Disability? Nay, this woman is ‘extra abled’
This young woman from Kochi is truly a wonder, for she is making her limitations into a celebration. The 22-year-old Sophia M Joe is born with speech and hearing disability but the shortcomings have not stopped her from achieving greater heights.
Sophia today is a noted model and athlete. She walked the ramp with celebrities like Lisa Haydon and Rima Kallingal. She walked the ramp for Sanjana John at an international fashion week in Kochi in 2013.
“It is a wonder how she manages to walk the ramp without the aid of music, which is played during fashion shows. She is a trained classical dancer and is now touring the UAE to lead a dance programme,” her mother Goretti Joe says.
“We discovered she had a hearing disability when she was 10 months old. We took her to a speech therapist so that she could learn lip reading and sign language. But she hated using the sign language and has developed her own way for communicating with family and friends,” says her father Joe Francis.
Sophia was the first deaf person in Kerala to attain a driving licence for two-wheeler and LMV. One of her passions is travel and she loves to ride bullet. There was an amusing incident during her driving test.
When she took the wheels for the test, the Motor Vehicle Inspector asked, being a deaf and mute girl, how she is going to win the test. She told him “you just watch” and when she finished the test successfully, he gave a big salute to the girl.
Sophia is also a good athlete. Shotput and discus throw were her forte. She was an eight-time state champion and three times national champion. She is also a painter and jewellery maker.
There was one instance which proved her courage to fight back during troubled times. She was returning from the gym one day late at night and when she entered a narrow road, a man tried to attack her. With all her might, she gave a tight slap to the guy who then ran away.
Her life, however, was not easy. There were times, when she had to literally fight to get a good costume and hair make up during fashion shows. “Normal contestants will talk to designers and get the best costume and hairdo. She often had to be content with the left outs and often walked the ramp without properly doing her hair,” her mother said.
She obtained a BA in English literature from St Xavier’s College Aluva.
Her brother Richard Joe is partially deaf. Both of them are planning to set out on a journey across Kerala to create awareness against discrimination to differently abled.
Sophia was the first Runner Up of Miss Deaf India 2014 and represented India in Miss Deaf World 2014 in Czech Republic.