Offering timely support

26-year-old Punam Ohal is a visually impaired resident of Pune, Maharashtra. In February, she appeared for the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS) clerk exam and cleared it. On selection for the post of clerk at a nationalised bank, she was asked to produce an online disability certificate, despite having a hard copy of the same. To do this, she was asked to apply for a Unique Disability Identification (UDID) card on the Swavlamban website and provide the hospital with a printout of the form.

The civil hospital assigns only one day for all those who have applied for a UDID card or an online disability certificate. After completing the required procedure at the hospital, it takes around three to six months to obtain the online disability certificate. Since the whole process was long, tedious and time consuming, Punam was worried about losing her job opportunity. For this reason, her husband contacted the Eyeway helpline on her behalf and shared their concern. The counselor discussed with the respective bank authorities regarding the matter and came up with an immediate solution. The counselor asked Punam to apply for a UDID card and explained its necessary steps. After submitting the online application, they were asked to attach the UDID registration number along with the disability certificate. With this in hand, she was able to begin her work at the bank.

Punam also faced difficulty when she was assigned to the branch in Mumbai, which was far away from home. The counselor provided her with the Department of Personnel & Training guidelines which state that persons with disabilities should be posted nearest to their native place. She sent a letter to the bank authorities along with these guidelines, thereby, allowing her to work at their branch in Pune.

Accessibility challenge at workplace

32-year-old Akshaya Panda is a visually impaired person from Berhampur, Odisha. He completed his Masters in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). Following this, he was placed as an Executive Trainee in Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd (SJVN), Shimla and was later promoted to the role of an Assistant Manager. His role required him to read important documents and sign them when required. However, this proved difficult for him, as these printed documents were inaccessible given his vision impairment.

He got in touch with the Eyeway Helpdesk to seek assistance in this matter. The counselor informed him on the accessibility provisions compiled under the sections 40 – 44 of the RPWD Act 2016. With this, he wrote an application of request to the SJVN management. They recognized his need and assigned an employee to assist him to read printed documents and sign wherever required. Akshaya is thankful to Eyeway for the prompt intervention and guidance to address his grievance.

Compromising on education for employment

Vidyasagar is a 21-year-old visually impaired resident of Satna, Madhya Pradesh. Born blind into a financially poor family, sending him to the National Association for the Blind in Madhya Pradesh seemed like the ideal option for his parents. There, he was given free schooling and accommodation. However, after Class 10 he wanted to discontinue his schooling to seek employment and support his parents financially.

He called up the Eyeway Helpdesk to seek information regarding employment opportunities available for persons with disabilities with Class 10 qualification. On probing further, the counselor understood his underlying need for the same and counseled him against it. Instead, the counselor advised him to pursue his higher education, which would increase his chances of being employed in the long run. He then shared his interest towards the line of teaching and enquired about its educational requirements. He was informed about the various career levels within the teaching profession such as a school teacher, assistant professor, professor, etc.

Vidyasagar took heed to the suggestions given by the Eyeway counselor and completed his Class 12 from NAB. Following this, he applied to various universities to pursue his degree in Bachelor of Arts. The counselor encouraged him to stay focused and work on his skills, alongside his academics. By doing this, he would be ready to look for employment without having to spend extra time on skill training.

Seeking better employment

Anil Kumar is a 52-year-old visually impaired person from Kerala. He began to face sight loss when he was two years old. His parents, however, were supportive and sent him to a private Christian school for his primary education. His siblings and friends accompanied him to school daily as he found it challenging to travel independently. Like many other visually impaired students, Anil had to forego the choice of Commerce, which was the subject he desired to pursue in Bachelors.

While in college, Anil couldn’t find willing peers to help him with his studies. The students were assigned different classrooms for each subject, and getting to every class was an accessibility challenge for him. With a certified 20% disability, he managed to clear his exams without a scribe only in the second attempt. After completing his Masters in English, he started his career as an English teacher at a private tuition center for Class 10 students. In search for better income, Anil moved from one job to another.

He found the opportunity to work on translating books and articles from English to Malayalam. Translation seemed financially more lucrative to him as compared to a tutor’s job. But he wasn’t able to get more assignments on his own. Anil met with the Eyeway Helpdesk counselor at the Little Flower Eye Hospital in Angamaly to know if there were any employment opportunities available to him with his level of experience. On researching, the counselor was able to connect him to Isha Publications in Coimbatore. He currently works there and simultaneously translates books for Mathrubhumi Publications. He expresses his gratitude towards Eyeway for their constant support and guidance.

ICC World Cup and challenges for fans with visual disabilities

By George Abraham

As cricket has a huge following among the people with visual disabilities in the country, it’s time to take some measures.

