Seeking help for basic financial rights

An old Eyeway client, Birju (name changed) visited the Eyeway Helpdesk office in New Delhi on September 7, 2017. He is a resident of Kaushambi, UP and is 100% blind. Birju has three daughters and a son, and his wife is mentally retarded. He is the sole breadwinner in the family. Birju came to Eyeway seeking help in opening a Kisan Credit Card account with his local bank. The Branch Manager at Bank of Baroda in Nara, Kaushambi refused to open an account for Birju unless it was a joint account. The manager believed that visually impaired Birju was incapable of operating a bank account on his own. Our counselor spoke to the Bank Manager informing him of the provisions in place for blind people and the fact that they are perfectly capable of accessing financial facilities independently. We also shared the relevant guidelines issued by RBI and IBA, following which Birju’s issue was resolved.

Desperate for training and employment

70 year old Satish (name changed) lives in Delhi. He lost his eye sight because of an accident in the chemical laboratory while performing his BSc practicals. Nitrogen gas boiled and gushed on to his face, leaving him almost fully blind. Somehow he managed to complete his Bachelors but could not pursue his Masters in Science. Luckily his good communication skills helped him secure the job of a receptionist in Overseas Bank. After working for 28 years in the bank, Satish retired and opened a canteen in National Association for Blind (NAB) Delhi in 2006. But due to lack of funds, he could not sustain the business for more than a year. In the following years, Satish took up a receptionist’s job with two NGOs based in Delhi. But since 2015 he has been unemployed. The main obstacle he faces on the job is his inability to work with computers. All the jobs he has applied for require a basic working knowledge of computers.

In his younger years, Satish did not realize the need to acquire computer skills and he wasn’t even aware of how technology can assist a blind person in his daily life. But now that Satish is unemployed, disabled and living alone, he is desperate for a solution. Satish’s nephew who is also blind underwent training at NAB. He suggested that Satish get in touch with Eyeway for help.

On calling Eyeway, Satish learnt about screen readers and talk backs. Our counselor guided him on how a blind person can access computers using screen reading software like JAWS and NVDA. The counselor shared a copy of NVDA software with Satish and also took him through the steps of installing it on his computer. But to be able to operate computers using screen reading software effectively, Satish needs proper training. He wanted to enroll for the training offered at NAB but his present financial condition does not permit him to commute daily from his home in Sagarpur to the center in RK Puram. At this point, Satish hopes he can find resources to complete his training so he can regain employment and provide for himself. Eyeway will continue to offer support in whichever way possible.

A visually impaired father seeks out help for his children

A resident of Meerut, 37 year old Mohd Sheikh (name changed) is 60% blind. He suffers from a genetic disorder which has led to his gradual loss of vision right from birth. He dropped out of school after completing Class VIII as it increasingly became difficult for him to cope with his studies given his vision impairment. He was unaware of the aids and resources that could have helped him finish his studies. He now has a job where he works as a bookbinder, earning barely enough to support his wife and three children. Sheikh heard about Eyeway helpline on the radio and decided to call for help.  He shared two major concerns with our counselor. First, he wanted to learn about job options which may enable him to provide for his family better. Second, all his three children suffered from the same genetic disorder, causing similar eye problems. His eldest daughter is 10, second one is 7 and the son who is the youngest is 3. When he spoke to our counselor, Sheikh was extremely worried and concerned about their education.  He didn’t want them to lose out on studies because of blindness as he did.

After giving him a patient hearing, our counselor guided Sheikh with the next steps. We suggested him to consider starting his own bookbinding business. For financial assistance, we advised him to apply for a loan under the National Handicap Finance Development Corporation (NHFDC) scheme. As for his children, we asked him to foremost get proper medical consultation on each of their cases and stay in regular touch with the doctors. We also advised him to get their Disability Certificates made so they could avail appropriate schemes and provisions. We also put him in touch with National Association for the Blind (NAB) in Meerut where all four of them could undergo rehabilitative training which would prepare them to cope with sight loss. In addition, our counselor also shared the links of our TV series, Nazar Ya Nazariya with Sheikh, so they could all watch stories of successful blind people and get inspired and also become aware of the myriad possibilities of living life with blindness.

Following our advice, Sheikh took medical consultation for all three children in a local government hospital. He plans to enroll in the training at NAB soon. He also intends to visit Delhi to meet our Helpdesk team in person and visit AIIMS to get Disability Certificates for his daughters and son.

