Sabriye was born in Germany, and at the age of 12, a degenerative eye disease took away her sight. As a girl she was embarrassed by her blindness. "When I became blind, I didn't want to let other people notice ... that I was different," Sabriye remembers.
Eventually, Sabriye went to a school for the blind and learned self-reliance. She went on to college where she studied the complex language of Tibet. At the time, Tibetan had never been translated into braille—but that didn't stop Sabriye. She created her own Tibetan-German/German-Tibetan braille dictionary, the first of its kind. Her past struggles with blindness sparked an idea that would take Sabriye to the other side of the world. She established the first school for the blind in Tibet in order to give blind children confidence and freedom from shame—a grim challenge in a place with a deep prejudice against the blind. While traveling through Tibet on horseback, Sabriye encountered blind children hidden away in dark rooms and exiled from their own families—one boy had spent his life tied to his bed.