An issue of large import

The first job is always hard and being a visually impaired person, it was harder for Janardhan. After surmounting the obstacles of being born blind, ill-fitting at a mainstream school, and challenged at his first job, Janardhan from Ahmednagar, Pune was at ease till a few months before.

Born into a middle-class family of four, Janardhan’s blindness devastated his parents. For a very long time, his parents couldn’t accept Janardhan’s vision loss. They put him in a mainstream school at the age of five but he failed to get accustomed to the sighted children and the visual teaching methods in school. He had to drop out after a brief period of schooling there. At the same time, his parents continued their attempts to treat Janardhan’s sight loss. They took him to see many doctors in and around Pune hoping for a solution, but to no avail. During these frequent travels, they got to know about Poona Blind School in Koregaon and admitted Janardhan there at the age of seven. Here he started his education anew and this time to much avail. After successfully completing his 10th standard, he finished 12th standard from PVV College in Loni, Ahmednagar and trained himself in steno-typing and telephone operation from National Association for the Blind (NAB), Mumbai.
After schooling and some skill-specific training, he took up some private jobs while simultaneously hunting for a government job. After much patience and a long wait, he cleared the exam and interview for the post of Lower Division Clerk in Central Ordnance Depot (COD). But towards the last stages of recruitment, he was denied the job stating that it is for 40% disabled and not for anyone with a disability above that. After a lot of struggle, seeking help through Social Justice Department and Pune Blind Men’s Association which in turn communicated with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE), he was able to get the particular job. He was appointed as LD clerk but the challenges were not over for Janardhan.

Eyeway has dealt with many cases where visually impaired employees face challenges to record their attendance in government offices leading to them losing out on their leave, salary etc. This is an important issue because many government offices ignore the accessibility factor for visually impaired when it comes to marking attendance. In some offices, it’s a register where attendance is to be marked physically while others have a biometric system installed. Both these practices have their inherent flaws because a majority of VIs rely on ‘thumb impression’ or if it is a biometric system there must be audio guidance system.  In Janardhan’s case, he had to physically mark his attendance daily in a register and failing this affected his job. He was taking help from his colleague to do so. Soon he was instructed to sign by the Head of his department and in the case of the contrary endangering his record of attendance at the job. He requested to allow the option of ‘thumb impression’ which was denied too. He called Eyeway at this juncture for support.

Eyeway has previously intervened and taken up such cases for advocacy by communicating directly with the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) and MSJE. Such interventions have also been fruitful, with many unaware offices and department heads being made to understand the magnitude of the issue and thus implementing a recourse. This is a problem of import which the government and policymakers have to look into, as it is also a violation of the RPWD Act 2016. In Janardhan’s case since the COD is planning to revamp the practice into a biometric system, Eyeway is waiting for more information before taking the case up for advocacy.