Disability rights campaigner, motivational speaker and author of this year’s Kika & Me, Dr Amit Patel has been nominated for the Positive Role Model Award at the National Diversity Awards 2020.
Check out Amit’s own testimony below, talking about all the amazing work he has done!
My name is Dr Amit Patel & I’m an author, disability rights campaigner & motivational speaker. I’m registered severely sight impaired (blind) after losing my sight suddenly to keratoconus in 2013.
I studied medicine & qualified as a doctor specialising in emergency medicine & major incidents, however at medical school I was diagnosed with keratoconus, a condition which is usually easily treated with a corneal transplant. However, I was one of the rare individuals for whom the transplants rejected & lost my sight completely just one year after getting married.
Sight loss meant that I lost my job & my identity. I had to learn how to walk again, make a cup of tea safely & navigate the world as a person with sight loss. So many brilliant people supported me at this difficult time so I wanted to give something back. I’ve now become an active campaigner for accessibility, diversity & inclusion, speaking out against the issues that disabled people face daily.
Matched to my Guide Dog Kika in 2015, I set up a Twitter account for Kika (@Kika_GuideDog) when we first started training together to document our adventures & the challenges of a newly blind person learning to work with a guide dog. Via both my (@BlindDad_UK) & Kika’s accounts, followers are learning daily about how Guide Dogs are trained, how they work, & crucially, about the freedom & independence that they bring to their owner. Alongside this, I aim to provide an insight into my life as a blind parent of 2, my campaigning work for the rights of disabled people & the realities of commuting & working in London as a disabled person.
I’m a prolific local campaigner who takes every opportunity to engage with people & educate them about what life is like with a disability. I regularly visit schools, Beaver/Scouts groups, libraries & charities to talk about living with sight loss. I’ve also taken on local campaigns which will improve the lives of everyone around me – such as successfully petitioning the council for the reinstatement of a controlled crossing on my local high street & ensuring that my local train station has tactile paving installed along the edges of all its platforms, thereby making it safer for visually impaired passengers in particular.
I’ve also championed lesser known causes such as Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS) – a condition which I personally suffer from, where I see visual hallucinations. I’m working with charities to raise awareness of the condition, speaking at hospitals & to medical practitioners about it & working to secure more funding & research into the condition. I’m also an ambassador for the National Eye Research Council.
Following an access refusal at a Hindu temple with my guide dog, I successfully campaigned to change the temple’s policy and approach to assistance dogs. It took 18 months of meetings, training & discussions with senior temple officials to see a policy change implemented on the ground. The temple now provides facilities to accommodate an assistance dog whilst it’s owner is guided around by a trained member of staff. Other temples in the UK & abroad have adopted this approach, opening up access for guide & assistance dog owners to visit their temples independently. This has had an enormous impact within the Asian community where I’m proud to be recognised as a role model for disabled Asians, many of whom have reached out to me seeking advice & support. My willingness to speak out publicly about my experience of sight loss and living with a disability has helped more young, disabled Asians embrace their own circumstances & feel positive about their future, when previously social &/or cultural pressures & preconceptions may have left them feeling despondent. This has led to me being a regular on BBC Asian Network radio to discuss the intersection between race & disability but also more on local & national TV to discuss everything from my campaigning work to current affairs.
My experience of sight loss led me to write my story, called ‘Kika & Me’, which was published in February. It’s a memoir of my sight loss journey, the challenges I faced & crucially how I overcame them. I hope that by telling my story I am able to inspire and encourage those who are going through any difficult circumstances.
We all know that Amit would is an amazing candidate for the award and deserves our support, so click here for the link to his nomination page.