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Mesar Hameed
Mesar Hameed, on the day of his graduation

Press Release - 23 June 2008

Blind student overcomes challenges to gain first class degree

A remarkable student from the University of Bath has overcome exceptional challenges, including the loss of his sight to gain a first class masters degree in computer science, it was announced this week.

Mesar Hameed, an Iraqi who was blinded in a refugee camp during the First Gulf war fled Iraq due to political reasons in 1991 with his family, after his father was involved in a Shi'ite uprising during the regime of Saddam Hussein. He then spent two and a half years in a refugee camp in the desert in Saudi Arabia living in tents in the dust.

It was whilst living in the desert that he suffered an eye infection that was wrongly treated and he contracted glaucoma. It left him totally blind.

After moving to Sweden with the help of the International Red Cross, Mesar had to adapt to his sight loss, as well as learning Swedish and Swedish braille, while attending school.

In 2000 the family decided to move to the UK, reasoning that blind individuals have a lot more to gain from being able to communicate in a language spoken as widely as English.

Mesar attended the West of England School, a school for the visually impaired, where he had to learn English and English Braille. In 2001, with the support of the school, he was then able to attend Exeter College, where he achieved four grade A passes in his A-levels.

In 2003, he moved to Bath and began his university studies. Mesar, aged 23, has become the first ever blind student to gain a first class masters degree in Computer Science at the University. He will now stay on at the University and undertake a research post in the Department of Computer Science.

The University's learning support team helped Mesar with his studies; course material, including diagrams and formulae was transcribed into formats accessible with screenreader and refreshable braille display.

Mesar commented: "I am absolutely delighted with this result. It's a dream come true to have had the opportunity to come this far, and to be here today. This is not just a great achievement for me, but for everyone around me and those who have supported me along the way. I am now looking forward to staying at the University and to continue focusing on challenging and interesting work."

"I have great respect for the departmental members of staff, existing and previous, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all."

Professor James Davenport from the University's Department of Computer Science said of Mesar's achievements: "It's a tribute to both his intelligence and determination in mastering not only a difficult subject like computing but in excelling in a masters project - a very visual aspect of the subject.

"In working with his disability, he brings a unique perspective to the study of computing and we look forward to seeing him further his knowledge and development as a researcher."

Mesar will be officially awarded his degree on Tuesday 24 June as part of the University's annual graduation ceremonies in Bath Abbey.

The University of Bath is one of the UK's leading universities, with an international reputation for quality research and teaching. View a full list of the University's press releases: