Raising Awareness…
Here are some stories about the people we have helped, which explains the impact of our work and why we feel it is so important.

Unaware, banks make disabled suffer

Azhar Mahmood (name changed) from Ludhiana (Punjab) reached the Eyeway Helpdesk. He is 30 years old. He was partially blind by birth and later on became totally blind. He first got in touch with Eyeway on Sep 2016 and conveyed to the counselor that he got to know about the Helpdesk after listening to a radio programme Eyeway Yeh Hai Roshni Ka Karawan. As a child, he faced problems in his studies and later joined a special school to study Braille. After passing higher secondary, he got a government job in Grade D in Panchayati Raj Department which was five years ago. Azhar being a very industrious individual continued his studies further even with the job.  He completed his graduation and now he is pursuing his post-graduation.

A few months back he got in touch with us for some queries. He told us that he had a savings account in State Bank of India, Samrala branch, Ludhiana. Bank denying him a checkbook was his issue for which he was seeking redressal. Eyeway counselor provided him the RBI Circular which clearly states that ” Banking facilities including cheque book facility/operation of ATM/locker etc. cannot be denied to the visually challenged as they are legally competent to contract”. Also, the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2006 (amended 2017) assures provision for filing complaints and redressal of it. This is not one among the few cases but one among the multitude of banking services deprivation issues faced by visually impaired on a daily basis though these are clearly framed in the rule books as violations. These must be treated clearly as cases of ignorance and these banks must be educated that they are the debtors and their clients are the creditors and morally clients deserve a higher ground.

On follow-up, it was understood that he could resolve his banking problem by putting the RBI circular to effective use.

Bogged down by inaccessibility

30-year-old Nimmi Singh, a resident of Delhi who is totally blind approached Eyeway in the month of October. She is employed with All India Radio since 2013 as a Stenographer. But she faces a lot of accessibility issues in her day to day working which not only impacts her performance but also harms her dignity and independence.

For almost two years into the job, Nimmi was not provided with a computer to perform her daily duties. She finally got a computer in 2015 but it is of little use to her. As a blind user, she needs to have a computer with screen reading software, along with speakers and headphones. But the computer provided to her does not have screen reading software installed. Neither has she been issued speakers or headphones. At present, she is using her personal laptop to perform her duties.

The second challenge is with regards to marking her attendance. When she joined, she had to manually mark her attendance in a register. She depended on her sighted colleagues to mark a ‘P’ for her every day. This was later replaced by a swipe card which was again inaccessible to her. Nimmi depended on her limited light perception to catch a red light indicator when she swiped the card to mark her attendance. Now, this has been further replaced by a biometric machine which requires all employees to enter six digits of their Aadhar card and then their fingerprints on a touchpad. The machine is completely inaccessible for visually impaired people as it has no tactile or braille markings and neither does it have any talkback facility to guide the person. Nimmi has to depend on her sighted colleagues’ assistance to perform this basic function on a daily basis. This makes her feel dependent and disabled. She finds it humiliating for not being able to independently sail through the job functions or mark her attendance.

She sought help from her immediate supervisors and concerned department heads by lodging official complaints and requesting for assistive aids and appliances. She even wrote to the CCPD but till date hasn’t received any response. She tried to meet the CCPD in person to narrate her dilemma but was refused a meeting.

All it requires to help Nimmi is a computer with screen reading software (NVDA), headphones and speakers. As for the biometric machine, one can get in touch with technology vendors who can suggest customized solutions for accessibility. Alternately one can also explore to install braille indicators on the machine. Nimmi has also suggested the same to her section officer.

This case has been taken up by Eyeway as a case with the potential for advocacy and also to expose the system of its lacunae. Considering the limitations to be resolved on the Helpdesk and the need to force the ignorant system, Eyeway has engaged deeply with this case. Research desk has pulled out visible violations of the RPD Act 2016 like Section 40, 42(iii), 45 and the DoPT Guidelines 2014 whose guideline C on providing aids/assistive devices and guideline D on accessibility and barrier-free environment at the workplace is clearly violated. The matter of Nimmi’s inaccessibility has been conveyed to the CCPD. The matter was put directly under the attention of Deputy CCPD Dr. Sanjay Kant Prasad. All necessary documents have been filed along with Nimmi’s application as desired by the CCPD office. We hope the matter will soon be resolved so Nimmi can continue her job with independence and dignity.

Slowed down by denial and stigma

Ajit Sharma (name changed)  a 31-year-old resident of Delhi who went blind after he met with an accident in 2007 walked into Score Foundation with his parents. They are a well-to-do family, with Ajit’s father a businessman and mother a house-wife. Ajit has gone through the ordeal of being in a coma six months after he met with the accident. They got to know about Eyeway when one day they accidentally bumped into our Helpdesk Operations Manager. But it took them a whole year before they made up their mind to contact Eyeway Helpdesk. During the length of ten years between his accident and meeting with Eyeway, all Ajit could do was gain four-month computer training from NAB, R.K Puram. Though the number of years gone behind was less important in the face of the new found determination of Ajit to make use of his life with education and a job, there was an evident denial and stigma holding back his parents from accepting their son’s current needs in life. Some of the suggestions to provide speech therapy or psychiatric counseling were brushed under the carpet which was observed by the counselors as needful to Ajit’s physical and mental conditions.

But the counselors were successful in convincing Ajit and his parents of the need for education. The counselors suggested enrolling Ajit for a correspondence course with IGNOU. They were made to understand the availability of E-books through Gyan Kosh online resource library of IGNOU and audiobook libraries in NAB and Saksham. Also, demonstration of the Android phone and screening of Nazar Ya Nazariya was held by the counselors to make Ajit and his parents more aware of the possibilities of a life after blindness. We also put Ajit in contact with NGO Samarthanam in Delhi for a rehabilitative training.

