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Student Musician’s success story

Blind student overcomes disability with grace

Eleanor Dudley, Features Editor
Originally published March 14, 2017

Miles WhitworthJunior Erfan Jazizadeh Karimi playing piano in Jazz Band II at the 58th annual Ballard Performing Arts Spaghetti dinner.

Miles Whitworth

Junior Erfan Jazizadeh Karimi playing piano in Jazz Band II at the 58th annual Ballard Performing Arts Spaghetti dinner.

From Helen Keller to Stevie Wonder blind people have been overcoming their disability for decades.

According to the World Health Organization there are 39 million people worldwide who face the world everyday without the help of their eyes.

Here at school there are only two visually impaired students. One of whom is an Iranian immigrant, a remarkable musician and a true inspiration.

Junior Erfan Jazizadeh Karimi emigrated from Iran when he was 15. He is part of the award winning jazz program and dreams of being a famous pianist.

“I really like playing piano because it is a tool that I can use to express myself,” Karimi said. “When I get the rhythm of that song, for example if it is a sad piece I become sad, if it is a happy piece I become so happy.”

Moving from another country is a challenge for anyone, but for Karimi the change has also brought about opportunities.

In Iran there were very few resources for blind people. School was especially difficult with 13 subjects, none of them in braille.

“My mother or my teacher had to read the subjects for me and I’d have to memorize it,” Karimi said.

The lack of resources is no longer a problem. He now has a vision team that translates his classes into Braille and is dedicated to helping him succeed. Technology has also closed the gap for Karimi.

“I can study as any other student, I don’t need any help,” Karimi said.

Resources available at school include a transcriptionist who prints music and materials using a machine called an Embosser which produces braille for Karimi and the other visually impaired student.

“I have a great vision team that supports me all the time, all day,” Karimi said. “I have very good teachers who are experienced and caring and I have a great assistant who is super nice and we became friends together.”

Karimi is also connected with other people in the Iranian-American community, including our recently elected Lt.Gov. Cyrus Habib.

In 2012 Habib, a lawyer, was elected to the State House of Representatives, making him the first Iranian-American to serve in a state legislature. Habib grew up in Seattle and attended Bellevue Public Schools.

“Thanks to great teachers and state’s resources I was able to go to Columbia University,” Habib said. “I really benefitted from public education and state services.”

Karimi met Habib during a lecture for blind people in Seattle. After the lecture they spoke in Farsi, discussing Karimi’s future. Habib connected Karimi to valuable resources that he is now involved with.

“My role model is Cyrus Habib,” Karimi said. “I really want to be successful like him.”

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Student Musician’s success story