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.

Starting Over

Forty-year-old Gangadharappa lives in Chikkaballapur district of Karnataka. He worked as an Assistant Manager in a garment factory for fifteen years before a road accident in 2015 resulted in his vision loss.  This life-changing event left him unemployed and devastated. He struggled to come to terms with his loss of sight and remained confined at home for the next three years.

While jobless, he leaned on his savings to provide for his family. When the savings exhausted, Gangadharappa was anxious and on the lookout for any opportunity that would enable him to support his wife and two young children. Right then, he got to know about Eyeway through Namma Vaani -an audio service run for disabled people in Karnataka. Immediately, he contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk for support.

The Eyeway Helpdesk counsellor in Bangalore sensed his desperation to rehabilitate. During the next set of calls, Gangadharappa was informed on various possibilities of living a complete life with blindness. He was also encouraged to undergo mobility training. Basis his requirement, he was apprised on various loan schemes that he could avail from the Disability Welfare Department to set up a small business of his own.

Acting on the advice, he at once applied for a subsidized loan under Aadhar loan scheme and 5% reserved funds for Persons with Disability in 2018.

After a two-year-long wait and regular follow-up with the District Welfare Office, Gangadharappa was granted the loan amount and an android phone. The Eyeway counsellor then trained him on using the mobile phone with talkback feature and other assistive touch apps for android.

Gangadharappa’s determination and Eyeway’s support has resulted in a flourishing grocery shop and an independent life for him. His greatest satisfaction is that he can now provide for his family like earlier times.

 

Empowering through information dissemination

Blind people irrespective of their education or socio economic background, have reported instances of denial of banking rights to Eyeway in the past. More recently, on behalf of 12-year-old Vicky Mahawae, his elder brother, Pawan called us from Kota, Rajasthan. A nationalised bank in Kota refused to open a (student) account for Vicky because of his vision impairment. Clueless about how to respond, Pawan sought Eyeway’s intervention.

Our counselor was quick to understand the issue and provided Vicky’s older brother with the necessary RBI (Reserve Bank of India) and IBA (Indian Banking Association) issued guidelines citing that banks cannot deny services to persons with vision impairment.

Individuals like Vicky, who are above the age of 10 are eligible to open a solo student account. Banks cannot deny so on grounds of disability. Vicky’s brother was briefed about the same and asked to get a note from the bank officials in writing, in case they continued to deny services after the submission of relevant guidelines.

Despite the rules and laws, it remains a constant challenge for blind and visually impaired people to access banking facilities because of the lack of awareness and ignorance among the banking authorities.

Eyeway Helpdesk- Supporting Blind community during the Coronavirus Pandemic

As Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the country, the blind community continues to be the worst hit. With social distancing becoming mandatory to contain the deadly virus, blind people are forced to stay at home. This means that many of them, who previously worked in the unorganized sector have now lost their source of income.

In the Unlock Phase 1, some visually impaired people got an opportunity to report back to work. However, limited public transport facilities have left the blind workforce dejected. Eyeway Helpdesk has received numerous calls seeking assistance on this issue.

Visually impaired Siddharth from Navi Mumbai was hired as a housekeeping staff through a consultancy. With nationwide lockdown imposed in March, he could not attend office, resulting in loss of monthly income. In June, Siddharth heaved a sigh of relief when his employer asked him to join work. But when he stepped out of his home to the nearest bus depot to reach his workplace, he was in for a rude shock as the bus conductor did not allow him to board the bus on grounds of his blindness.

For three consecutive days, this discrimination continued till he reached out to Eyeway.  The counsellor advised him to seek the consultancy’s help in arranging for a travel pass, but they declined. He was then advised to wait for a few days until the restrictions were eased. Luckily, a few days later, he was allowed to board the bus and he could finally report to work.

Another visually impaired caller, Neelesh Patil from Nashik who works as a lift man in a private hospital wasn’t paid his salary since the lockdown was imposed. He has now resumed work but due to unavailability of public transport, he has to walk for an hour every day to reach his workplace.

