Often people tend to see disabled people as weak and incompetent but that’s just their thoughts limiting them from seeing beyond the disability. We are quite familiar with Helen Keller- an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She did not let her disability stand in her path of success and became the first woman to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Similarly, the legendary author of the Iliad and Odyssey, Homer, was also a blind man.
Mona Minkara, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Northeastern University, set a modern example of how disability does not signify inability. She has been blind ever since seven years old. She has been filming a documentary in Johannesburg demonstrating how she navigates around the world. She, very interestingly, says, “I always tell people I can’t wait to get lost. Sometimes society tells you, ‘You’re blind, so you can’t do this.’ So my freedom matters so much to me.”
Minkara has been awarded the Holman Prize by LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired for her desire to push the limit with her ground-breaking adventures despite of her blindness. Minkara has always been keen on solo travel; she likes to explore new places on her own. She has travelled to Istanbul, Tokyo, Singapore, and many other exotic places and has chronicled her travels into a five-episode documentary which will be released on YouTube in 2020. It will be called- Planes, Trains, and Canes.
At Northeastern, she studies molecules that are present on the inner surface of the lung using her knowledge in computational chemistry. These molecules are called pulmonary surfactants. Her research could help in the study of how our lung function is affected by vaping which would eventually lead towards medical advances on that field.
One of her advisors at the University of Minnesota, J. Ilja Siepmann, gave her the strength to overcome her fear of disability. Siepmann says that being blind, Minkara would her own innovative ways to find solutions to complex problems.
Minkara concludes by saying, “There are a lot of hurdles, but I personally feel like they’re worth overcoming.” She wants to be there for blind kids aspiring to be scientists and guide them and help them flourish in a society that has made them believe they can’t.