By Vishani Ragobeer
Ackila Smith is a 25-year-old teacher and cricketer who participated in the Miss Emancipation Pageant earlier this year as part of her efforts to inspire children and young adults who have disabilities.
This focus of hers, she recently told the News Room, stemmed from her experiences as a person with a disability. Smith is visually impaired and has a deformed hand.
While growing up with these disabilities, the young woman recounted that she was often bullied. So not only was she required to adapt to living with her disabilities but she was forced to battle mistreatment too.
Her family members were quite supportive but it was not until Smith started attending university classes and later, teaching inquisitive pupils of the Bel Air Primary School that she felt as though the bullying had lessened.
She also found support through the Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with a Disability and the West Indies Female Blind Cricket team. With the support, the teacher believes that she has been able to adapt to living with her disabilities.
Now, she is on a mission to inspire other young adults with disabilities so that they never feel alone, belittled or unconfident about themselves.
“Recently I took part in the Miss Emancipation pageant.
“… I did that because I wanted to have the platform to give the confidence to other little girls like myself or even little boys or young adults who don’t have that confidence to go out there and speak in front of thousands of persons,” Smith said.
She also added, “I always wanted to walk on a stage and look very beautiful in a gown.”
Smith was the first person with a disability to participate in the pageant, a feat she said would not be possible if the pageant organisers and participants weren’t as inclusive as they were.
Aside from creating history at the pageant, which was held in August, the young woman was also able to develop and market her business- Uniqueness Recreational Centre.
Through this centre, she hopes to harness her teaching skills and provide educational and life skills to children with disabilities especially those who are visually impaired.
As she continues to advocate for greater support to persons with disabilities, Smith hopes that all persons can be much kinder and more sensitive to each other.