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Despite losing his sight at age 10, Daemion McLean has accomplished much, working his way to the top of the class at Calabar High School before moving on to the University of the West Indies.
“I have done myself proud, and I know I have done my family proud,” says McLean who holds a first degree in Social Work and has been employed to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security for the past ten years.
Boosted by the belief that it is his duty to make life better for other blind and visually impaired, McLean said he spends most of his spare time at the Jamaica Society for the Blind (JSB) crafting policies and strategies to benefit this special group.
“This is where my heart lies because I have realised that to whom much is given much is expected. The majority of persons with disabilities are not as fortunate to hold down a job like I have.”
Over the years McLean has had to overcome numerous challenges including bullying. However, he is now leveraging his success in academia and the job market to impact the lives of others.
“I have found that there is some strength in being blind. Portraying yourself as a success tells a story, and it helps to encourage other disabled persons to strive to make themselves successful,” says McClean who is the JSB board chairman.
The father of two opined that a lot more needs to be done to make life easier for the blind population, especially those living in rural Jamaica.
“This is why I come here evenings upon evenings, have meetings and try to make linkages because I want them to be as fortunate in their own little way as I have been,” he said.
The 37-year-old man says he was born with the eye disease Glaucoma and wore prescription glasses for the earlier part of his childhood before he went completely blind.
“From the get-go I realised I was different from other children. I couldn’t see the words on the chalkboard to read them clearly and, because of this, I had reading challenges while I was a student at Catherine Hall Primary School.”
“It’s was never a nice thing either for your schoolmates to form a ring around you and called you ‘blind eye pickney’. Those things make you know from early that you are in for a serious ordeal as it relates to coping with this sight problem. This was my reality,” he said.
McLean noted that his situation improved after his parents acted on the advice of a teacher that he be sent to the Salvation Army School for the Blind in St. Andrew.
“At first it was difficult for me to get settled, but eventually I did and I found that the children there were nicer children compared to the ones I left in the public school. They had the same challenge I had – eye problems – so we had a common thread.”
The school, he says, provided a nurturing environment for his interests and talents.
“That school was the foundation for my success, and for so many blind and visually impaired, because you learn everything there; from simple academics to daily living skills.”
McLean says when he got accepted into Calabar High School he knew he was more than equipped to take on the challenge of being a blind student at a public high school.
He explains that he was empowered by the experiences of other blind persons who were schooled at the JSB and have excelled in their chosen discipline.
While at the all-boys institution, he sat seven CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) subjects in braille and was successful in six of them.
“It’s a testament because a lot of students passed through Calabar – some of them not being so successful – but I am grateful that today I can be considered one of the successes of a Calabar High School.”
The JSB is an organisational Member of the Caribbean Council for the Blind (CCB). It focuses on helping blind people to adjust to their condition, lead productive lives and encourage, through public education, better eye care among the sighted.
-By Nedburn Thaffe