Universiteit Leiden

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Having rights is better than equal treatment

Mohamed Tleis was born in Lebanon and studied there up to and including university. It was not an easy path because Tleis has to cope with a number of limitations: he has problems with both hearing and vision.

At the front of the class

His vision is restricted and has limited peripheral field and his hearing is poor.  ‘There were no provisions at all in Lebanon,’ he explains. ‘All I could do to make it easier for myself was to sit at the front of the class.’ The extra difficulties he experienced did not prevent Tleis from finishing high school and then getting a degree in computer science.   

Extra aids

Tleis started his PhD research at the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science. He was given a special microphone so that he could hear what was being said at meetings, for example. And other aids such as software for screen magnification so that he could read the screen better.   

Learning to ride a bike

And this was not the only help he received in Leiden. ‘In the early days I kept bumping into things,’ he said, ‘but I was given a white cane to walk with and I learned how to use it.’ Tleis even learned to ride a bike. ‘I cycle slowly and have to get off if I want to cross the road, but it works OK.’

His own proposition

Tleis devised his own proposition that has to do with his handicaps. ‘Equality does nothing for you,’ he said.  ‘You don’t get the facilities and support you need to meet the competition from other people. I get more out of having rights. The right to support, for example, so that I can enjoy the same opportunities as other people.‘

Already found a job

Tleis has already found a job with a small software company BaseNet. What he would most like is to stay in the Netherlands and apply for Dutch citizenship. ‘I’m happy here.’

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