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Right support at the right time

39-year-old visually impaired Ajay Kumar hails from Pathankot district in Punjab. At an early age of 18 months, Ajay caught high fever which gradually led to his vision loss. However, this did not come as an excuse for Ajay to sit idle at home. He started his education early at the Institute for the Blind, Amritsar. Due to his eagerness to learn new things, he learnt how to read Braille within a year and this boosted his confidence to learn more. Ajay had a passion for music and so he pursued a course in Music. Following which, he enrolled at the Prachin Kala Kendra, Chandigarh to master various instruments including tabla. Ajay currently lives with his wife, working as a music teacher in Pathankot.

Ajay’s parents supported him at every step of his life. Ajay’s father who is 81-years-old, served in the army and always encouraged him to study and become self-dependent. He sold half his property in the hope of recovering his son’s vision. At the age of 19, Ajay lost his elder sister which added more misery to the family. Ajay’s friends were a source of moral support and always urged him to study hard so as to have a good career in the future.

Ajay has been a client of Eyeway since 2016. He recently contacted the Helpdesk to seek information about the application for a UDID card and sought support for the required procedure. The Eyeway counselor helped him submit an online application for the UDID card along with the required documents and has been regularly updating him with the status of his application. He also wanted to know the contact number for Mahila Maha Vidyalaya which is a nearby Arts school where music and other cultural activities are conducted for persons with disabilities. Ajay also had other queries regarding concession on electricity charges and property purchases for persons with visual impairment. The counselor provided him with all the relevant information. He has expressed utmost gratitude towards Eyeway for the continuous and timely support.

Undaunting spirit and relentless pursuit

28-year-old Jayashree (name changed) is a very ambitious girl and her accomplishments are a proof to it. Never has she been bogged down by her visual impairment which is limited to faint light and image perceptions. She comes from a middle-class family with working parents and an elder brother. Despite her deteriorating vision, her parents gave her timely education till she could realise the value of it herself. Once she realised the prospects of an adequate education, she decided to put in hard work to succeed. Jayashree who hails from Bihar finished her schooling, went on to do her graduation and post-graduation in Music. She complemented all of it with a B.Ed. degree making herself eligible for teaching.

Initially she struggled through schools, exams, assignments, etc. relying on her family and friends, but the knowledge of scribe later during her college, improved her situation. So much did she know about the possibilities she could avail to make her life with disability easier and dignified. She sought information from various sources and her efforts were not futile. In 2017, she came in contact with Saksham Trust, New Delhi through which she was guided to NAB- Eyeway Helpdesk in New Delhi. She immediately contacted NAB-Eyeway and communicated with the respective counselor. On comprehending her issue, the counselor felt that her lack of awareness in terms of assistive technology was perhaps a stumbling block in her progress.

The counselor informed her about various assistive technologies like NVDA and JAWS screen-reading software for computers as well as Talkback for Android phones. He also guided her on how to easily use the laptop for her work. Though she was in possession of a laptop for the past 5 years, she was not using it due to deficient knowledge. Considering her technology related concerns, she was also advised to enrol in a technology training program at NAB. Convinced by the potential of learning these skills, she spared no time in joining the program and acquiring the desired skills in 2017.  Since then she is in constant touch with the Eyeway counselor regarding various queries. This also included her ambition to seek employment in the public sector which required the availability of accessible study material. The counselor duly assisted her with the same. Being her industrious self, she absorbed all these skills and suggestions and put it to optimum use.

In July 2018, she cleared the NET exam which makes her eligible for professorship as well as the preliminary exam for SBI clerical vacancy. Jayashree is an example to many women who are visually impaired but confined, battling everyday stigma and societal hostility. We hope Jayashree will reach greater heights with all her confidence and passion to succeed.

A mother’s quest to educate her child

Meenu Yadav, a resident of Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh, was on a train to Gwalior from Jhansi when she met Gautam, a former client of Eyeway. Gautam who is a visually impaired teacher at a government school in Jhansi, came to know about Tanya Yadav through his conversation with Meenu. Tanya is Meenu’s 7 year old daughter who is blind and speech impaired by birth. Moved by her circumstances, Gautam was told her about Eyeway and its services for the blind as he recalled his own positive engagement with Eyeway.

In August 2018, Meenu connected to the Eyeway Helpdesk and shared her experience of raising her visually impaired daughter. Kidney failure contracted by her during gestation affected the foetus which resulted in Tanya’s vision loss and speech impairment. The parents sought Tanya’s cure for long at many hospitals but their efforts were in vain. Tanya’s father is a software engineer and her mother, a homemaker and they also have a 10-year-old son. Lack of proper guidance was their problem due to which Meenu struggled with her daughter’s day-to-day needs for mobility and independence. This also left her worried about Tanya’s future. When she connected with Eyeway for the first time, she wanted to know about various education opportunities for Tanya. She believed that education could change her life and instil a new beginning to an otherwise heavily dependent life.

On comprehending Meenu’s concerns for her daughter, the Eyeway counselor had to take a well-thought-out decision given the dual disabilities the child was suffering from and then provide with the appropriate options for her empowerment. Eyeway counselor gave her the options of sending Tanya to SENSE International in Ahmedabad or Helen Keller Institute for Deaf and Blind in Mumbai which are both organisations that work for people with multiple disabilities. Due to the lack of hostel facilities at SENSE International, they chose the Helen Keller Institute where they impart education to children between 7 to 18 years who have multiple disabilities along with visual impairment.

