Cover Story – Norali Ali Yusop

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Norali Ali Yusop

What do you stand for?

If you haven’t considered this question before, it may be worthwhile giving it some thought after reading this story as it may change the way you define the purpose of your life. Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Lee Kuan Yew and our late Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin; all these people stood for something far greater than themselves which was way beyond their time.

It would be unfair and downright irresponsible to compare our feature story to the life stories of these great people. However, when you read about Norali Ali Yusop you will realise that ordinary people also have what it takes to stand for something powerful, meaningful and inspirational.

Norali runs marathons, swims, cycles and even does (indoor) rock climbing. Not because he enjoys pushing his body to the limit, but because he has a bigger purpose in mind.

“Quit feeling sorry for yourself … No body is going to help you unless you first help yourself.”

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Norali at a marathon run in the UK

He studied for a Masters Degree and won the prestigious Hans Award from King’s College (in London). Not simply because he is smart, but because he’s always has a point to prove.

With his sterling academic record Norali could easily have chosen any profession but instead he chose a career which most people did not even know existed. He chose to work in the Ministry of Education to help people with disabilities through the use of technology. He has done all of these because of his strong convictions and determination to make a difference.

Ironically, Norali may not even realise that he has a mission statement written all over his forehead, but to the people who know him, this seems obvious.

What does Norali stand for?

Norali who became blind at the age of 17, is not just a capable blind man who leads a positive life by overcoming all of the obstacles that are thrown at him. Sometimes people forget that the challenges for a blind person are something that they have to face daily; they do not simply overcome it and move on with life.

However, a story that draws inspiration only from Norali’s physical triumph would have discredited everything he has worked so hard for. In fact, he would be the first to object to being defined by his visual impairment.

Challenge Norali to a marathon run, he will outrun you by miles. Throw him a question about technology, current affairs or even the latest movie buzz, he will humiliate you with his acute awareness of the world around him.

norali4All of these achievements did not come to Norali naturally. He had to work twice as hard as sighted people to reach this level. But working twice as hard simply became the new normal for him because he made a conscious decision to not be a victim of his own circumstances.

Norali was once quoted as saying “I may not be able to see, but I have a clearer vision about life than those people with perfect eyesight.” He wasn’t exaggerating.

He has a central message to share. And whenever he is invited to educate people in the public, his message is this: “People with disabilities can contribute equally as much, if not more to the society. Do not for a moment write them off as being ‘disabled’. Quit showering them with sympathy when all they really need is your empathy; to be treated with dignity and provided with equal opportunities.”

To the people living with any kind of disability, you will be disappointed if you are looking for a message of sympathy from Norali sharing the platform with Standard Chartered’s CEO, Ms Lai Pei Si COVER FEATURE Norali Ali Yusop Norali. Instead, he delivers a brutally honest message, “Quit feeling sorry for yourself and stop looking for pity from others. Nobody is going to help you unless you first help yourself.”

To me, Norali stands for courage, determination and a clear vision of hope for the people with disabilities and those who are paralysed by their own limited beliefs. However, to box him into any specific category would have missed the whole point to his story. This maverick is not about to be defined by you, me or any experts who pretend to have him figured out. Norali’s journey to change the world has only just begun.

Endnote: Norali gets goose bumps whenever he hears stories of people who do extraordinary things. If Norali could see, he would certainly notice that he is the one giving everyone goose bumps with his own story.

This article was published in the Oct-Dec 2014 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!