Just Ask: Robert Sabwami On Isolation, Transformation

Aug 2, 2017

In this installment from our series Just Ask: Talking About Disability, we hear from 41-year-old Robert Sabwami, who recalls his experience growing up in Kenya with a visual impairment. 

In this story produced by WYSO's April Laissle, he says his journey hasn’t always been easy. When Robert first started losing his vision, he was plunged into isolation.

Highlights from this interview include: 

"That was the darkest point in my life. Every time my mind goes back to that point in time it's like you know fresh emotions are triggered in my heart. No one understood it. Not even family."  

"Unfortunately, I had to drop out of high school because of this condition. I remember my elder brother once lashed out at me saying that I was going to die poor when I made the decision to quit high school. And it really hurt me. It really hurt me to the point where I just decided to go back and crawl back in my own cocoon. And this is the period I refer to was my 10 darkest years."

"So, I did Braille I did adaptive technology training orientation and mobility. And from that point my life got totally transformed. Then from there I secured a permanent job. That to me was a big surprise. I never imagined I would get a job -- ever. I was just blown away."

"Looking back, my teachers labeled me unteachable or stupid. You know, sometimes they'd just be blatant. They would think I was so thick I would not get anything in school, but ... how did I get my summa cum laude, highest honors, if I was that stupid?"


Robert Sabwami is a graduate student at Wright State, and he's looking for a job. Special thanks to the Wright State University’s Disabilities Services Center.

Just Ask: Talking About Disability was produced by WYSO Morning Edition Host/Reporter April Laissle and Community Voices Producer Anna Lurie, with additional stories from WYSO Managing Editor Jess Mador and All Things Considered Host/Reporter Jerry Kenney. The series was edited for broadcast by Jess Mador and WYSO General Manager Neenah Ellis, and for the web by Webmaster Juliet Fromholt and Jess Mador.  Series participants included Todd Corthell, Lateef Brown, Michaela Feeser, Darrell Dean, Sue Reese, Heather Reese, Robert Sabwami, Susan Koller, and Tom Webb.