Living life to the full despite being born blind, PhD alumnus Adv Jan Tladi says it is of paramount importance that we all engage in lifelong learning.
Discrimination still occurs
Jan says he still faces discrimination due to his disability.
“Generally, when people who are not blind realise that I am blind, the first impression is that of pity and shame until they realise who I am. When that happens, some of them change their attitude.
“However, sadly, some of them maintain their negative perceptions which are ultimately prejudicial and discriminatory,” he says.
He points out that our Constitution aspires to create a human rights culture for everyone, without exception.
“If only society can treat blind people with the same measure of dignity, equality and freedom so that we can create a truly egalitarian society which does not discriminate against people who are blind.”
Blind PhD graduate believes in lifelong learning
Being born blind did not stop Advocate Jan Tladi from progressing all the way from a special school for his basic education to the highest qualification a university can offer.
He recently defied the odds stacked against him by becoming the first blind student to graduate with a PhD from the NWU’s Mahikeng Campus.
And his advice to others: keep on learning.
A legal advisor in the office of the Ministry of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Jan says staying abreast of developments in any field calls for continuous improvement through ongoing professional development.
“One never ceases to learn and understand new things.”“It is through engaging yourself in lifelong learning that you are able to further equip yourself with the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to face and cope with new challenges,” he says.
Jan holds a BJuris and LLB from the University of Limpopo, an LLM from the University of Pretoria and a Management Development Programme diploma from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Asked about taking on the huge challenge of studying for his PhD, Jan says being visually impaired, it was always expected that he had to overcome additional challenges compared to his peers.
“These challenges included doubling my efforts and time to be on par with my peers, undertaking extensive research involving the gathering of large amounts of data, often in inaccessible formats, and transcribing data into an accessible format, which was time-consuming.”
Lending a helping hand
Jan says the NWU Disability Unit played a major supporting role while he was studying.
“To say the least, the technical and specialised support I received from the unit in Mahikeng was awesome and impressive. They made me feel at home and accepted me as a visually impaired student.”
Jan says the biggest challenge with being blind is that you view things differently from those who view things with the naked eye. As a result, it is difficult for people who are not blind to relate well to blind people in all respects.
“Consequently, environments such as public buildings, institutions of higher learning and facilities are inaccessible to blind people,” he explains.
Despite the many obstacles he has had to face, Jan lives life to the full and has been married for over 20 years to Paulina and has a son, Katlego.
Jan’s attitude to life and his commitment to lifelong learning is an example to all and will continue to be so as he travels further along this path.
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A huge fan of football and politics
When not at work or studying Jan is an avid follower of football and political debates.
“I like sport, football in particular. I am a staunch supporter of Orlando Pirates and enjoy listening to football and general sport commentary on radio.
“Though not a politician, I enjoy political debates and documentaries. I am also interested in reading books, especially motivational books and about politics.”