On a follow-up call, it was understood that Ajit Sharma was admitted into Samarthanam where he will undergo training for life and mobility skills like computer, socialization, etc.

Rejuvenated by ambition

Kanika Gupta (name changed), a resident of Ghaziabad is 23 years old. She lost her vision due to Brain Tuberculosis in 2012. The subsequent medication also resulted in her developing locomotor disabilities, leaving her both visually and physically challenged. Thus, she couldn’t leave her house for a prolonged period of five years. But brave Kanika still had her ambitions entrenched, hardly affected by anything that was disabling her body. She kept dreaming about gaining higher education and securing a job. On one of her casual visits to Saksham Trust, Delhi about which she got to know from her sister in Mumbai she met with an Eyeway counselor who directed her to the Eyeway center at Score Foundation. She then visited Score Foundation with her parents who are lecturers by qualification but have changed their profession to take care of their daughter. Her father now has a sales job and her mother has turned housewife to be at an arm’s reach to their dear daughter. Kanika had finished her schooling five years back and now with immense support from her parents, she was thinking a “new beginning” in her life.

Understanding her enthusiasm and her parents’ faith in her potential Eyeway counselors took the best steps forward to encourage and inspire her. Eyeway placed hope and confidence in her mind and encouraged her to pursue graduation through correspondence from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in a subject of her liking. Counselors suggested to her career options like lectureship, starting a coaching center after any English courses from British Council, or start soft skill training as her communication skills were impressive.
Two of the counselors shared their own life experiences of having surmounted their disabilities with courage. This made a profound difference in her interaction for the remaining part of the meeting.

To learn and understand many similar lives of those who defeated any type of disability imposed by the world the counselors suggested watching Eyeway’s TV series ‘Nazar Ya Nazariya’. Also, the counselors made them aware of NVDA and JAWS software and talk back technology for Android phones that would help her normalize her life. The eyeway team emphasized on the need for Kanika to exert herself in physical exercises so she could gain back her locomotor abilities. Eyeway managed to send Kanika and her family back with great joy, optimism, and aspirations.

On a follow-up call, Eyeway learned that Kanika had enrolled for B.A Honors in English from IGNOU. She had also joined a computer training program in National Association for the Blind (NAB), Delhi but discontinued due to her locomotor problems. Our counselors then connected her with Ravinder Gupta, a home-based computer trainer so Kanika could easily pursue her training at home.

Need to sustain livelihood

Rajnath Kumar (name changed), a resident of Uttar Pradesh is 100% blind. He is married and a father of two girls. He grew up in the midst of financial troubles. Hailing from a farmer’s family, his education stopped when he passed from 8th standard in school. That was the best his father could afford for him. There was a long period of him remaining as a liability to his family and in despair. But marriage brought a new perspective to his life and economic self-sustenance was inevitable to that. This is when he started ruing about starting a business of his own. He searched for jobs and also sought to add skills that would help him gain employment. He underwent training at Blind Relief Association (BRA), Delhi in candle making. He wished to start his own business and was curious about where he could apply for a loan at affordable interest rates.

He learned about Eyeway from a friend and decided to call for help. Eyeway counselor helped him with information on the National Handicapped Finance Development Corporation (NHFDC) and various self-employment finance schemes available. Precise contact that would help Rajnath get acquainted with the respective State Channelizing Agency (SCA) of NHFDC in Uttar Pradesh was conveyed.

In a follow-up call to Rajnath, we learned that he had contacted NHFDC which offered him a solution for his self-employment venture. In fact, NHFDC inclined to give him training on setting up the grocery shop on which he had doubts. But the Eyeway counselor could instill confidence in him and convince him to take up the training.

Banking woes

19 year old Tanishk (name changed) lives in Panipat, Haryana with his mother and sister. Both Tanishk and his sister have low vision. While Tanishk is 80% blind, his sister has 30% vision. Their mother works in an Anganwadi to support the family and ensure that her children get a good education.

Tanishk managed to study up till Class 7 in a regular school but due to deteriorating vision he had to drop out and join a special school after that. He has now completed matriculation from CBSE Open Board and is studying in Class XI. Tanishk has undergone computer training and is well verse with assistive technology. He wishes to study further and pursue a career in banking. His sister is pursuing her BA (Correspondence) from Delhi University and is in her first year. Initially, Tanishk called the Eyeway Helpdesk to inquire for jobs his sister could take up alongside her BA. Our counselor had shared some openings at the time.

But more recently, Tanishk called with two banking complaints, respectively faced by him and his sisters in different banks. Tanishk was being denied an ATM card by SBI Bank on the grounds of his blindness. We shared the RBI and IBA circular with Tanishk which state that visually impaired people cannot be denied any banking facilities due to their disability. Even after Tanishk shared the documents with the Bank manager and officials, they refused to issue him an ATM card. Eyeway counselor then spoke to the bank manager to help resolve the issue. As a result, Tanishk was duly issued an ATM card.

Their woes didn’t end at that. His sister was denied an ATM card too, by Punjab National Bank. And this time too the bank officials refused to take into consideration the existing guidelines by RBI and IBA. We are in the process of following up with the bank. We will continue to chase the matter until Tanishk’s sister gets her ATM card and access to any other banking facility she requires.

It’s ironical that Tanishk and his sister are facing discrimination by the same sector he wishes to join one day. Who knows he might be brushing shoulders with these very people in the days to come!

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.