Tanya being 7 years old can make use of this facility where special educators will instruct and teach her. The activities and curriculum are individually modified to suit each child’s developmental and cognitive level. Functional development like personal hygiene, daily living activities, mobility, community outing, money management, etc. are all also taught to them. Academically depending on the capability of each child, a modified curriculum is taught for each subject and computer education is an integral part of academics.At Helen Keller Institute, Tanya will be provided accommodation and around-the-clock care till she can be on her own. Heeding the counselor’s advice, Meenu promised to enrol Tanya at the earliest.

Having a right attitude to life

24 year old Chandra Prakash from Begusarai, Bihar out up an unrelenting attitude in the face of multiple rejections and this has helped him fulfill his desires. His desire was nothing unachievable but when the circumstances around him started being unsupportive, it was only natural to doubt. But he was not ready to go down that easily. His family felt hopeless about the future of their child but Chandra Prakash still sustained confidence and he kept trying.

It was the optic nerve weakness that led to his vision loss which he and his family identified when he was only in 5th standard. His parents took him to various doctors seeking a fix to his vision loss but all the efforts and hope didn’t help. They have to accept condition of a gradually losing vision for Chandra. Initially the news was devastating to Chandra’s family and the lack of awareness made them take all the wrong decisions for his life. Chandra never went back to school; he sat idle at home pondering his condition for the next few years. The rejections he faced from special schools in Patna and Banaras where he sought to pursue his education on various grounds like age, knowledge of Braille etc. led them all believe it to be the end of the road. His father opened for him a petty shop after few years in 2014 so that he will have some engagement during the day and later enhanced it in into a general store. Even after so many years he still retained a desire to study and complete his schooling. He got to know about National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) wherefrom he can pursue his education.

While trying to know more about NIOS, his friend coincidentally found out about Eyeway and the toll free number. On getting the number Chandra didn’t waste any time to contact the Eyeway counselor. After comprehending his issues counselor suggested to National Association for the Blind (NAB), Patna for pursuing education through open schooling and NAB Delhi for accessible study material. But it seemed the challenges were not yet over for Chandra. NAB Patna had stopped running the Open Schooling Special Centre, thus there was no support he could gain from there and it was the same case with NAB Delhi. Now the onus was on him take the challenge by its nape and steer it or give up. He decided to go for the former. He contacted Eyeway and informed the situation. Eyeway put him in communication with Satguru Rathi, a former Eyeway counselor and now who works with NIOS. This helped him a lot. He was made to understand that one can enroll for open schooling independently online and assisted him to do it. Eyeway counselor also put him in touch with the Eyeway counselor at NAB Delhi who helped Chandra gather all the accessible study material.

Though multiple rejections made the family hopeless, Chandra’s right attitude and efforts were large factors in him being able to get back to pursue his education. Chandra’s ambitions have come alive again and he is preparing to make the best out this second opportunity.

Striving to survive

Sanjay Negi from Garhwal, Uttarakhand is a 22 year old hardworking individual wanting to be independent and support his family. But sometimes the systems are too immutable to change that the poor and weaker sections will fail to catch-up, and irrespective of how hard they try. He contacted Eyeway in July 2018 and the call was regarding hostel accommodation.

Being born in a poor family itself was a struggle for Sanjay while growing up. While doing his 7th standard in school he met with an accident and lost his vision. This left him and the family devoid of all hope. They couldn’t fathom the reality of the situation that the next two years they spend ruing it. And in 2013 getting to know about National Institute of Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Dehradun from some of his friends he joined there for three months rehabilitation training. After that he joined an Industrial Training (ITI) course in NIVH itself for one year in 2014. After that he came to Delhi and staying in a hostel accommodation for the next two years he finished his 10th standard in 2016. But at the same time the hostel accommodation where he stayed, shut down and he had to leave Delhi not being able complete his schooling. But being so industrious Sanjay was not ready to give up; he went back to NIVH for computer training in 2017 for the next six months. Once after he realised that it is possible for him to lead a normal life with education and employment, he was always on the lookout for new opportunities.

But the lack of accommodation facilities turned out as an obstacle for him to progress in Delhi. Getting to know about Eyeway from one of his friends, he contacted Eyeway counselor immediately and sought recourse. Eyeway counselor was quick to suggest institutions like Blind Relief Association (BRA), National Federation for the Blind etc. here in Delhi so that he could find a place to stay and pursue his education. Unfortunately he was denied accommodation on the ground that he won’t enrolled for any academic or training programs with these institutions. On one hand this is a difficult reality but also the truth. Institutions are hampered with the onus to accommodate and educate as many disabled people as possible that they have to resort to such hard-line policies. The lacks of such eminent and productive institutions across India in turn hamper the opportunities for disabled people to pursue education, training, employment etc. But after comprehending this issue Eyeway counselor figured out the solution for Sanjay. He was directed to Bharat Blind School in Delhi where he can avail free education while pursuing a future of his choice.