The long awaited 2019 Cricket World Cup has arrived. The Indians begin their campaign against South Africa on June 5 at The Rose Bowl, Southampton. As far as India is concerned, the World Cup is the biggest sporting event. Now that the Lok Sabha Election results have been announced, the focus of the nation will shift to cricket for the next month or so. Every Indian cricket fan will be closely following the fortunes of Kohli and his men in blue. The persisting question on everyone’s mind is whether this Indian team can repeat what Kapil Dev’s team achieved 36 years ago.

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Technology comes to aid

Vishal Deshmukh is a 39-year-old visually impaired person who lives in Nashik, Maharashtra. He had lost his vision during his last year of graduation due to Retinal detachment. He wasn’t able to cope with the sudden loss of sight and had to ultimately drop out of college. After a span of two years, he decided to search for employment opportunities rather than sit idle at home. With the help of a trainer and his friend, he started a mainstream computer training institute in his place. But soon enough, he realised that he wasn’t contributing enough towards the business as he lacked the required skillset and basic training.

Vishal then enrolled in a computer training course at National Association for the Blind, Mumbai where he learnt how to use the computer using a screen reader. This helped him carry out work such as maintaining daily expenditures and recording important notes. However, carrying a laptop while traveling and putting down notes on the go posed as a challenge. Despite being a smartphone user, he was unaware of applications that could aid him with his varied needs.

After hearing about Eyeway on radio, he called up the toll free helpline to seek solutions. The counselor understood his needs and informed him about an application that could solve his problem. He was given a tutorial on how to use the said application. This helped Vishal take a load off his back as he did not have to carry his laptop everywhere and it also helped him save a lot of time, adding to his work efficiency. Moreover, Vishal was happy that he was able to take note of things like any other sighted person.

Showing the right way forward

Salman Shaikh is a 27-year-old living in the Dahisar suburb of Mumbai, Maharashtra. He was studying in a mainstream school but when he reached Class 10, Salman’s vision started to deteriorate due to an eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. Despite many challenges, he managed to complete his Class 10 from the same school. Vision impairment was new to Salman and now a teenager he needed reorientation in order to move around independently. But since he lacked knowledge of how to acquire those skills, he ended up being escorted to school daily.

In addition, the school had no awareness on how to address the needs of a visually impaired student including, providing him with accessible study material or a scribe to write his exams. This resulted in Salman dropping out of school without completing his higher secondary education.

After 8 years of sitting idle at home, he came to know about a rehabilitation program at National Association for the Blind (NAB), Mumbai and he enrolled for the same. At NAB, he heard about Eyeway and contacted the Helpdesk to seek information on employment opportunities available for him.  Through his conversation with the counselor, Salman understood that most jobs required had a minimum eligibility criteria of Class 12. Therefore, he was counseled to complete his education through open schooling. He was apprised of various organizations that could help with providing accessible study material as and when required.

To further address his employability issue, Eyeway recommended him to acquire useful skills along with desired certifications. To become eligible for computer based jobs, he needs a Maharashtra State Certificate in Information Technology (MSCIT), which the counselor advised him to pursue at The Victoria Memorial School for the Blind (VMSB) in Tardeo, Mumbai.

But despite having undergone mobility training, Salman didn’t feel very confident of traveling from his home to Mumbai daily to pursue the suggested courses. So in order to avail free accommodation, the counselor convinced Salman to enroll in a one-year stenography programme at NAB Mumbai. Once he starts off at NAB, Salman will apply for the MSCIT course at VMSB where he will also pursue typing in English and Hindi. Meanwhile Salman has started taking online English speaking classes offered by Desai Foundation for Change.

From wasting eight precious sitting hopelessly at home, to restarting his education and jobs-based training, Salman is looking forward to become employable in the next one year.

Seeking help to pursue further education

Shahid Dar, a 22-year-old resident of Bandipore district in Jammu and Kashmir, was born with an eye disorder called Nystagmus affecting his vision up to 30%. Three years later, he met with an accident that resulted in complete vision loss. His parents showed no interest in educating him and provided very little support. However, his brother understood the importance of education and decided to enroll him at a local school.

At school, Shahid faced physical and emotional abuse at the hands of other students and teachers.  He was constantly discouraged to attend school due to his inability to move around independently. However, his enthusiasm to learn more kept him moving forward. With the help of a scribe, he was able to appear for his exams.

But due to lack of support from his family, Shahid was forced to discontinue his studies after completing Class 12.  He came to know about Eyeway through a workshop conducted by HELP Foundation on International Day for Persons with Disabilities. He called up the Eyeway Helpdesk to seek information on institutes that provide BA courses in Kashmir and whether it was possible for him to pursue his graduation. The counselor apprised him of various colleges as well as the courses offered and even guided him with his choices.

Having received proper counseling and adequate information by the Eyeway Kashmir center, Shahid was able to enroll in a Bachelors program in his district. He also informed us that he’s been acknowledged and appreciated by the faculty members as well as peers for his ability to make presentations in class independently. He is encouraged by the way he is perceived in his college, as a person with caliber and not simply someone with a vision impairment.