07:00PM, Friday 05 February 2021
A visually impaired teenager from Holyport has won the opportunity to discuss her unique app idea with Microsoft.
Maleeka Abbas, who is registered blind, is a former student of Holyport College. She left in 2019, due to the challenges of being in mainstream education.
Driven by her experiences struggling to make her voice heard, Maleeka came up with the idea of VIP Connect, an app that connects young people with visual impairments in a peer support network.
She entered the Microsoft competition in March among thousands of applicants and has heard that she has won ‘the most impactful’ category.
Maleeka is hoping that the app could help provide the support young people need to stand up for their own needs against the opinion of experts who are not actually visually impaired.
“I know my challenge – I know my sight better than anyone else,” she said. “But because of my age and because I do have these challenges, my supporters would always doubt my reasoning.
“I kept thinking ‘What if I’m in the wrong?’ I needed someone to confirm I was in the right.
“I don’t want any other VIPS (visually impaired people) going through this. It hits me hard thinking there’s going to be children thinking that there’s no support for them,” she said.
By winning this competition, Maleeka now has to chance to make a detailed pitch in a one-on-one video call with a Microsoft technician.
Ordinarily she would have won a visitor experience to the Microsoft centre in Cambridge, now postponed due to COVID-19.
“We totally forgot about the competition because of everything that happened with COVID,” said Fizzah Shah, Maleeka’s mother. “It was really good news because it was unexpected.”
She said that the app would be helpful for children on the cusp of secondary school particularly.
“It’s a crucial age, a time of delicate transition,” said Fizz. “Maleeka said she wished she’d had a 15-year-old to talk to.”
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