Coping with late blindness and learning about provisions for disabled

45 year old Dhiraj Tendulkar (name changed) was born in Nagpur. He has a big family including his parents, four sisters and a brother. Dhiraj earned his MSc Math degree after completing his education in regular school and college in Nagpur. In 1996 he secured a job under the ST quota in the Defence Standardization Cell in Pune. He was appointed as a Junior Technical Officer. Dhiraj’s parents didn’t want to leave Nagpur and relocate to Pune so they stayed behind with his brother. But since the income from his brother’s job as a post office agent was not enough to support the family, Dhiraj took the onus of financially looking after his parents. In 2001, he was transferred to Ahmednagar as part of a routine exercise. Except for the few challenges of moving from one city to the other, Dhiraj adjusted well into his job.

It was in 2005 that he faced a major challenge in life. His eye sight began to deteriorate, affecting his ability to perform his job. On consulting with doctors, Dhiraj was diagnosed with Retina Pigmentosa, where gradual reduction of vision leads to complete blindness. Grappling with sudden blindness and inability to perform well, one day Dhiraj came across a news item in Maharashtra daily, Sakal, which talked about blind people operating computers. On contacting the news reporter of the particular story, Dhiraj learned about Eyeway. Seeing this as a ray of hope, he instantly called the Eyeway Helpdesk. He shared his challenges and sought help in coping with work as a blind person. Eyeway counselor informed him about how he could learn computers to help him become independent and efficient at work. Dhiraj underwent the computer training using screen reading software. We also advised him to get a Disability Certificate and submit it to his employer so he could avail benefits for person with disability. As a result, Dhiraj’s employer not only changed his profile to a computer based job but also provided him with the required assistive devices to perform his job well. Dhiraj regained his confidence with a consistent annual performance rating 9 out of 10.

But recently, he was faced with a new difficulty with an order of routine transfer from Ahmednagar to Pune. After having settled well into Ahmednagar for all these years and given his disability, Dhiraj didn’t want to relocate to Pune. He contacted Eyeway yet again seeking advice and help on how to stop his transfer. Our counselor shared with him the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) guidelines which clearly state that persons with disabilities may be exempted from rotational transfer. Dhiraj submitted the copy of the specific order to his employer, following which his transfer was stopped.

Considering that Dhiraj not only provides for his own family but also his parents, it was critical that he retain his job. With Eyeway’s advice for training he learnt to cope with his disability without affecting his ability to perform at work. Also the information on provisions for the disabled helped him claim his legal rights as a blind employee.

Accepting disability and moving on

27 year old Arjun (name changed) hails from Jaipur, Rajasthan. Arjun had low vision in one eye since birth but he wasn’t really aware of it until a few years ago when he lost vision in his other eye.  Arjun met with a failure early in life when he was 15. He could not clear all his Class X exams. He was disappointed and lost his enthusiasm to study further. He decided to move out of Jaipur and explore options in the dream city of Mumbai. Arjun joined his cousin’s business. He worked with great zeal in the family business until one day when a ball hit his eye while playing ‘gali cricket’. Things took an adverse turn following the accident. Arjun lost his vision in one eye and during the course of medical consultancy, realized that he had low vision in the second eye as well. Loss of vision made him inefficient at work.  Arjun didn’t know what to do and who to seek out for help. Then he overheard about Eyeway on the radio. He called the helpline and shared his issues. Our counselor helped him understand how he could continue to live a happy and independent life despite blindness. But somehow Arjun never fully heeded to our advice. He struggled at work, trying to deliver but kept failing.

It was only after his cousin asked him to leave that Arjun felt he was a liability on people. He called Eyeway again, this time more determined to change his situation. He expressed a desire to start his own business. Our counselor assured him that it was possible to successfully set up his own business if he followed the right steps of rehabilitation. Eyeway guided him about the various rehabilitative and mobility training courses available at National Association for Blind (NAB) in Mumbai. Our counselor also motivated him to complete his studies in order to improve his future prospects. Arjun agreed to pursue both his studies and the vocational training at NAB. Our counselor also informed Arjun that he would need to complete his Class X from Jaipur, following which he can pursue further studies in Mumbai with the help of NAB. Arjun is now on the path of restoring his life back on track.

Empowering oneself to empower others

32 year old Sunny lives in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. He started to lose his eyesight due to Retina Pigmentosa when he was studying in Class IV. But Sunny continued somehow and finished Class IX in a mainstream school. Due to lack of awareness and ignorance of options available for pursuing further studies as a blind person, Sunny had to drop out of school. He was pushed into a life full of despair, not knowing how to move forward. Fortunately, one of his visits to Shroff Eye Charity Hospital led him to visit Eyeway office in New Delhi. Sunny was pleasantly surprised to see visually impaired people like him work efficiently as Eyeway counselors. He saw them talk to people, inform them of possibilities and seamlessly use computers to perform their jobs. This instilled a sense of confidence in Sunny and he felt determined to achieve something. He inquired about vocational training courses he could take up in order to gain employment. Eyeway counselors directed him accordingly and Sunny trained himself into becoming self-reliant. This was six years ago.

