The zeal to move forward

21-year-old Santosh Kumar is a resident of Begusarai, Bihar. In 2011, he was injured in a bomb blast that occurred within his locality thereby losing his eyesight and fingers of his right hand. He was taken to the AIIMS hospital in Delhi where he underwent treatment for two years. Unfortunately, the doctors said that nothing could be done to restore his vision and provided him with a Disability Certificate. Depressed and hopeless, he returned home and sat idle for the next five years unaware on how to live a life with blindness. His education came to a halt after Class 8 as he didn’t have the required training to study independently. His parents feared sending him for rehabilitation and had kept him confined to the four walls of his house.

Santosh recalled a radio program called Nazar Ya Nazariya that had aired in 2014. He obtained the Eyeway National tollfree number from the website and immediately called up our Helpdesk. On listening to his story, the counselor understood that Santosh lacked the basic skills required to help him move forward in life. He was informed about ‘Shubham Viklang Vikas Sansthan’ in Muzzafarpur, Bihar which is an unconventional welfare society that provides education to deaf, blind, mentally challenged, people with locomotor and multiple disabilities. The society runs a special residential school for visually & hearing impaired children with free hostel and other facilities. Although Santosh was ready to enrol for the training, his parents were sceptical about this idea. To convince his parents, the counselor had a conversation with Santosh’s father on the importance of providing training for better employment opportunities.

Recently, Santosh informed the Helpdesk about his enrolment at Shubham Viklang Vikas Sansthan. He is now hopeful for a brighter future and ready to continue his education through National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).

Battling with a lack of awareness and building life afresh

22-year-old Akash Dhar is a visually impaired person from Jammu, India. Akash who was blind from birth, did not study Braille and wasn’t aware of assistive technology. Therefore, most of his formative years, he was home tutored by his family members and friends. He went on to complete his Bachelor’s degree in History from Jammu University and is now pursuing his Masters in the same subject from Indira Gandhi National Open University. His father is an electrician by profession and his mother is a homemaker. He also has a sister who is visually impaired and is studying in Class 11.

Akash had heard that the National Association for the Blind (NAB), Delhi conducts computer courses and other training programs for people like him. So he decided to travel to Delhi and enrol in a 15-day computer training program. Later, he met with the NAB Eyeway counselors who then guided him to enrol in a four-month diploma course in computer training. Alongside the counselor insisted Akash to join mobility training, English speaking classes and a course in personality development. The Eyeway counselors felt that this would help him become independent and improve his overall communication skills, boosting his confidence. Now, he is able to read books, surf the internet, access social media platforms and navigate independently. After completing his course, he decided to become an Accessibility Tester. Considering his interest, the counselor advised him to take up an online Digital Accessibility Training Program which would guarantee Akash a placement once he completed the course.

In addition, the counselor also suggested that Akash prepare and apply for other government jobs so that his options remain open. But in order to apply for government jobs related to this field, he had to clear and certify the NIELIT CCC exam. He contacted the counselor when he faced an issue with the prescribed scribe guidelines for the exam. The Eyeway team spoke with the NIELIT exam authorities and expressed their concern regarding the guidelines. Akash told us that he did not face any difficulty when he appeared for the exam and is thankful to NAB-Eyeway counselors for the constant support.

Dealing with sight loss at 71

Joseph, now 71 years old from Ernakulam, Kerala first encountered the challenge of losing vision when he was 10. It was myopia, more commonly known as near-sightedness and he never knew it was the beginning of a road less taken. He fixed the situation temporarily with a pair of glasses although his vision was deteriorating gradually. With no knowledge of it and no visible challenges earlier, he lived an independent life taking care of his business, wife and two daughters. At his prime, he also drove around in Ernakulum town for business and society until he confronted the reality on one such drives.

Joseph met with Eyeway counselor in Little Flower Hospital (LFH), Ernakulum, Kerala. He lost almost 90 percent of his vision over the years and was largely dependent on his wife. It was 20 years before and a usual business drive when Joseph felt a darkness clouding his vision. If not for his presence-of-mind, the moment could have been fatal too. Doctors diagnosed Retinal Detachment in both his eyes and prescribed a surgery. However, surgery restored the retina in one eye and the other eye sustained only minimum vision. Since then his vision has been deteriorating and Joseph has been wading through his life without having any knowledge on living life with blindness.

Now Joseph desires to do at least few things independently; he thinks he should help himself and his family doing so. On meeting the Eyeway counselor, Joseph and his wife shared his challenges and desires. His lack of knowledge about living life with blindness had constricted his thinking. All what Joseph wanted to know was whether he could read newspapers himself and improve his mobility. The counselor was faced with the challenges of not just giving options to enhance his daily-living but also bringing back hope to a 71-year-old visibly hopeless man.

