Interview with Two Blind Muslim Pakistani Students, Imran Ahmed, Hina Altaf…

By Adil James, MMNS

DSC_0003r Speaking on the phone with Imran Ahmed, there is no way that a person could know that he is disabled, he has the same accent one would expect, and the same manners, but perhaps there is a gentleness to him, a mercy that has come to his heart from his illness. 

Imran Ahmed and Hina Altaf are brother and sister, although perhaps you might not know it from their names.  He is named after one side of the family, she after another.  And yet although they do not share a surname they share an unfortunate disease which has caused their blindness.

“We both have been blind since birth,” Imran explains, “we both have the same disease, none of our other family members have it–we both have light sections, light and dark, and we can tell how intense light is.  But we can’t see colors or shapes.  The disease is hereditary…  It is a very rare disease, and there are 2 cases every five years.” 

The two are studying at Carroll University in Waukesha Wisconsin, close to Milwaukee. He is 24, she is 25, and they hope to graduate next year.

“We were in Pakistan,” he explains, “my father’s cousin lived in Waukesha, and he suggested Carroll College–we applied and were accepted.”  After they found sponsors to help them, they came.

Despite their studies, they maintain contact with the Muslim community although such contact is difficult since they have to depend on others to bring them to and from the mosque, and since the Muslim community at their school is extremely small.

Hina - Comp 1 Imran explains, “Unfortunately it’s a very very small college, we are the only two Muslim students from Pakistan—there is another student that she lives up campus, we don’t have any Muslim student associations on campus.”

Although there are few Muslims, several people have been very helpful to the brother and sister.

“For at least one year into our stay, we didn’t know anybody,” says Imran.  “But one of our American friends brought us to the Islamic Center in Milwaukee,”  35 minutes away from campus.

Between the US and Pakistan, Imran explains, “there is a tremendous difference… in Pakistan, people don’t understand the meaning of a white cane–travel is difficult and dangerous.  There are potholes, there is always construction on the roads.  That hinders a lot of blind people from travelling.  The layout of roads is different.  Here there is always a curb so you know you are getting close–here there is a strategy to cross roads… things are a little better planned out here.  People have been more accepting here.  Even if people are reluctant to give you an opportunity, but there is always a hope that you will have an opportunity.  A lot of people of people appreciate and give you the opportunity to do things.”

Imran has optimism about his future–he and his sister both intend to build lives for themselves, each of them intends to work and marry as circumstances permit.
The difficulties they face, of course, make a mockery of the difficulties that many Muslims and others encounter–in order to study they must either find books in braille or find audio versions of their books–something which was nearly impossible in Pakistan.

Imran explains that he hopes to find a job in tech support or web design—”if possible, I would like to eventually move on to adaptive access technology, teach blind people, or sighted people how to use adaptive technology.”

And they would like to improve conditions in Pakistan for people who are not sighted.

“We want to start a Braille library, in Urdu,” and he wants to help to create OCR software for reading into Urdu as well.

To contact Imran:, or 262-305-9709.

2 replies
  1. vidhu pandey
    vidhu pandey says:

    Hye! this is Vidhu Pandey from India. Thanks a lot guys. Actually i used your given information for my school project that’s “An interview with two blind people”. Hope you wouldn’t mind. Anyway best of luck two both of you, i just love you both. Bye!

  2. Jack Numan
    Jack Numan says:

    Imran and Hina are about to graduate in one year time. Soon they will be ready to use their expertise in computer science and inofrmation technology. Please let them know directly or myself about any openings in your company and whether the can work from home.

    Hina’s Education:
    Carroll University, Waukesha, WI, USA
    Bachelor of Computer Science May 2010

    Major: Information technology and Internet software development

    GPA: 3.5/4.0
    Punjab University, Lahore, Pakistan, Bachelor of Arts May 2005
    Major: English Literature and History

    National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad, Pakistan
    Master of Mass Communication August 2005 – May 2006

    Hina’s Objective: Seeking web developer, tech support or programmer position in Information Technology industry, where I can apply my knowledge and continue gaining new skills.

    Imran’s Education: EDUCATION

    Carroll University, Waukesha, WI May 2010
    Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Software Engineering,
    Current cumulative GPA: 3.5/4.0
    Work 20 hours per week to pay my educational expenses

    Punjab University, Pakistan 2005
    Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and History
    National University of Modern Languages, Islamabad Pakistan 2005-2006

    Masters in Mass Communication ( Credits worth 1 Year)
    Imran’s objective is: Seeking web developer and programming oriented/tech support position.