SCI Snapshot: Bouchra Merabti from Algeria

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It’s hard to imagine sustaining a spinal cord injury in a country where accessibility is still a long ways from being sustainable or equal. For Bouchra Merabti, 27 years old and from Algeria, that was her reality when she was paralyzed in a car accident 7 years ago. Just 20 years old at the time and a student, she had to make some difficult decisions after her entire world changed. Did she stay in Algeria? Did she graduate? Read Merabti’s story below.

The Injury

“In July 2016, I was in a car accident that resulted in me becoming paralyzed,” recalls Merabti, who has a T5 injury. She was in college and put her entire life on hold to focus on her rehabilitation. “I had rehab in different places and in different countries,” she says. “I started in Algeria for a month, then I went to Tunisia to a clinic that specialized in spinal cord injuries.” She recovered small contractions in her legs and was able to stand using a walker and braces. “My experience in Tunisia was one of the best but at same most expensive, and that is why I had to stop after a while.”

Returning home was an eye-opening experience for Merabti as she began to see how difficult her life would be if she remained in Algeria. “It was hard because I lived in an inaccessible country, an inaccessible house and an inaccessible university. I had to hire a personal driver to take me to university because I couldn’t take the bus, and I have been discriminated against by society because of my disability. I had one of the hardest years in my life; physically, mentally and financially,” she describes.

“In Algeria, it is almost impossible to live and survive when you have a disability because it is not accessible, so most people chose to sit at home, quitting their studies because they’re hard or expensive. Overwhelmingly frustrated at her situation, Merabti decided to look beyond the borders of Algeria to somewhere new to live and a place where she could finish her studies. After searching, she discovered Sweden was a country she could both move to and thrive in as a person with a disability. Merabti however didn’t move until 2022, studying in Algeria from 2019-2022.

Life in Sweden

After Merabti moved to Sweden, she continued her studies. “I studied mathematics and information systems, then I chose information systems as my specialty. At the end, I graduated as a software and computer science engineer and I was the 4th best in my section.”

After graduating, Merabti discovered that not everything is perfect outside of Algeria, even in Sweden. “Now that I’m searching for a job in my specialty, I’ve found it so hard to find a job when you have a disability here; even in a European country; and that’s quite sad because I studied in university and speak English, French and Arabic.”

She did however successful in finding a place to live. “Sweden it is a little bit different and much better, even though my apartment is not perfectly accessible and I still have problems doing certain things,” she says. And when she is not hunting for a job, she loves to read books. In fact, she says she’s obsessed. “I used to go to the gym, but not anymore,” she says/

Merabti also has her mind on a bigger prize – becoming a disability influencer. “Now days I am thinking about being an influencer for people like me, and I want show people what the life of disabled person looks like and to motivate them to never give up. I already started doing that on my Instagram, but I still need a lot of work on that.”

— Follow Bouchra at @bouchrawheels

Bouchra in Sweden <3


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