After being empowered with the help of Eyeway, Sunny was determined to help others like him, to educate and train those who did not know about the possibilities of living life with blindness. With help from his family business of sports good manufacturing, he set up a venture to train and employ persons with disabilities. Recently Sunny contacted Eyeway yet again, this time to share details of his vocational training center. He was looking for help to find suitable disabled candidates to train. Eyeway counselor put him in touch with several organizations where he could find candidates for his center, including Silver Linings, Blind Relief Association, National Association for Blind, Jayati Bharatam Institute and so on. We also disseminated information about his training and employment offering through our website and whatsapp channels.  As a result, Sunny has found his candidates and successfully started his business of placing disabled people and empowering them. From someone who contacted us 6 years ago in utter hopelessness, Sunny has grown into an independent, economically self-reliant individual who is empowered enough to help others in need.

Accepting disability

A resident of Delhi, Balraj (name changed) began to lose his eye sight at the age of 50. He visited the Shroff Charity Eye Hospital where he was diagnosed with an eye condition called Retina Detachment. Since there is no medical solution for his condition, doctors at Shroff Hospital advised Balraj to focus on rehabilitation. In the past, Shroff Charity Eye Hospital has referred several cases to Eyeway whom they had turned down clinically. Ophthalmologists at Shroff believe Eyeway to be a helpful resource in guiding visually impaired people on how to live a life with blindness.

Balraj visited the Eyeway center in Delhi along with his wife to share his dilemma. He was in a depressed state thinking he was completely incapable of continuing with his normal life because of sight loss. Our counselor helped him understand the need to stop battling with the disability and instead focus on accepting his new state of being. At a later age, one is often set in their ways of life and less receptive to change. But in Balraj’s case, the counselor advised him to slowly adjust to his new reality and explore ways in which he could continue to lead a happy independent life.

Balraj works as an Office Superintendent with Indian Railways. He has a good track record since he joined the job as a Lower Division Clerk in 1989. His current work involved extensive computer usage which he was unable to do because of his eye condition. He was disappointed with his underperformance at the job. Eyeway apprised him of the use of computers with the aid of screen reading software and also took him through a demo on how to use a mobile phone with talk back assistance. Our counselor advised him to enroll for a mobility and computer training at National Association for Blind (NAB). We advised him to get his Disability Certificate issued, based on which he would be entitled for a needs based training while he continued in his job. All required documents were shared with Balraj, including the DoPT (Department of Personnel Training) guidelines, RPWD Act 2016 and Disability Rules. The DoPT guidelines clearly state that if a person develops a disability on the job, he/she is entitled to rehabilitative training without being marked absent from the job.

Balraj shared with the Eyeway team that he is a follower of Brahma Kumari Shivani, a spiritual teacher. He used to regularly attend her lectures but stopped going after he developed this disability. To induce positive thinking and an accepting attitude, our counselor recommended that he listen to Shivani’s lectures which are easily available online.

Balraj was relieved and happy with the engagement at Eyeway. He had in the past contacted other institutions but here he felt he received a more empathetic response to his concerns.

Balraj took the counselor’s advice and has obtained his Disability Certificate. He has now been advised to write to his Head of Department seeking permission for rehabilitative training so he can perform his job well. All necessary documents for this communication have been provided to Balraj by Eyeway.

A case of lost identity

Blind by birth, 20 year old Ali (name changed) was born in Bihar. When Ali was 5 years old, his parents who worked as daily wage laborers came to Mumbai looking for better prospects. While they couldn’t muster enough to make ends meet, they managed to admit Ali into Victoria Memorial School for the Blind (VMSB) where his boarding, lodging and education were taken care of. Ali’s parents then returned to Bihar.

Ali grew up at VMSB, learnt Marathi from an early age and completed his education up till Class X. Since VMSB does not offer education post Class X, Ali applied and got admission into Mumbai’s Wilson College. Up until now Ali led a sheltered, well provided for life in the campus of VMSB.  But now he had to step out and find himself an accommodation so he could continue his education at Wilson College. He struggled to find a hostel accommodation. Wilson College turned him down and so did several other government hostels in Mumbai.

When he contacted Eyeway to seek help, we understood the reason behind the denial of hostel accommodation to be the fact that he didn’t have a Maharashtra Domicile Certificate. All state government hostels required him to produce proof that he was a resident of Maharashtra. Ali obviously had no way of proving it because he was born in Bihar and did not have any permanent address in Mumbai. Eyeway counselor spoke to the warden at government hostel in Worli and it was made clear that Ali needed to furnish a Domicile Certificate as well as a Maharashtra Caste Certificate to get admission.  Another option was to look for a PG accommodation but that too has its challenges. Blind people tend to face difficulty in getting one and it’s also more expensive as compared to a government hostel facility.

