U grad overcame blindness, adversity to publish book

Ed Swaray

University graduate Ladu Jada Gubek said he “fought two wars” to get his degree and write his book, which was published this year.

Civil war forced him out of his native Sudan, and as a 10-year-old refugee in Ethiopia, he lost his sight from the measles before finally coming to the United States in 1997.

His book of poetry, titled “Arrows and the Bow,” reflects his knowledge of Sudan, exile and blindness.

“I had to fight to be accepted as a blind person in the community,” he said. “And I had to speak up against the injustices meted out against the southern Sudanese people by the government in Sudan.”

Gubek graduated from the University in 2001 with a degree in English literature and creative writing, but said it was a constant struggle to keep up with his classmates.

He had to register early to get his books in Braille before classes began, or use other technology to get his reading done.

“If (the books) are not (in Braille), then I have to scan them so that my computer, which has a speech synthesizer, can read it out loud,” he said.

The scanner converts a book into various formats, including Braille, enlarged print and a format the computer can read out loud.

Like Gubek, many other University students struggle to succeed.

Jessie Wang, a linguistics senior who is legally blind, said she also has to buy books early to format them into Braille. If she does not reformat them, she has to use a magnifying machine to study.

Finding a study partner is difficult because most people think it would be difficult to study with a blind person, she said.

But she said Gubek’s book is not an extraordinary accomplishment because anybody can write a book, blind or not.

“People always have the perception that blind people can’t do anything, but that’s not true,” she said. “In fact, I do not see myself as not being able to do things that people who are not disabled can do.”

Despite this, not all blind students become authors, and Wang said she is concerned prospective employers might be afraid to hire her.

Roberta Juarez, assistant director of Disability Services, said students with disabilities can find jobs, but prospects differ from student to student.

She said students with disabilities looking for jobs should speak openly about their conditions to prospective employers.

“It is also important that they know their rights and responsibilities as a disabled person seeking employment,” she said.

About 1,200 students with disabilities are currently enrolled at the University, according to the Disability Services office.