- Born with only 10 per cent ability to see, Dr Praveena Sukhraj-Ely was adamant to live a normal life and make her dreams come true
- She was fully blind by the time she turned 12 but said that, thanks to an amazing support system, she has lived her life to the fullest
- "I have managed to achieve what I wanted in life. I don’t feel I have been stunted in life because of my blindness," she said
By Neesha Maharaj - Freelance Journalist
Dr Praveena Sukhraj-Ely has not let the lack of sight hinder her in life. Instead, the blind woman has made strides in the legal field and today holds the position of director at the department responsible for the promotion of the rights of vulnerable groups within the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
Formerly from Durban, Sukhraj-Ely was born partially sighted with only a 10 per cent ability to see in one eye. At the age of 12 she lost her vision completely.
“I was fortunate to have the relevant support from my parents, siblings and school. I adapted to being fully blind at age 12. I became versatile and learnt Braille and how to walk with a cane. Growing up I was never made to feel that I could not do what other able-bodied people did.
“I did everything I wanted to do in life. I live life to the fullest and do not want to feel different because I am blind. When I was younger I recall my father and I doing normal things like running or cycling on the beach. I had to condition myself not to feel different. When you’re in a room full of ignorant people they can be disparaging,” said Sukhraj-Ely.
The road to success has not been an easy journey for Sukhraj-Ely, who said she had been turned down several times by law firms when she tried to secure articles after completing her law degree.
Initially, it was challenging getting a foothold into the legal world. However, once she served her articles she paved the way for success within the legal fraternity.
“I have an innate sense of fairness and my current position enables me to ensure that people within vulnerable groups have the relevant services they’re entitled to in accordance with the law. It is inspiring to know that I can make things better for other people. It is good to know that I can bring the legislation alive for people in need. It is amazing that people from different walks of life are unaware of their rights and what the law entitles them to,” she said.
Throughout her life, Sukhraj-Ely said she has come into contact with many people who are ignorant and have misconceptions about blind people. Even those in managerial positions within the legal field are not sensitised on how to communicate with and react to people with disabilities. In this regard, she believes a lot still needs to be done.
Sukhraj-Ely said she was thankful to have the support structure in her life - her parents and now her husband - to succeed in life.
“I have managed to achieve what I wanted in life. I don’t feel I have been stunted in life because of my blindness but the journey to get where I am today was tough. I feel privileged to be exposed to the legal experience I have gained over the years,” she said.
She advises other blind people to firstly accept their disability, be comfortable with it before they assimilate with others. People with disabilities need to learn to deal with demotivating attitudes, however, they must never let it hinder them from achieving their goals in life, said Sukhraj-Ely.
For Sukhraj-Ely, the most rewarding experience in life was becoming a mother to her 6-year-old daughter, Shriya.
“The unconditional love I get from my daughter is incredible. She is very aware I cannot see, yet she is so enlightened and accepting of it. My parents were key in all I achieved in life. Now my husband is my pillar of strength,” she added.
When she is away from work Sukhraj-Ely loves entertaining, socialising, reading, spa pamper treatments or a spot of shopping.
Enjoyed reading our story? Download BRIEFLY's news app on Google Play now and stay up-to-date with major South African news!