Rosemarie Ramitt: Giving visibility to the visually impaired
By Shikema Dey
Twenty-six-year-old educator Rosemarie Ramitt lost her vision at the tender age of 13 after being diagnosed with the genetic disease Pan uveitis which causes inflammation in the uvea eye.
The news left her discouraged as the thought of living without her sight was one she could not contemplate.
“Before age 13, I was full sighted, never wore glasses. So the news took me by surprise because I did not expect that I would have to live my life as someone with a disability,” she related.
To Rosemarie, the news was devastating; she was a teen with friends and plans for the future but all that changed in an instant. Little hope was offered by doctors who said she would be able to regain part of her sight over time. But this did not happen.
“At that age, you are finding yourself, you identify with your friends and you want to live the same life that they are living so it was very hard…it was difficult to watch everyone’s life moving forward and I was just stuck,” she explained.
For five years, she slipped into a depressive state but one day she decided to take control of her life again.
The now accomplished educator, who has served the profession for the last five years, uses her story to help give visibility to visually impaired persons in society.
Rosemarie became a member of the Guyana Society for the Blind and met kinfolk who defeated all odds even with a disability. This, along with support from Ganesh Singh, who heads the Guyana Council of Organization for Persons with Disability (GCOPD), motivated her to complete her studies.
“We had this computer training programme for visually impaired persons and I did very well so Ganesh told me that I was one of the brightest minds there and he wanted to see me excel further.
“And there began my journey,” she explained.
In 2013, a programme was launched which saw visually impaired students sitting the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations using special braille computers. The concept was new and Rosemarie said she did not think she was going to emerge successful, but she did.
“I was a part of the first batch that wrote the exams and I wrote five subjects and got five grade ones.
“I was so shocked because even I did not expect those results and that helped me choose my career path of becoming a teacher.”
Rosemarie applied to the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE), completed the programme and was well on her way to becoming a teacher. She is currently completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Education.
Usually, Rosemarie is found at the GCOPD office. There, she is leading the education programme and helping students with disabilities prepare for their CXC exams with the use of braille computers like she did.
Other times, she is advocating for better visibility for visually impaired persons in Guyana’s society. To her, much more work needs to be done so that persons with disabilities in Guyana can feel included.
“The culture of disability here in Guyana is very negative and that needs to change…sometimes, when people look at you, they think that you need fixing…they do not see someone who is perfectly happy.
“And that is something we have been working very hard to change,” she relayed.
And to do this, Rosemarie has been championing the campaign to help persons with disabilities and visually impaired persons excel academically to help them be integrated into society and seen as normal.
“We are getting more persons with disabilities in the Universities, out at the bar with their friends socializing, having a normal job…this is what we are doing, helping us take up more space and helping us become visible,” she said.