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lthough she could not see her physical surroundings, the first time Rabia Khedr visited the Ka’ba, she was in tears. “I just started to reflect on where I was and I bawled my eyes out,” Khedr said. “My husband said, ‘Why are you crying? You can’t even see anything.’ It sort of made me laugh, but it was emotional.” Khedr has had Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis since birth, resulting in the gradual deterioration of her vision. “My vision got worse and worse at different points in my life,” she said. “There were obvious signs of change. I could read the blackboard sitting in the front row right up until grade seven when it became a bigger struggle and I couldn’t do so anymore. Because the change is so slow, you don’t notice it until one day you go, ‘Oh, I can’t see that anymore.’” Instead of allowing her disability to become an obstacle, Khedr used it as fuel to create change and improve accessibility for anyone facing a similar fate. “I am a big believer in the fact that Allah does not put anything in my way that I cannot overcome. And if he puts it in my way, He has a very good reason and I have to find a way around it,” she said. “If I wasn’t an optimist, I wouldn’t put one foot in front of the other because I don’t see where I’m putting that foot. Sometimes it’s in a pile of snow and sometimes it’s in a puddle but I’ll get through it.” Growing up, Khedr and her family were outcasts in their Mississauga neighbourhood, as her younger sister also had vision loss and her brothers had intellectual disabilities. “We were the ‘other’ in every respect. We were the ‘other’ with disabilities, the ‘other’ with faith and the ‘other’ with skin colour,” she said. “My peers at school did not understand my vision loss so they found nastier labels. That’s what kids will do.” As she grew older, she used humour to deal with her situation. “People used to label me as visually impaired. I never liked the word, but that’s what it was,” she said. “I would say, ‘If I was visually impaired, I’d be detoxed.’” After graduating from the University of Toronto Mississauga, then known as Erindale College, she became a part of a group that went on to create the Canadian Association of Muslims with Disabilities. “We strongly felt that there was a gap within the Muslim community that we needed to address. That’s what made us come full circle and say Muslims have challenges accessing mainstream services, and they also require more access and inclusion within the Muslim community itself. So we need to do something about this. That’s why we formed the organization.”


The Muslim Voice Magazine - Volume 19: Issue 1  

The first issue of The Muslim Voice Magazine for the 2013-2014 school year.