ABC radio’s Nas Campanella has one of those amazing radio voices. It’s a voice that you would happily listen to even if she was reading a shopping list or the chemical ingredients in your deodorant.
Reading the news for Triple J, she sounds knowledgeable, compassionate, authoritative and in control.
Away from the microphone, this 26-year-old newsreader from Sydney is all of those things.
She is also blind.
Nas lost her eyesight at six months old when blood vessels burst at the back of her eyes, damaging her retinas. She can see some shadows and light, but that’s all. Her younger brother has the same genetic condition that caused Nas’s retina detachment, but his eyesight was saved by laser surgery that wasn’t available when Nas was a baby.
Nas confesses that without her eyesight, and with the complication of a medical condition (Charcott-Marie-Tooth) that left her with limited sensitivity in her fingers and unable to read braille, school was a struggle.
Nas started to learn by using computer programs which turned words on a computer into sound. She told ABC’s Behind the News, “It made the world of difference because I hated reading, I hated learning and then once I discovered an easier way to do it opened up all these new doors.”
Nas went on to study journalism, and while she had experience working in broadcasting on community radio, she struggled to get work after graduating.
“I looked good on paper in terms of all voluntary experience I had in the industry, samples of work I had looked great, but it wasn’t until I got to interview stage when they found out I had a vision impairment,” she says. “It was like all of a sudden they just changed their attitude it was a big “No”. It was pretty heartbreaking.”
Nas told Broadsheet that she was essentially just put into the “too-hard basket” by employers: “I guess not a lot of people have met people with disabilities, and not a lot of people are open-minded about what they’re capable of.”
In 2011, Nas applied for a journalism cadetship at the ABC. They saw what other employers had failed to: she was an excellent journo-in-training with a smooth radio voice and stand-out skills. She says, “there were tears. [I was] pretty happy. They were willing to take a chance when no one else was”.