Photo by Bob Oliver
Henry Ford College student Khodr Farhat speaks to HFC Ophthalmic Technician Program students about his eye condition, retinitis pigmentosa, and how it has impacted his life. Farhat is legally blind but is pursuing an associate’s degree at HFC while doing volunteer work in Dearborn and the surrounding communities for visually impaired individuals.
By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN — Khodr Farhat is physically impaired but it’s hard to tell based on his school and community service workloads.
Farhat, 20, was born with retinitis pigmentosa, a disease in which the retina progressively degenerates and can eventually lead to blindness.
Farhat spends his time between Henry Ford College, where he is finishing his associate’s degree in special education, and volunteering, which he does at Carr Elementary School in Lincoln Park, the Detroit Medical Center and the Wayne County Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
“I help other visually impaired individuals in a variety of ways, from teaching braille to helping them get around to just giving them positive motivation,” Farhat said. “I try to help people realize that they cannot hold themselves back and that they can still succeed no matter what.”
Two recent additions to Farhat’s schedule are his becoming an alternate commissioner on Dearborn Commission of Disability Concern and a program coordinator for the Lebanese American Heritage Club.
“I enjoy helping others so I’m doing as much as I can to get involved in different programs,” Farhat said. “It keeps me very busy.”
Being legally blind, Farhat had a huge learning curve to tackle when he emigrated to the United States at age 15, something that he uses as motivation when helping others with visual impairments.
“I know what it is like to have a disability and to have to learn a new language and culture and I can relate to what other people are going through,” Farhat said. “That experience has helped me immensely as a person because it taught me patience.”
He also speaks before programs and classes throughout the county, most recently in front of fellow students at HFC in the Ophthalmic Technician Program.
“It’s really great to have Khodr talk to students in the program because he gives them a real world example of what they will be facing every day once they start their careers,” Program Director Kathryn Draper said.
Farhat said his future plans include transferring to Eastern Michigan University to
work on becoming certified as a special education teacher for the visually impaired and then later to work toward a master’s degree and doctorate, all while working with younger students.
“I’d like to help with curriculum and implementing different programs for impaired students,” Farhat said.
He is also keeping close attention to stem cell research, as it has been predicted that his retinal disease could be cured in the next three to four years and that he could gain 100 percent vision.
“It is definitely something that I am excited about,” Farhat said. “But I have to be patient and right now I will continue to help people and work on my education.”
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected].)