Neelesh has been constantly in touch with Eyeway Mumbai team, sharing his daily struggles and seeking information on new guidelines that could benefit him.

Trusting Eyeway Helpdesk as a reliable source of information, blind callers seek solutions to get through these testing times. For the blind and visually impaired community, social distancing is proving to be a big challenge as they rely extensively on touch and assistance from others. In such circumstances, accessing services like public transport, medical facilities or day to day necessities is doubly hard for them.

Changing lives for the better

Rohit Sahu, a resident of Delhi, was in Class 9 when he started to lose his vision. Soon after, he could not read and write on his own. He failed thrice in the same Class. His family was unaware about provisions and benefits that visually impaired children could avail, for example opting for a scribe facility to write exams.

Since he failed at the attempt to clear his exams thrice, the school management asked Rohit to leave the school. He was now confined to his home. This continued for two years till a close friend told him about Eyeway Helpdesk. Rohit immediately called on the toll-free helpline and the conversation with our counsellor was an eye-opener for him. He got to understand that vision loss was no barrier to living a complete life. He was apprised of various assistive devices like screen reader enabled computers or smart phones that he could use for education purpose. He was also suggested computer and mobility training to lower his dependency on others. Besides these life skills training, Rohit was advised to enroll for Class 10 through open schooling. He was also provided information on how to avail scribe facility for his examinations.

This conversation turned out to be a life- changing one for Rohit. 21 years old now, he was preparing for his Class 12 examinations when the Covid-19 pandemic struck the country, leaving his exams cancelled.

Rohit is keen on pursuing higher education and regularly calls Eyeway Helpdesk to seek guidance and latest information pertaining to blindness.

Technology – An enabler

64-year old Bhasker from Bangalore was gradually losing his vision due to Retinitis Pigmentosa.  By the time he retired from the State Electronic Development Corporation in 2015, he could barely see. After undergoing a cataract surgery in 2016, he was able to move around a little on his own. Heavily dependent on his family for assistance, Bhasker now missed reading the newspaper in the morning, a habit he had cherished for many years.

Saddened by the turn of events, he reached out to Eyeway Helpdesk for advice. The counsellor at Eyeway suggested him to use an Android mobile phone enabled with talk-back feature- a voice assisted function for blind or visually impaired people that helps them interact effectively with the device. His contact number was also added to the WhatsApp group that assists visually impaired users to get comfortable with assistive technology.

Bhasker regardless of his age looked for a solution and found one through Eyeway. He now enjoys reading newspapers on his own once again, although on a different medium.

Rekindling hope

Ashok Mishra from Mumbai suffered from the rare Stevens-Johnson syndrome leading to vision loss at the age of 29.  Born into a lower middle class family, he dropped out of school after Class 9 to support his family financially. Having worked in various businesses before, Ashok settled for a private company job and was engaged to be married.

Unfortunately, besides losing his vision he lost his job and along with it his dreams of living an independent life. However, Ashok still went ahead with his marriage plans and had a child soon after. He was dependent on his older brother to provide for his family.

Ashok called Eyeway Helpdesk to ask about government schemes for financial assistance and also enquired for jobs that his wife would be eligible for. On further conversation, the Eyeway counsellor realized that Ashok had lost all hopes of living a dignified life without his vision and felt a sense of entitlement. He was in need of more than just financial assistance. It was important to counsel him and show him possibilities of living life with blindness by sharing real life examples of successful visually impaired people. To help him get back on his feet, the counsellor took a step by step approach with him. He was first guided on how to apply for Unique Disability ID Card (UDID) to help him access government provisions. Next he was put in touch with a mobility trainer at National Association for the Blind to receive guidance on mobility and usage of assistive technology like mobile phones with talkback feature and computers with screen reading software. This would help Ashok in the long run to become employable.

Ashok was also apprised on various other business ideas such as setting up of grocery or Xerox shops for additional income. Based on his past job experience, the counsellor is also looking for job opportunities for him.

From being completely unaware about possibilities, Ashok has now taken important steps suggested by the counsellor to start his life all over again.

