Meet Maleeka Abbas
We first met Maleeka after she won a Microsoft sponsored science competition. Conversations about science and the purchases Maleeka had made from our website revealed Maleeka is in fact visually impaired, she's a VIP!
I was fascinated and inspired by Maleeka's insistence that science could be explored and enjoyed by everyone, and that she had found her visual impairment actually helped her to be more aware, and in tune, with her science experimentations through her other senses.
As a small specialist company, whose customers are focused on curiosity and life long learning, we are sure you will also be fascinated by Maleeka's story, so here is our first interview with her. Enjoy!
Can you tell us a little bit about why the way you see the world is unique?
You see, I was BORN with my visual impairment; it’s all I’ve ever known and all I will know.
This has naturally, caused me to develop my own individual perception of the world around me.
I’d say it’s unique because no one else sees in the exact same way as I do.
I enjoy sharing this with others because I believe more people should get a chance to understand differences and “See” in a new way!
What are the advantages your VIP has given you?
As a VIP; I’m obviously biased, but honestly, I’d say the biggest advantage is…just not being distracted by sight.
I have an outsider’s perspective of sight. So when observing the way Sighted People behave/how they act; I noticed how it’s definitely the most distracting Sense.
Yes, it’s also the most informative Sense, but I believe the amount of info given by one’s vision can be equated/balanced out by the other Senses.
In short, sight’s a distraction.
Because I have less of it, I’ve been able to pick up on certain sounds, textures, tastes and smells that the average person would miss.
Me and my other VIP friends call it a Superpower!
Fun fact: sometimes, I can tell when people are lying by their tone of voice.
Have you always been interested in science?
As a kid, I went through quite a few “Science/Space” phases.
I remember watching quite a lot of Documentaries and looking through Space picture-books.
I also visited a few Science Museums and Planetariums. (In and out of school.)
Mixing different household products together (Chemicals?!) was also a pass-time of mine.
I used to say my weird gloopy concoction of Flour, food-colouring and Baking Soda was “food” for my toys.
What is it about science that gets you excited?
It’s so fascinating how stuff…just works.
How the Universe is this intricately designed, beautiful, often incomprehensible thing.
There’s so much to it.
My brain often tells me: I have to know it ALL!
Where did these things come from? How has Earth and life on said Planet evolved? Black Holes?
Why? Why do we exist?
I love testing my capacity for knowledge and learning absolutely everything I can; Science offers me the chance to do so.
Which field of science gets you most excited? biology/space/etc?
My all time favourite is Space/Astronomy.
But in general, although I do love all the Sciences, it’d put them in this order:
Physics, Biology, Chemistry.
What kind of experiments do you enjoy doing?
Definitely experiments involving Chemical Reactions (Temperature changes, changes of State, effects like bubbles, fizzing etc.)
Stuff I can somewhat see, hear, smell or feel.
They’re very sensory and it’s also just cool to learn how different things react with each other.
I also love experimenting with Forces. Magnetism especially.
Naturally, I tend to avoid experiments involving colour and light. Haha…
What’s the best experiment you’ve conducted so far?
Burning/heating things using Bunsen Burners in school.
Flames are a light source I CAN see quite well. They flicker and dance; it’s quite pretty.
Watching Chemicals like Magnesium react to a flame is also just…fascinating.
What would your recommendations be for other visually impaired youngsters who want to get involved with science, how can they get started?
Get hands on.
When you have a challenge/disability that effects one or more of your Senses; textbooks, websites and videos can only get you so far.
They can be helpful, but to achieve a fulfilling experience, you need to do things that would equate to the information a person with sight would receive.
-Ask to FEEL the equipment if it’s safe to do so.
-Ask to get a closer look at Chemicals.
-If watching a video/Documentary in class, ask to sit in the front row, or in my case, in front of the teachers’ monitor. (Trust me, it’s great!)
These little things REALLY make a difference.
How would you suggest the parents of VIP scientists can help to encourage their kids with science?
Do Experiments together.
Or supervise and talk your kid through the process.
Audio Describe things to your child.
This definitely helps.
Go outside on walks dedicated to exploring Nature.
Let your child collect leaves, rocks etc and even Insects.
My mum did this and it gave me the freedom to explore safely, ask lots of questions and help me understand my environment.
Overall, get down on your child’s level, encourage them and never underestimate them.
If you could be one animal species other than human, what would you be and why?
A bird. (I’m not sure what specific Species though.)
- They’re beautiful. Their feathers are colourful and contrast well; they’re also super smooth and shiny.
- They can Fly. It would be AMAZING to be able to soar through the sky during both day and night. (So majestic!) It’s also quite safe, since you could fly away from danger.
- Eh, it’d be fun to pester my Cat, Silver.
And for a bonus; if it was a Mythical Creature, I’d say Phoenix.
For all the same reasons.
Plus, REBIRTH AND FIRE POWERS! YEAH!
If you could take a trip to another planet which one would you choose and why?
I was going to say Mars, but then I realised, we’re already headed there!
Then I thought Jupiter. But it’s not even solid! It would also incinerate you upon entering the Atmosphere…So not the best holiday destination.
Then it hit me. Saturn!
Just pitch a tent on the Rings, and you can watch a Spinning Planet Ball Of Stuff from a moderately safe distance away. On Spinning Rings!
But seriously. Saturn is definitely an underrated Planet in my opinion.
It’d be cool to see.
Which modern day (living) scientist inspires you the most and why?
I don’t really know of that many LIVING Scientists, but since I was a child, I have always been inspired by Brian Cox.(Physicist)
He has one of the best Documentary-Voices and I’ve learned a lot from him. The Wonders Of The Universe series was excellent.
I even had the chance to attend one of his presentations in Birmingham.
I would also like to give a quick mention to Stephen Hawking. Yes, I’m aware he has passed (RIP) but he was one of the most brilliant people of the 20th Century.
He proved that anything is possible, even with disabilities/challenges.
Which historical scientist do you think made the biggest contribution (good or bad) to humanity and why?
Many would say Einstein or Darwin or Newton, but I think someone different.
Let me introduce to you…
(Imam) Ja'far Al-Sadiq.
He was an 8th Century Scholar, Scientist, Alchemist and Teacher.
He is a highly recognised figure in both the Religious and Scientific world/The West.
A few fun facts.
-Contradicting the likes of Aristotle,
at the age of 11, Ja'far Al-Sadiq
refuted the theory that the Sun, Moon and Planets rotated around the Earth
-He was the first Scholar in the world who separated Science from Philosophy.
-He discovered how Hydrogen could be separated from Water before English Scientist, Henry Cavendish.
Yeah, pretty great, huh?
If you could solve one problem that faces humanity what would it be?
Can I please please please erase all of Humanity from existence?
It would solve all of our problems!
No? I can’t do that?
If you'd like to follow Maleeka please check out her blog maleekaabbas.com