Senator Kerry-Ann F. Ifill was born December 20th 1973. She lost her sight at the tender age of four but this only served to boost her drive and ambition. Kerry-Ann started school for the blind at age 6 but went on to join the mainstream schools from eleven years old. She was the first blind student to attend the prestigious Combermere School, overcoming many physical challenges while she was there.
Kerry-Ann was the first blind person to graduate from the University of the West Indies, earning herself a degree in Sociology and Psychology with Second Class Honours. She went on to obtain an MBA at Durham Business School, in England.
In 2008, Barbadian Prime Minister David Thompson appointed her to the Senate, then to the position of Deputy President of the Senate. On 14 March 2012, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced her appointment as President of the Senate. There she continued her trend at being first, as she was the first woman to hold that position, the first person with a disability, as well as the youngest ever, at the age of 38 to hold that position.
Of her appointment to the Senate, and the effect on the community of persons with disabilities, Senator Kerry-Ann says, “I think my appointment has opened up a whole new line of thinking that life is not as insurmountable as it may seem; that strides can be made and people should feel inspired to press on with their goals”.
While still in her role as Deputy President, Senator Kerry-Ann Ifill was asked to fill in for the then President and address the joint sitting of the Houses of Parliament on the official visit of the Earl and Countess of Wessex to Barbados. So flawlessly presented was this address, that it was the talk of the town, making the hearts of all Barbadians proud.
One editorial noted that Senator Ifill, “…is a young black woman whose remarkable accomplishments to date have been achieved despite the challenge of being blind. She is clearly a person of sharp intelligence and must be a clear role model for all those people who are disabled or challenged by disabilities of one sort or other.”
Senator Ifill is also President of the Barbados Council for the Disabled using that office along with her determination and dedication to excellence, to promote issues such as the Ratification of the Convention of the Rights for Persons with Disabilities; employment opportunities for the disabled; and fully accessible public spaces for persons with mobility challenges.
Along with her political role, Senator Kerry-Ann also wears the hat of Sunday School Superintendent at the Church of the Resurrection where her love of children manifests itself in her love of teaching them about God. She herself was a regular Sunday School student at St. Michael’s Cathedral, Bridgetown and even after she lost her sight, continued performing admirably at Sunday School plays and recitals.
Senator Kerry-Ann Ifill maintains a pragmatic approach to life with a disability stating, “I look at life this way – you do what you are supposed to do and you do it the best way you can. If you happen to be blind, well, just find a way to do it. With being blind, I do not waste time complaining over my being blind… Blindness is a part of me.” She further offers advice to young people who find themselves in similar positions of trying to achieve their dreams while overcoming the obstacle of disability, “It is perfectly natural to grieve. If you lose something or a loved one you grieve, that is the first step, but don’t wallow in grief. Look at the things you still can do. Just because you lost a limb, for instance, it doesn’t mean you can’t feed yourself anymore. It may be painful at first, [but] you can go back to driving if you have to. It is easier for people to help you, if they know you can help yourself. If you become so dependent, you are going to be unpleasant to be around.”
Variety Tent 73 is honored to hold her up as a role model for children with disabilities and to present her for the Presidential Citation Award 2014 at the Variety International World Conference held in Barbados in 2014.
Source: http://www.barbadosadvocate.com/newsitem.asp?more=lifestyle&NewsID=23651 http://www.itcilo.org/en/community/news/senator-kerry-ann-f.-ifill-first-female-president-of-the-senate-of-barbados-is-a-former-turin-centre-participant/?set_language=en