Empowering through enhancing skills

A radio promo about Eyeway Helpdesk made 29 years old Vijay Pathak call our toll free number in the month of January. He was seeking information on employment opportunities for people with vision impairment. Having passed class 10 through open schooling, Vijay had been working for many years with a packaging company. The commute to his workplace was a long one and he was barely getting paid for it. This had led him to eventually give up his job.

Vijay was in need of more than a job, he required a set of skills to be able to cope with the demands of the new job market. Keeping this in mind, the Eyeway counsellor suggested him to enrol for computer training at Samarthanam Trust for Disabled in Delhi. Vijay is now a regular Eyeway caller and looks forward to new opportunities as he is undergoing the training currently.

Wish fulfilled

Neeraj Kumar was only 12 years old when he started losing his eyesight. He had to drop out of school as he spent most of his time visiting eye hospitals for diagnosis and cure. Little did he know that his vision loss was permanent. He lost five years trying to figure out what he could do without vision until he learnt about Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA) camp for children with disabilities. At the camp, he learnt braille and use of cane for mobility. At SSA, Neeraj was also introduced to another visually impaired boy, Sandeep by his teacher who could help him with extra classes for braille. Sandeep who is a regular Eyeway caller himself, guided Neeraj to contact our helpline citing his own example of transformation.

Now 18, Neeraj was glad to know that there are opportunities for visually impaired people like him. The Eyeway counsellor suggested a yearlong English and computer training from Nari Uday Foundation in Rohtak, Haryana. The counsellor also assured Neeraj that he could live a financially independent life with right skills as he aspired to.

Neeraj is currently undergoing the training suggested by Eyeway along with Sandeep and is happy that he can finally start his life all over again.

Not over yet

Ram Kumar was in Class 6 when his eyesight began to deteriorate. Without realizing that this would be an ongoing process, he continued to study until it became difficult for him to move around and read on his own. By Class 8, Ram had stopped going to school, assuming that visually impaired people could not study. With no information on how to live life with blindness, Ram spent the next two years undergoing treatment. His parents were supportive and rushed to every possible eye specialist to restore their son’s eyesight, yielding no results.

Ram had lost hope of going back to school and feared to turn completely blind. It was only during one of his hospital visits that Ram heard about the Eyeway Helpdesk. Without wasting anytime, 18 year old from Madhipur, Bihar called our toll free number to know if he could resume his education despite vision impairment. Our counsellor assured Ram that he could study with the help of assistive technology like computers with screen reading software and Talkback feature enabled smartphones.

After many attempts, the Eyeway team was also able to convince a school in Uttar Pradesh to give admission to Ram and provide him with lodging to make up for his lost years. From being entirely hopeless about his future to preparing for a new academic year, Ram has found a new purpose in life. He will be taught braille and computers in the school. He is grateful to Eyeway for bringing in a much-needed hope in his life.

 

Exploring new opportunities

Resident of Indore, Madhya Pradesh, 29-year-old Rajesh Arya studied in a mainstream school and college.  Despite being 75% visually impaired, he did not avail of any government provisions like scribe or used screen reading software due to lack of awareness. This made his growing up years difficult.

Rajesh connected with the Eyeway Helpdesk in 2019 seeking information on employment opportunities for persons with vision impairment. After completing his education, Rajesh worked for two years as a computer operator, which involved filling online forms of clients for government vacancies and partly looking at consultancy work for the company. He carried out his tasks by sitting very close to the computer in order to see the screen. After his company shut down, he applied to many places for jobs but was mostly rejected during interviews due to his vision impairment. An impairment can often lead employers to doubt people’s potential even though that might not be the case very often.

Understanding his need, the Eyeway counsellor apprised Rajesh about screen reading software that could help him carry out his task with ease. He was also given information on job reservations and scribe facility to appear for competitive exams. To prepare him for better job opportunities, he was also advised to enroll for an employability course at Enable India in Bangalore that provides computer training making candidates efficient in independent usage.

Rajesh aspires to be a software developer and wants to hire visually impaired people in his own start up.  He has recently joined the training program and is very grateful to Eyeway for setting him on the right path.