BY JASMIN AMBIONG
This article is for all the people with disabilities who have dreams. For everyone who fears that they will never be who they want to be and be wherever they want to be because of society’s limitations. Perhaps, a part of me wanted to write this because it is something I wish I’d read when I was younger.
A dream, everybody has one. Especially when we are children. As they say, a child has limitless imagination. For someone like me who has a visual impairment, this is not the case. Society taught me at an early age about my limitations. The things I cannot do according to their standards. Back then, there were no representations of someone like me on TV so, I believed them.
When I was a child, there were many things that I wanted to do, to become when I grow up. Like being an accountant and traveling abroad. Particularly, Japan because my brother and I bonded over watching anime. I thought these things were not possible for me. So, I learned how to suppress them. It was only in my 20s when I realized that I can be whatever I want to be and I can do whatever I want to do.
It was during college. The time when I met people other than my family who saw me beyond my blindness. It was also the time when I started seeing stories of success about persons with disabilities on the internet. It felt liberating. Of course, this realization did not make things magically easy for me. However, it gave me hope. Sometimes, that is all that we need to keep pushing forward.
That hope finally gave me the courage to plan for my future. I knew then that it was going to be hard. The difference though is that this time, I knew that it was possible. My first step was finishing college. I did that. The next step is to find a job. This step is a little bit harder but, again, I made it. Despite everything, I still thought that going to my dream destination abroad was impossible. Not because of my disability but, because I was afraid that I wasn’t smart enough or capable enough. I’m beyond grateful that I tried despite my fears because I’m now in my dream destination, Japan while writing this article.
Ruh Global Impact, Billion Strong, and Duskin Leadership Training in Japan.
My employment journey was not a walk in the park. It took me a while before I got into Ruh Global Impact. However, I felt it was the perfect timing for me. It was the time when I realized that contributing to making the world more inclusive for our community of persons with disabilities is my passion. The work that I’ve seen in Ruh Global Impact helped me fuel that passion even more. In 2021, Ruh Global Impact founded Billion Strong, a global identity nonprofit organization that aims to empower the global community of people with disabilities to come together and create positive change. I was fortunate to be a part of it and to be appointed as the Partnership Development Manager.
Improving myself and gaining more knowledge about different aspects of disability issues are necessary things for me to effectively advocate for the community. That is why, in 2019, I decided to apply for the Duskin Leadership training in Japan. It is a 10-month training program for youth with disabilities in South East Asia. Each year, Duskin selects five to six people with different disabilities from different countries in South East Asia to partake in this training that is held in Japan. In this training, trainees will learn about independent living and disability-related topics and can design their training program according to their future plan for the PWD community. I was again fortunate to be chosen as one of the 22nd batch of trainees.
Letting go of society’s negative assumptions of me gave me freedom. It enabled me to plan for my future. It gave me the strength to finish my degree, find a job and now, go abroad. If you are a person with a disability reading this, I hope you also find the courage to let go of those negative assumptions about you. You are more than who society tells you to be. Obstacles will always be there but, so are hope and a brighter future.
About the Author: Jasmin Ambiong, Partnership Development Manager APAC for Billion Strong Jasmin has a degree in Business Administration – Management Information System. She said that telework was never one of her plans. Not even to work in the disability inclusion or accessibility industry. Her dream has always been to work in the corporate world and has a successful corporate career. However, life has a better and different plan for her.