Aisha Saeed was born with congenital hearing loss but has never let her disability slow her down
UAE Portrait of a Nation: deaf woman finds her rhythm stitching uniforms for Dubai Police
Aisha Saeed deftly passes yards of material under a bouncing needle to produce a uniform for a grateful Dubai Police officer. “I don’t have a disability, I just have a different ability,” she says.
For an outsider looking in, Ms Saeed is no different to her colleagues, she was born with congenital hearing loss but has never let her deafness come in the way of her aspirations.
Armed with a sewing machine at her station in the police tailoring centre where she has worked for 17 years, Ms Saeed, 34, can tailor a police jacket in about an hour.
“Disability is no bar to success. The real disability is in the mind not the body,” she says.
It is a mentality she inherited from her parents who she says refused to treat her differently to her siblings.
“My mother used to ask me to do lots of housework and we were six children in the family. I helped raising my five youngest brothers and sisters,” says Ms Saeed.
“I was growing up and refusing the thought of being disabled. I started reading lots of books. Some of them were about religion, history and literature. Others were about the job fields and the job choices that I can have as a person who suffer from hearing impairment and speech difficulties.”.
Of Yemeni origin, Ms Saeed was born in the UAE and while she did not continue formal education beyond high school, she spends her time studying for training courses she regularly applies to and is an avid reader.
“I studied until grade six in Al Thiqa school in Sharjah. The school is for people with disabilities and used to cost my family a fortune,” says Ms Saeed. After she stopped going to school she began to feel herself falling behind and different to others.
At home she would keep herself busy by drawing designs for dresses and attempting to make them but it was a lonely experience.
“By age 17, I made several customs and dresses. During this age, I felt I was left on my own and wasn’t sure of what I will do for living,” she says.
Ms Saeed’s life took a turn for the better that year after some exciting news from her father who had applied for a job on her behalf.
“My father came rushing to my bedroom to tell me that Dubai Police has accepted me as a tailor of female police officers’ uniforms,” she says.
“This is when I started to make money, support my family and became a productive member in the community. I started tailoring uniforms that have powerful impact on people.”
While working for Dubai Police, Ms Saeed spends her spare time recycling old garments and spare pieces of fabric by stitching them into beautiful clothes which she donates to the underprivileged, teaching others to do the same.
“I tailor clothes and donate them to the poor and needy. After I finish my working hours, I teach some women the skills of tailoring and how to use sewing machines to help them make a living out of it. I can’t see a needy person and not step up to help them,” says Ms Saeed.
“It is very important to make difference in people’s lives and I devoted mine to help others.”
Meanwhile, Ms Saeed shows no sign of slowing down and is studying computer science with plans to work in the field.
“I am pursuing my dream to become an expert in computer science,” she says.
Her determination and selflessness is admired by her colleagues at Dubai Police.
Her mentor, Fawzieh Mohammed, who is a technical supervisor at Dubai Police and has known Ms Saeed for 17 years, translates her sign language into speech.
“Ms Saeed is an inspiration to others as she proved nothing impossible if one puts one’s heart and mind on it. Once I met her, I never thought that she has this ability to learn and get more accomplished at work. Nevertheless, she is a hard worker and selfless person who devoted her life to help her family and the people in need.”
“Despite being unable to talk and hear, Ms Saeed developed good understanding among her colleagues and female police officers,” says Ms Mohammed.
“She is an example of a person who succeeded despite her disability.”