Zein Al-Maha Oweis on inclusion and celebrating our differences

During School Meeting on Sunday, King’s Academy welcomed guest speaker Zein Al-Maha Oweis to share her experience living with a visual impairment. Oweis was born with a rare genetic eye disorder called Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) that causes her vision to decrease without warning. First diagnosed when she was four years old, it wasn’t until she was 17 that she began feeling hindered by her condition, and even more so when, at the age of 21, she lost all of her peripheral vision.

Although Oweis initially found it hard to accept these new limitations, she eventually came to accept herself for who she was. That acceptance and confidence enabled Oweis to leave her home and family behind in Jordan to pursue her studies abroad. She obtained a Bachelor’s in Media Communication from Regent’s University in London, before obtaining a second degree in Communication and Media Studies from Webster University in the United States, and finished up with a postgraduate degree in Broadcast Journalism from American University.

After graduation, Oweis began working at RespectAbility, an organization in Maryland dedicated to inclusion and positive media portrayal of persons with disabilities in the entertainment industry.

Now back in Jordan, Oweis is committed to raising awareness and understanding of disability, accessibility and inclusivity. She believes the key to bringing change about is to teach the younger generation the importance of being different, and to keep implementing inclusion into the educational systems in Jordan’s schools, colleges and universities. Inclusion in education is where students with disabilities study and interact with students who do not have a disability.

“They learn from each other and walk the same educational path together hand in hand,” explains Oweis. “We must teach the young about harmony between people with disabilities and without, then they will hopefully affect the mentality of the next generation to come. That is why I urge you as teachers, as students, as educators and as parents, to celebrate being different because from my experience, it is better to celebrate being different than fearing it.”