The counselor gave several assistive technology options to read and listen to daily news and events. Information on various mobile apps, online portals, android phones etc. was explained to him to start with. Since Joseph has never been a smart-phone user, he needs some basic training to use assistive devices. Joseph will undergo training from the Eyeway counselor on using technology for daily needs as well as learning to move around independently with a smart cane. We believe these sessions of training and interaction with the Eyeway counselor will also help Joseph to see possibility of an independent life despite blindness.

Importance of educating oneself

30-year-old Ganesh Walpathar is a resident of Koppal district in Karnataka. He is blind by birth. Ganesh completed his Class 12 from an Open University but unfortunately due to financial constraints he couldn’t continue his education any further. He contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk seeking information on availability of manual labour jobs. The counselor called up EnAble India Candidate Support Team to get details on jobs available for visually impaired persons. However, such jobs were available only for those who had low vision. The counselor then explained to Ganesh that manual labour jobs for people with complete blindness were very few in number and that it was highly unlikely to find one within his district.

The counselor then spoke to Ganesh about the importance of education and other skills related to technology and mobility which in turn would lead to better employment options. At first, Ganesh was hesitant with the idea of continuing his education or joining a training program because of his financial problems. To overcome this challenge, the counselor informed him about an organisation, Snehadeepa in Ranibennuru, Karnataka that helps persons with vision impairment free of cost. They provide free accommodation as well as English and computer training. They also encourage visually impaired people to continue their education, providing them with adequate study material support. Ganesh was encouraged to enrol at Snehadeepa and pursue his graduation. The counselor felt that Ganesh would consider joining mobility training course once he meets other visually impaired people during his time at the organisation and also open up to more employment opportunities.

He was given the contact details of Snehadeepa and he was grateful to Eyeway for showing him a way to continue his education. Ganesh will be starting his training in June 2019.

Seeking clarity on railway reservation rules

39-year-old Zoher Kheriwala is a visually impaired person from Mumbai, Maharashtra. He and his wife contracted an eye disorder known as Retinitis Pigmentosa which resulted in a gradual loss of their vision. Zoher is a businessman and his wife is working as a Helpdesk counselor at the Victoria Memorial Blind School.

Zoher and his wife faced an issue while booking third class AC railway tickets from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. While trying to book two seats for himself and his wife under the physically handicapped quota of reserved seats, he found that only one ticket was confirmed while the other appeared under the waiting list. He couldn’t find an explanation as to why this occurred and decided to try once more by booking two tickets under the same quota from Ratlam to Ahmedabad. To his dismay, the result was the same.

Zoher contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk wanting to know why only one ticket was confirmed and not the other. A representative of the Eyeway team filed an RTI to the Ministry of Indian Railways seeking information on this query. A few days later, Eyeway received a response to the RTI along with a circular stating that two berths in 3AC Class are earmarked for persons with disabilities in all long-distance mail or express trains and that these tickets are available on concession. It was also made clear that out of the two reserved seats under this quota, the lower berth is set aside for the handicapped person while the middle berth is for the escort. The counselor informed Zoher of the same and was able to clarify his doubts. Following this, Zoher booked a ticket keeping his wife as his escort and was able to get two confirmed tickets. Zoher is grateful to the Eyeway Helpdesk for their timely response and have requested them to spread awareness on this rule.

A budding cricketer becomes an inspiration for many

15-year-old Santosh Kumar is a visually impaired resident of Jamui, Bihar. He has no vision since birth and comes from an economically backward family. His father works as a mason and his mother is a home maker. Although they were unaware on how to raise a child with visual impairment, they wanted Santosh to be educated, so enrolled him at the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in their district.

During his education and training at SSA, he heard that there were blind people who played cricket and this sparked his interest for the sport. Santosh heard about Eyeway through Hamari Vaani, an audio dissemination service for persons with disabilities. He contacted the Helpdesk to seek information on opportunities for people like him to play cricket. The Eyeway counselor informed him about Cricket Association for Blind in India (CABI) who select and coach talented visually impaired people to play at a state and national level. He was also advised to watch episodes of our TV series Nazar Ya Nazariya which talks about the importance of sports in the life of a visually impaired person. On heeding to the counselor’s advice, Santosh sent an application to the Bihar state branch of CABI and was chosen by the Selection Committee Chairman and four other members after monitoring his performance in various zonal matches. Recently, he had the opportunity to participate in the Induslnd Bank Nagesh National Cricket Tournament for the Blind held in Delhi.

Santosh expresses utmost gratitude towards the Eyeway team for helping him follow his passion. He feels excited when his sighted friends enquire about his selection process into the state cricket team. Santosh said that his parents and relatives use him as an example to motivate other visually impaired people to follow their dreams.

Denial of school marksheet

Rahul Kumar Yadav is a 19-year-old resident of Etawah, Uttar Pradesh. He is visually impaired since birth and has been dependent on his parents for daily navigation. He completed his education till Class 8 from a Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan identified school. Both his parents were farmers and it grew difficult for them to accompany him every day to school. Thus, he could not continue to study further than this.

