Ornette Danse, 32, lost his vision at the age of 10 after a botched operation to repair a retinal detachment.
“I am overwhelmed, happy, glad – I can’t properly describe this feeling,” Danse told local media.
“It was an overwhelming accomplishment. I felt like I made it.”
And while three years of hard work and dedication has paid off, he is far from done with his studies for now – Danse is already looking to tackle his Bachelor of Technology degree.
It was a tough route to success, Danse underwent switchboard training and volunteered during the holidays at his local police station as a switchboard operator.
“I knew that being blind would make getting a job straight out of school basically impossible. I had limited options so to ensure I was employable, I wanted to make sure I had work experience,” Danse said.
Danse can even speak six languages – Setswana, isiXhosa, English, Afrikaans, isiZulu and Sesotho.
He received a bursary from the police and juggled his studies and work responsibilities for three years.
“It was very difficult – up and down – but I did it,” he said.
Danse was reliant on typed notes which were “read” to him by a screen reader programme.
“I can’t read from the board so I would sit and listen intently. I think it helped me understand the material better as instead of concentrating on notes, I would take in everything, then explore it when I got the electronic version,” he explained.
His hard work saw him achieve 10 distinctions over the course of his studies.
Danse’s story has touched many on social media, who have shown their support over a number of platforms:
Today we celebrate a remarkable achievement by Ornette Danse, blind, multilingual high-flyer who just graduated from Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in South Africa with a diploma in Public Management with 10 distinctions. https://t.co/coQuJfu99U pic.twitter.com/uQrDit5jhC
— This Is Africa (@ThisIsAfricaTIA) December 14, 2017
Congrats South Africa’s Ornette Danse. Knowing it’s “virtually impossible” for a blind person to get a job, the father of 3 mapped out a career course to get work experience from volunteering at a police switchboard; has become 1st in his family to get a university degree. pic.twitter.com/oKB79uExty
— James Hall (@hallaboutafrica) December 14, 2017
Danse hopes that his accomplishment will inspire others to do what “seems impossible”.
“My advice to people with disabilities is to try and break the boundaries. Be open and explore. A closed book can’t be read. If you need help, ask and someone will assist,” he said.