Desperate to make a living

A resident of Jharkhand, 22 year old Sikander (name changed) is 100% blind since birth. Unfortunately, he didn’t continue his studies after Class VIII because of the lack of support and guidance available to blind students. Sikander had a keen interest in music, especially playing the keyboard. Sitting idle at home, he decided to channelize his time and energy into practicing and improving his skills as a musician.

As he grew older, Sikander realized the need to earn money to be able to support his family. He tried his hands at becoming a music tutor. But because he wasn’t educationally or professionally certified, he was unable to make any headway in securing a job. He then learnt about Eyeway from his friends and decided to get in touch with us.

Sikander was curious to know if there were any job options available to blind people who didn’t complete their schooling. Eyeway counselor advised Sikander to complete his education through an open school. In addition, the counselor recommended him to undergo a vocational training which would then enable him to find employment. We put him in touch with Sunny Piplani who runs VEER JI Vocational Training Centre for Persons with Disabilities in Meerut, UP. Sunny is an old client of Eyeway who is also visually impaired and yet doing extremely well for himself. His Centre provides training and employment in sports good manufacturing.  The Centre also offers free boarding and lodging facilities during the three months training. Sikander was happy to learn of this option and agreed to move forward. The team at Eyeway will keep a close tab on the progress made by Sikander so we can offer assistance wherever required.

Seeking Support for Education

Neha (name changed) graduated from school with flying colors in 2010. Her good score helped her get admission into Lady Shri Ram College, one of the top institutions in Delhi University. Neha suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa which results in gradual sight loss. Soon after she joined college as a student of Psychology (H), her eyesight began to worsen. This impacted her ability to cope with her studies and especially facing difficulty in comprehending visual elements of her course practicals. The college too did not seem to think that a visually impaired person could keep up with a subject like Psychology. Hopeless and unaware of accessible books and assistive technology, Neha dropped out of college within a year of admission.

Neha’s parents though supportive, seemed clueless as to how to help their daughter who was going blind. To ensure that she was actively engaged, they involved her in the family run baking business. Neha learnt how to bake cakes and got busy with the business. But she wanted to do more than that. She found out about National Association for Blind (NAB) and contacted them to see how they could help her. At NAB, she underwent basic computer training, where she learnt to use computers with the help of screen reader.

Neha wished to continue her education and was looking for adequate support and information to do so. She found out about Eyeway and contacted our Helpdesk. When she shared her desire to resume studies, Eyeway counselor apprised her of all kinds of aids and online resources available to assist visually impaired students with their studies. Since Neha expressed a desire to pursue English, our counselor suggested her to apply to the School of Open Learning (SOL) in Delhi University. We also put her in touch with a faculty member from the Department of English who could address Neha’s specific questions regarding the admission process. As a result of her engagement with the counselor, Neha has enrolled in BA (Honours) in English at SOL. Our counselor also encouraged her to get in touch with Eyeway if she hits any stumbling block on the path ahead.

From confusion to clarity

21 year old Reena (name changed) who belongs to Patna in Bihar has been visually impaired since birth. Her early years were spent at Antarjyoti Balika Vidyalaya in Patna. Later she moved to Delhi and enrolled in a school for blind girls at Vikaspuri. After graduating from school she went on to pursue a 3 month computer course at Bharti Kalyan Netrahin Parishad.

Like most girls her age Reena too is filled with multiple dreams and ambitions. However, unable to think things through in a clear fashion she decided to get in touch with Eyeway. She shared with our counselors how confused she was.  While on the one hand she thought it might be interesting to record books for the visually impaired on the other hand she also felt drawn to music.  Our counselor helped her understand that she could record books and pursue music, but what was most important was for her to continue with her education. They told her that pursuing an undergraduate degree would be the first step she should take. This would open up many more possibilities for her future.

2 months later we received a call from Reena telling us that she was pursuing her BA Programme from Satyawati College in Delhi University. We hope Reena is successful in her endeavors and in time finds her calling.

Technology: the biggest enabler

The idea that blind persons can be independent individuals charting out careers across a variety of fields is unthinkable to not only those who are sighted but also to many who lose sight at a later stage in life. Technology is one of the biggest factors that allows for this kind of independent living and working. Every month we get several calls from persons who, having lost their sight later in life, are clueless about how technology can help them cope and move on.

Raja (name changed) is one such person who called in from Fatehabad, Haryana. While completing his B.com in 2002 he was diagnosed with Retina Pigmentosa and by 2004 he’d lost most of his vision.