Rahul contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk when he faced difficulty in obtaining his Class 8 marksheet as his teacher refused to provide him with the same. The counselor then consulted with the Basic Shiksha Adhikari of the Etawah district regarding this issue. The authority present there took note of the issue and contacted both Rahul and his teacher. The teacher was made to understand the relevance of issuing the school marksheet. Following this, Rahul was issued his marksheet. The counselor realised that Rahul was not independent and required proper training so that he continue with his studies. Thus, the Eyeway counselor took the initiative to convince Rahul’s brother and help him understand the importance of brother’s independence and apprised him of the various opportunities available to him. To instil a little self-confidence, the counselor suggested that he watch episodes of Nazar Ya Nazariya and advised him to join a rehabilitation training program in any organisations such as the Blind Relief Association, Rajasthan Netraheen Kalyan Sangh, Natya Kulam and Jayati Bharatam.

On following up, Rahul informed Eyeway that he will commence his training program at Jayati Bharatam from March 2019 and simultaneously continue his education from a mainstream school.

Opening up a new world of access!

A resident of Nanjangud city in Karnataka, Pooja is totally blind. However, she has not allowed her vision impairment to come in the way of her ambitions. She is a diligent student who performed exceedingly well in her Class 10 and 12 exams.

Pooja learnt to read and write Braille at an early age because that was her only means to access study material. Like a lot of visually impaired people, she was unaware of any other way of acquiring knowledge given her impairment. Pursuing her graduation in Commerce, Pooja often faced difficulty in accessing Braille books for her accounting syllabus. She called Eyeway seeking help.

Talking to the counselor, for the first time she realized that there were other accessible formats in which notes and books could be read by visually impaired people. She learnt about the online accessible libraries, Bookshare and Sugamya Pustakalaya. It was almost as if a new world had opened up for Pooja. What seemed to have been limited by Braille, now appeared limitless with technology. She soon switched to Daisy format of books for her studies. This also instilled in her, the confidence to fulfil her dream of becoming a Chartered Accountant (CA).

When she shared the same with Eyeway, our counselor apprised her of other visually impaired people who are successful practicing CAs today. Empowered with all information regarding accessible text books, online resources, ease of access through technology and inspirational stories of other blind people, Pooja is determined to work hard for achieving her goals.

Seeking assistance to further his ambitions

15-year-old Ajay Kumar was born blind in Sirsa, Haryana. His parents took him to various eye specialists with the hope of finding a cure. But the doctors told them that there were very low chances of restoring the boy’s vision. Ajay is now studying in Class 8 at the Helen Keller Blind School in Sirsa and is passionate about becoming a music teacher. Ajay’s father is a daily wage labourer and his mother is a housewife, who has been a constant support to him, encouraging him to be independent despite his inability to see.

Ajay found out about Eyeway from his friend and called up the Helpdesk to seek information on availing a free smartphone and a laptop from National Institute for the Visually Handicapped, Dehradun. He also wanted to know more details regarding purchasing a Braille Display device. He’d earlier acquired a Daisy Player from an NGO in Bangalore and he sought the counselor’s help in using the same. A Daisy Player is a digital audiobook that works as substitute for printed material. The Eyeway counselor cleared his queries by providing him with all the required information. While speaking to the counselor, Ajay also mentioned that he was looking for English speaking classes that will help improve his language skills. He was informed about an online English speaking course conducted by the Desai Foundation. Currently, he has enrolled for this course and has expressed his gratitude towards Eyeway for assisting him.

Knowing his banking rights

Rajaram Bishnoi from Nagaur, Rajasthan is a 41-year-old visually impaired person. He has a wife, a daughter and a son. Being visually impaired since birth did not stop Rajaram from completing his education and pursuing higher studies. He has a Bachelor’s as well as a Master’s Degree in Hindi. He is currently working as a second grade Hindi teacher in a school in Rajasthan.

Rajaram visited State Bank of India in order to open a bank account. However, the bank officials denied his right to open an individual account on grounds of visual impairment and was allowed to open one jointly with his wife. This resulted in him having to travel 12 kms from his home to the bank with his wife whenever any transaction had to be made. Moreover, he travelled on foot due to the roads being inaccessible to vehicles. Once his joint account became active, he requested the bank for an ATM card but he was denied once again. After being pushed around for three years, he realised that he was unaware on matters related to banking and what his rights were.

Rajaram found out about Eyeway through his friend Bhanwara Ram Bhambu with whom he had shared his banking issues. Bhanwara contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk expressing the challenges that his friend was facing with the bank, seeking a solution. The counselor informed Bhanwara about the RBI guidelines regarding the issuance of an ATM card and provided him with the same. This gave Rajaram the confidence to meet the Bank Manager and present the guidelines as proof. But unfortunately this did not change the Bank Manager’s stance on issuing him an ATM card and also refused to provide him the reason for denial in formal writing. After repeated visits to the bank, Rajaram was happy to inform the Helpdesk that his application was forwarded to higher authorities and will soon be provided with an ATM card. He expressed his gratitude towards Eyeway for educating him about his rights and giving him the support, he needed.