leads effort to install Braille on Lawn room doors
Basrawi and his guide dog will both walk down the Lawn May
20 in full regalia.
Ida Lee Wootten
Basrawis life reflects the double major hes crafted
for himself at the University. On the verge of earning a degree
in environmental sciences
and political and social thought, Basrawi has learned some political
lessons while enhancing U.Va.s environment for the visually
blind since birth with a rare congenital form of glaucoma, Basrawi
had difficulty finding classrooms in older University buildings
because there are no Braille markings. As a member of the Universitys
Committee on Disability and Access, he was determined that rooms
on the Lawn should have Braille markings to indicate numbers.
I [moved to the Lawn], I said, Youve got to start
somewhere; lets put Braille on the Lawn.
buildings constructed since 1990 have Braille room numbers, in
compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, but there
is a long list of accessibility needs the University has identified
to complete. Marking Lawn rooms with Braille was one of scores
of such projects.
Basrawi literally took matters into his own hand; he used a handheld
Braille label maker to put residents names and room numbers
on each Lawn door. The 3û8-inch black plastic strips with the
room numbers will remain after this years Lawn residents
leave. Having the Braille numbers permanently on the doors
is a public sign that the University cares about making its facilities
accessible, he said.
parents, originally from Saudi Arabia, moved to Northern Virginia
from Ohio when Basrawi was 11. He underwent three cornea transplants
in his left eye as doctors tried to improve his limited vision.
But in his freshman year at Thomas Jefferson High School, the
cornea failed and he realized his sight would permanently resemble
looking through a foggy window.
was hard dealing with the loss of his limited sight.
didnt want to label myself blind; I would say I was visually
impaired. I wouldnt carry a cane and avoided the physical
appearance of being blind by wearing sun glasses, he recalled.
parents divorce and a grandmothers cancer diagnosis
added to the stress of this period. His grades slumped as he battled
the summer before his junior year, he saw a therapist and came
to terms with the new realities in his life. His attitude and
grades improved. In the summer before entering U.Va., he went
to Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, Calif., to learn how
to manage a guide dog. In the fall of 1997, he and his dog Regan,
a Labrador retriever, entered U.Va., where they lived in Brown
College for three years.
has been active in the University Judiciary Committee, serving
as a first-year judge and as a counselor for three years. His
role as advocate for the parties that bring cases to UJC has helped
solidify his desire to be a lawyer. After graduation he will attend
law school, combining his interests in political and social thought
with environmental science.
joined the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society in his first
year. As chair of its Pen and Ink committee, he raised funds and
created Style and Content, a magazine showcasing original works
by Jefferson Society members. As president, he helped reform the
organizations constitution and encouraged more debates.
experience with the Jefferson Society has given me a lot of hope
that someone with a disability can be respected and seen as an
able leader, said Basrawi.
outlook on life has opened my eyes to the world around me,
said fourth-year student Okan Yetik. His unparalleled caring
nature, his deep-rooted intelligence and his passion for justice
set him aside from anyone Ive come across. Mazen sees more
this world than I ever will and his vision is clearer than mine
can ever be.
in Arabic, Basrawi also started MAJIC, the Muslim and Jewish Interfaith
Coalition, to bring together students of different backgrounds.
concedes that his guide dog Regan has been a big help. Regan has
made many friends, becoming the Brown College mascot for three
years and students would often take him for a walk.
does not think Regans work should go unrewarded.
going to insist that he get some kind of diploma because hes
gone to every class Ive been to. I have to get him a cap
and gown for graduation.