Today, Raja is the owner of a pipe manufacturing factory. He is assisted in his work by his co-owners and other associates. He got in touch with Eyeway because he wanted to understand how he could better adapt to the sighted world.  He seemed quite clueless about the range of assistive technology that was available for visually impaired persons to engage with others on an equal footing.  Our counselors gave him an overview of gadgets, software, apps and other aids like the smart cane that can enable and empower visually impaired persons to become independent and self-reliant. He was curious to know if there was a better way to use his iPhone. We educated him about the accessibility features that were inbuilt in most smart phones. We guided him to activate and use the Voice over feature on his iPhone.

He got back to tell us how thankful he was for opening up a whole world to him. He was so much more comfortable using his phone now. We sincerely hope that more phone companies consciously advertise accessibility features to blind persons.

Aadhar blues made right

50 year old Mukesh (name changed), a resident of Ahmednagar, Maharashtra works at the Zila Parishad Office and has been blind since birth. Mukesh has had an Aadhar card since 2009. Although biometric proof for Aadhar requires both finger and eyes to be scanned, in Mukesh’s case he was granted one with just the finger scan.

In 2017, the government made it mandatory for everyone to link Aadhar card with PAN card. Mukesh was facing trouble since the name on his Aadhar card had a spelling mistake and did not match the one on the PAN card. Also he was keen to start using the Aadhar website so he could track things online. To do so he needed to update his mobile number and e-mail id.

At the Aadhar office the authorities seemed unwilling to cooperate. They insisted that because he was blind he would not able to go through the standard biometric procedure of the eyes being scanned.  This was sufficient reason for them to not update the information. And so Mukesh left the Aadhar office dejected and unsure how to take things forward.

He decided to seek support from the Eyeway Helpdesk. Our counselor assured him that the authorities had no right to deny him the card. They informed him about the rules that clearly state that no person can be denied an Aadhar card on the basis of their disability. The confidence that the counselors instilled in Mukesh inspired him to resolve the matter. He went back to the Aadhar office and educated the authorities about the rules that they were flouting by denying him the card. They instantly realized their mistake and were quick to make amends.

His name and e-mail id have finally been updated and he is able to access the website. Eyeway is there to support and instill courage in so many who have to wage a daily battle against ignorance and discrimination. When will the authorities realize that acts, laws, schemes and policies only have meaning when disseminated and implemented effectively.

Making Currency Accessible to the Blind

By Payal Jethra

A ten year old shares with his visually impaired mother, his ideas on how to make Indian currency accessible to persons with blindness.

“That was a 200 not 20 rupee note we handed to the man at the provisional store,” says the ten year old.” As he sat sipping chocolate milk after their return from the grocery store that Saturday evening. “Are you sure about that, Sweetheart?” inquired his mother, “There were two two-hundred rupee notes in my wallet this morning, I am positive. At the grocery store I swiped my debit card and I’m always aware of bank notes that I carry along, at least I have been pretty sure of myself up until these newly introduced notes have made cash transactions perplexing for me.” said Payal as she picked up her coffee to join her ten year old for an evening snack by the window. The duo had shopped for groceries and stopped at a provisional store outside the store to pick up a 10 rupee dairy milk chocolate for each one of them. That would have amounted to 20 rupees, but Payal ended up paying 200.

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GST on Disability: The Opportunity Cost

By Koshy Mathew

In July this year, India saw the advent of a new tax regime aimed at unifying the sprawling markets as disparate and diverse as the people of the country itself. Citizens responded with mixed emotions of welcome and disapproval.

While Goods and Services Tax (GST) is not new to the global markets, it took the Indian market by surprise. It is also ironic that GST which in concept is simpler to surmount is more confusing to the Indian market and society than the former multi-layered indirect tax regime. GST subsumes as many as 17 indirect taxes (Central and State) and around 22 types of Cess into one single tax. This is a revolutionary move in the history of Indian taxation.  Read more

The Inspiring and Astounding Work of Visually Impaired Indian Photographers

By Anoushka Mathews

Visually impaired people from India are exploring a visual art form like photography. Here’s to the techniques that guide them and the passion that motivates them.

So many in our country are shocked at the mention of photography by the blind, they cannot seem to wrap their head around the concept. Why and how would a blind person take a photograph?  Like most photographers, persons with blindness too have been drawn to photography out of a curiosity to explore the world through images.

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Scoreboard

Our bi- monthly newsletter, Scoreboard is available free of cost. It includes information on the Score Foundation’s current work and highlights of recent successes, as well as items of interest to people with visual impairment, their families and colleagues. Scoreboard is sent out by email. To subscribe please send in your email address along with your contact details to content@eyeway.org