adeleke: I see myself in the United Kingdom, working for a big creative firm. Or maybe here in Nigeria, coordinating the TV series, “Blind Chronicles”.
VUN: From reading your chronicles and following you briefly, I must say that you are one of the most positive people I have seen. How have you been able to build yourself to be so positive that you give out the vibe in your chronicles and your Facebook posts?
Demola Adeleke: Its very simple, I only do not want to end up being useless simply because I lost my sight. So, I’ve got to do all that I can to become a person the world can reckon with in spite of my blindness.
VUN: What do you do for fun?
Demola Adeleke: I chat, sing and go swimming.
VUN: What’s your average day like?
Demola Adeleke: Sleep, read news online, read friends posts on Facebook, meditate, then sleep again.
VUN: How do you shop for clothes?
Demola Adeleke: I go to the market with a friend that is fashion inclined. He selects the clothes for me and shows them to me to know if I like them.
VUN: How do you pick out your clothes making sure you pair them up correctly?
Demola Adeleke: Whenever I buy new clothes, I always ensure that I know the colour of each, so I know what shirt to wear on what trouser. I usually do not need anybody to pair up clothes for me.
VUN: Advice to other budding writers.
Demola Adeleke: Just keep on writing, the ink is free.