Ali was then advised to follow the official procedure to obtain the required certificates. But since this process could take its own course and time and Ali needed an immediate solution to continue Class XI studies at Wilson College, we approached the authorities in charge at VMSB. This is when we learnt that VMSB had a similar case in the past and they agreed to provide temporary accommodation to Ali for a few months. VMSB also agreed to help Ali look for a private hostel accommodation.

Ali’s problems are manifold. He is blind. He is alone in the city. He comes from a weak economic background. In order to stay in Mumbai and continue his education here, he needs a permanent solution. Eyeway is determined to help Ali and has motivated him to follow the matter through in attaining a Domicile Certificate.

Desperate for guidance

A resident of Ahmedabad, 24 year old Ankit (name changed) is totally blind in one eye and has 25% vision in the other eye. He first contacted Eyeway Helpdesk in May 2017. However, it took him a while to open up to our counselor. Ankit seemed ridden with social stigma which made him hesitant of opening up about his condition and concerns to anyone. He made several calls to the Helpdesk using a different name identity each time. Our counselor was patient and understanding in response and as a result Ankit dropped his guard to freely share his issues.

After completing Class XII in 2014, he enrolled in a college. Unfortunately he could not complete his graduation. This was because Ankit was not aware that a blind student could use the services of a scribe for writing the exam. Ignorant of the provision, Ankit attempted writing his own exams two to three times and failed miserably.  This left him depressed and hopeless. Since then Ankit has been scouting for some guidance but he only found half-baked information in bits and pieces he could not fully comprehend. He learnt about Eyeway from a friend and decided to seek help.

Our counselor informed Ankit about the provisions for blind students to take a scribe’s assistance and also told him about the scholarship handed out by the Gujarat government to support their education. Ankit wanted to know more about his employment options. He had heard from various sources that there was a reservation for blind people in government jobs but did not anything further. Our counselor informed him of the 1% reservation quota for blind people and shared avenues in railways and banking sector. But foremost counselor emphasized on the need to undergo mobility and computer training in order to be able to perform well at any job. We explained Ankit about the use of mobile and computers through screen reading software.

Ankit expressed a desire to take up a job in the banking sector.  And while we shared information about jobs he was eligible for, both in railways and banking, Eyeway recommended him to complete his graduation in order to apply for better and higher posts in banking.  We also told him about the HK Arts College in Ahmedabad which was inclusive in its approach and very supportive of visually impaired students.

Ankit has already started to prepare for a job in the banking sector and he is keen on joining a computer training course at the Blind People’s Association (BPA). He regained his confidence and the will to do something after engaging with Eyeway.

Seeking financial security

26 year old Krishna (name changed) is totally blind since birth. Originally a resident of Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, Krishna moved to Nasik to pursue his education. He finished his schooling from a government blind school and enrolled in a regular college where he completed his graduation. Krishna used braille and audio recorded books to aid him in his studies. He also took the help of his sighted friends for reading and writing.

Krishna is married and his wife who is also blind is currently studying. For the past one year, he has been working as a financial advisor for SWS Financial Solutions Pvt. Ltd. But unsure of what the future has in store for both him and his wife, Krishna felt that a private job may not provide them with as much security as compared to a government job.  He thought working in a government bank would be a safer bet given the reservation and provisions available for candidates with blindness and low vision.

He contacted Eyeway to seek help in taking the IBPS (Institute of Banking Personnel Selection) exam. Our counselor provided him with all the necessary details including date of the exam and other application details. While filing his application, he hit a road block. He was unable to proceed with the online form because of an inaccessible ‘captcha’. He shared with the counselor how he had faced similar difficulty at several other occasions in his job. The Eyeway counselor then informed Krishna about ‘Webvisum’, a plug-in that enhances web accessibility and reads out the captcha to those who are visually impaired. Applying the solution provided, Krishan was able to submit his application for the exam.

While he works as a financial advisor to several sighted clients, Krishna was facing problems with his personal banking. Bank of Maharashtra refused to issue him a chequebook because he used thumb impression instead of signature. Our counselor apprised him of his rights and gave him the IBA circular which clarifies that blind people can use thumb print on chequebook in the presence of Bank officials. Following up the same with his Bank, Krishna managed to get a chequebook issued in his name. He had a similar query regarding mutual fund, whether his thumb impression would be legit to make an investment. The counselor again shared the relevant document and guidelines that will help him resolve the matter.