Legally blind Indian-American girl makes history with talk in Carnegie Hall

legally blind, american girl, indian girl, carnegie hall, student, talk, sena pottackal

She has been legally blind since she was 16-years-old.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Sun 22 Sep 2019, 10:57 AM

Last updated: Sun 22 Sep 2019, 5:14 PM

Indian-American Sena Pottackal, a graduate student at the New York University School of Professional Studies, pursuing her MS in public relations and corporate communication made history by speaking at Carnegie Hall on September 20.
Legally blind since age 16, Sena gave a presentation titled 'Blind Girl Doing Good Through PR' to audiences at the PR Council's 'critical Issues of the Modern Workforce' forum.
The PR Council is a US-based trade organisation dedicated to agencies with public relations offerings. Despite her deteriorating eyesight, Pottackal is a highly accomplished 30-year-old who aims to use her education and PR skills to create awareness and opportunities for people with disabilities in the workplace.
Born in the United States to Indian parents, Sena is originally from Long Island. She moved to Jersey with her parents as she turned 14. Speaking to Khaleej Times ahead of her talk at Carnegie Hall, Sena said, "My presentation focuses on - how I learned to adjust to my disability, how I broke into the workforce, and the third part speaks on how a workforce can welcome people with disabilities."
Speaking about losing her eyesight, Sena said, "I went legally blind at the age of 16. It was a very long time ago, but it took me time to connect the dots and understand that there are all these other methods where I could do something differently." She said her parents and siblings were her most significant source of support.
In April this year, the New York Women in Communications awarded Sena with a prestigious academic scholarship for 2019. She was one among 14 scholarship recipients to be recognised for receiving this honour.
"Sena is an inspiration to the faculty members and to her fellow students who are future leaders of this industry," said Michael Diamond, clinical assistant professor and academic director of integrated marketing and communications, NYU School of Professional Studies Division of Programs in Business in a press release.
Recently, she presented at the NYU United Arab Emirates Education Ambassadors Program on how to create a disability-inclusive learning environment as well.
Commenting on the representation of people with disabilities in the workforce, Sena said, "There is certainly a challenge. One is stigma and lack of awareness, and the representation of people with disabilities in the media certainly contributes to the stigma as mentioned earlier."
With her education and acquired skill sets, Sena wants to use strategic communications and social entrepreneurship to remove existing artificial barriers to disability inclusion. She wants to consequently empower individuals with disabilities to forge their dreams into reality as well.
Sena said, "There are challenges including societal misconceptions about what we can't do and a lack of awareness about our skills and ability to contribute to organisations."
She added, "I also feel the media's limited representation of successful disabled characters played by actors with disabilities contributes to the previously mentioned lack of awareness and perpetuates stigma."

What is legal blindness
In the United States, the definition of legal blindness was developed as a guideline to help people receive government assistance, such as social security disability benefits. Similarly, the Department of Motor Vehicles also uses the definition to measure vision and keep roads safe from drivers who have difficulty seeing. 
A legally blind individual has a corrected vision of 20/20 in their best-seeing eye. You might feel like you are legally blind if you can't see beyond a foot in front of you without wearing glasses, but as long as your vision can be corrected to 20/20 with a visual aid, such as glasses, then you are not considered legally blind.

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