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“Disability is not Inability”

Nasir Khalil playing piano

This is the motto I live by and use to inspire others with physical disabilities.

I was an active, fun-loving child who enjoyed playing with my friends in Kenya.

At the age of 5, opportunities came knocking and my family moved to the United Kingdom for a more stable life.

When I turned 7, I begun to have challenges with my eyesight.  I experienced short sightedness, difficulty reading books with small letters and mild headaches. Frustration bubbled up, because as a child, I couldn’t understand why I was not able to do the same things as my classmates. My parents grew very worried and took me to a specialist who ran several tests, resulting in the discovery of a non-cancerous benign brain tumour in the optic nerves.  I was officially diagnosed with neurofibromatosis (Type 1).

In an effort to safeguard my eyesight, I was given chemotherapy treatment to shrink the tumour and prevent it from growing further.  After each treatment, I was in extreme pain, experienced fatigue and nausea, and had to be hospitalized on and off.  I developed a strong sense of fear, wondering what my life would be like going forward.

At age 9, due to the chemotherapy treatments, I became visually disabled.  Losing all of my eyesight was a difficult diagnosis to accept.  My eyes welled up in tears and I became apprehensive for my future.

To pull myself out of this depression, the first step was to accept my new reality with the support of my family and church community.  I was able to stand tall, determined to live my best life.  I learned to use many accessibility tools that allowed me to regain my independence. Though I had lost my eyesight, I cherished the memories of what my world included – animals, plants, colours, and people.

When I lost my vision, my parents bought me a keyboard and music became my passion.  I taught myself to play songs by ear.  Later, I was enrolled in formal piano lessons to learn the notes, scales and chords.  I fostered my musical talent and pursued it further at the University of Northampton where I graduated from the Bachelor of Arts – Popular Music program. The music courses I studied gave me the experience of performing live in venues and producing music in the studio.

Currently, I record different genres of music on a Yamaha DGX660 electric digital grand piano.

In 2018, my family and I relocated to Toronto, Canada, where we felt there would be better career opportunities for a multitalented musician, voice actor, model, and accessibility ambassador with a visual disability.

One day, I hope to design and launch my own brand of sunglasses.

I am passionate about diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion.  My goal is to inspire other people living with physical disabilities by sharing my experience globally.

I hope to encourage people with disabilities to focus on their abilities, not their inabilities.  There are so many people in the world who have faced difficult circumstances and have succeeded.

Disability is not inability.

About the Author

Nasir Khalil
Nasir Khali

Nasir Khali, 26 years old, was born in Kenya and currently resides in Toronto, Canada.  Graduate of the Bachelor of Arts – Popular Music program from the University of Northampton, United Kingdom.  Multitalented musician, voice actor, model, and accessibility ambassador, Nasir lives with a visual disability.