Young children can be unsteady on their feet, but 3-year-old Naheed Davis’ BS ’19 steps were alarming. Her mother noticed her hesitant walk one evening in Guatemala, where Naheed was born. “My mom says I would stop, feel around with my foot, then walk a bit, then stop, feel around with my foot, then walk a bit,” Naheed shared. “Worried, she decided I should go to an eye doctor.”
The diagnosis was retinitis pigmentosa, a rare genetic disorder that affects peripheral vision and makes it difficult to see at night. By age 5, Naheed’s central vision had become impaired — she would later learn she also had macular degeneration. She had to sit in the front row of all her classes to see the board, even with glasses. At 6, Naheed’s family emigrated from Guatemala. She started first grade a few weeks after arriving in the U.S. She soon realized she loved numbers. Naheed graduated from high school in 2003 and enrolled at WSU that fall. She was OK for a few semesters, but her eyesight worsened, and she started to fail classes. Microeconomics and business statistics were particularly difficult because graphs were hard to see. “I was too embarrassed to ask for help,” she admitted.
So she quit.
And she took a customer service job. It was unfulfilling, and she knew it wouldn’t help her provide for her family — she had two kids of her own — long term.
So Naheed re-enrolled at WSU. This time she sought help from the university’s Disability Services office, which provided her with screen readers and note takers.
Naheed excelled and got an internship at the Utah State Capitol, through Kristen Cox, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, who is blind. She helped Naheed gain confidence.
Naheed graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in April 2019. She is currently enrolled in WSU’s Master of Taxation program and has been offered a job in the Department of Defense. Naheed is also working with David Malone, chair of the School of Accounting & Taxation, on a project that explores the opportunities and challenges she and others who are visually impaired face in the world of accounting and finance. Her goal is to publish the research in an accounting education journal.
“Throughout my time at WSU, some things were more challenging than others,” Naheed said, “but I have had amazing support from faculty, staff and classmates who made it a lot easier.”