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.

A case of lost identity

25 year old Gopal Kulkarni (name changed) was born blind in Rui Talav village in Maharashtra. He is the third of the four children born to his parents, remaining three sighted. Gopal’s parents were deeply disappointed at the birth of a blind child and so they wanted to have a fourth child to make up for their loss. Given their lack of education and weak economic status, Gopal’s parents were unaware of the potential of a blind person and had no will or resources to invest in him. Under such unsupportive circumstances, Gopal started his education at the age of 8 in a special school in Yavatmal.

When he was studying in Class 6, his family decided to move to Telangana seeking better employment opportunities. Gopal was unwilling to move with them because he was wary of pursuing education in a new language at a later age. He wanted to continue his education in Marathi. Moreover his parents’ lack of interest in him led him to take a difficult decision to stay back in Maharashtra. Gopal moved in with his uncle and took admission in a blind school in Bhopoli village, Maharashtra. Unfortunately Gopal’s share of troubles continued as he faced bullying in his new school, forcing him to move out and relocate to Mumbai city. Here he finally took admission in Maratha Mandir Shala, a mainstream school. As a blind student Gopal needed help in pursuing mainstream education which was provided to him by National Association of Blind. With NAB’s continued aid and assistance, he managed to complete Class X scoring a 75%. Gopal is now pursuing his Class XI from Ruia College.

Gopal first connected with Eyeway in May 2017 on suggestion from one of his friends and since then he has been a frequent caller seeking resolutions on various issues. Recently, he called the Eyeway Helpdesk asking for help to rectify an error in his official records. He discovered that his name was misspelt in all his ID proofs following which he contacted the college authorities to make a correction. But he was turned down saying that the correction needed to be made in his school certificate as a logical course. When Gopal contacted Eyeway, our counselor suggested him to get in touch with the State Board of Secondary Education. The counselor also suggested him to furnish a copy of his Aadhar card as proof to ask for necessary changes in other official documents. That’s when we realized that Gopal’s name was misspelt on his Aadhar card as well. On persistently pursuing the issue, we discovered that his Disability Certificate carried all correct details and therefore it could be used as a basis for correction on other documents.

With help and support from Eyeway, Gopal has managed to submit an application at the Aadhar office to update his name and contact details on the basis of proof submitted in the form of his Disability Certificate. The application is under progress and once he receives his updated Aadhar card, Gopal would be easily able to rectify all errors on any other identity documents.

Raising awareness and sensitizing co-workers

42 year old Nilish works for the State Bank of India (SBI) in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. He was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at the age of 20 after which he underwent treatment for 3 years but to no avail. He gradually lost his vision completely. But despite his vision impairment, Nilish pursued his education in mainstream institutions and he earned a Masters in Political Science.

Nilish started off by working with Canara Bank as a Probationary Officer and moved on to join SBI in 2006. Acknowledging and rewarding his efficiency, Nilish was then promoted to the Administration Department of SBI. Over and above his regular function, he was also asked to conduct training for his peers, as part of a bimonthly Disability Sensitization workshop conducted by SBI for all its employees. When Nilish was first asked to impart training to co-workers, with an objective to sensitize his sighted and able peers, he reached out to Eyeway for help.  He contacted the Helpdesk seeking relevant resource material to aid in his training. Eyeway counselor not only lauded SBI’s initiative of sensitizing its sighted employees but also provided Nilish with adequate material that could help alter mindsets towards disability and persons with visual impairment. Our counselor shared with Nilish a 13 part video series called Nazar Ya Nazariya, each episode of which profiles successful blind people pursuing different lines of work despite their disability. The series also touches upon common themes like universal design, education, employment, relationships and so on. Apart from the videos, Eyeway counselor also shared various blogs and articles citing the Do’s and Don’ts of how to behave around people with visual impairment, how much and when to offer help and how to respond to their varied needs.

Nilish made efficient use of all the material provided by Eyeway in his training sessions. In a follow up call, he told us about the visible difference in the awareness levels of his co-workers.

Stranded by immediate blindness, rejuvenated by confidence

Manmohan Sharma (name changed) is a 20-year-old from Jaipur. He is living with his parents and elder brother. His father works as a Chartered Accountant, his mother a housewife and his brother doing the final year of his Chartered Accountant studies. Manmohan has done his schooling from CBSE board. It was while doing his 11th standard in school when he first encountered the vision condition which was later diagnosed as Retina Pigmentosa (RP). His eye condition eroded 75% of his vision. The news struck him with shock and the knowledge that it would leave him completely blind as he grew older was a bitter pill to swallow. He fell into depression and lost hope but his family was courageous enough to give all the support he needs. His brother gave him immense support in battling the challenges in his studies.

With the hands-on involvement of his brother, he completed the CBSE board exam with 89% marks. Manmohan’s brother helped him study by scanning the study material and offering whatever instructive help was required. Once he finished his schooling, like anyone else Manmohan also faced the challenge of how to go ahead with his career. While researching on opportunities available for the visually impaired, Manmohan stumbled upon Eyeway and the toll-free number. His brother connected with Eyeway seeking career guidance for Manmohan. On inquiry, it was understood that Manmohan was interested in studying commerce but was unsure about the future with his 25% vision. Eyeway counselor guided him right, inspired confidence and assured him of his equal chance in excelling in life. Eyeway counselor also suggested various aids and assistive devices he could use like daisy player for studies, a scribe’s help for writing exams and the website http://helpinghands.synezatechnologies.com/ on which he can register himself for the purpose of finding writers.

Eyeway counselor also put Manmohan in touch with Mr. Sameer Latey who is a Chartered Accountant who completed the course with only 15 percent vision. Now Sameer is a successful CA working with Reliance. Manmohan also wanted to know about the scope if he chooses any subjects from Arts stream for higher studies. He was also provided with the possibilities and challenges of it. On a follow-up call, it was understood that he got good guidance from Mr. Sameer Latey and thus decided to study Bachelor of Commerce from Jaipur University by correspondence. Manmohan also informed Eyeway that he had decided to prepare for his CA entrance exams.

Rehabilitation is paramount

When Yogendra Kumar (name changed) was pursuing his class 10th in 2012, he lost his eyesight due to corneal damage. This led to his studies being halted in the middle of class 10th. He is a resident of Bihar but his father’s government job had taken them to West Bengal where he lived when he encountered vision loss. Yogendra had to spend around 5 years in treatment and looking for the information for studying further. He came to know about National Eyeway Helpdesk in June 2017 through one of his friends. He wanted to learn to read and write Braille script so we put him in touch with local organizations in West Bengal like NAB, West Bengal and Hoogli Training and Education Handicapped Rehabilitation but he didn’t get any adequate support. Organizations in West Bengal gave their services in Bengali which is not Yogendra’s native language making it difficult for him to pursue his Braille training. After being informed on this difficulty Eyeway counselor placed him in contact with a Lucknow-based organization “Jayati Bharatam” for the adequate training in reading and writing Braille script which is essentially needed for his education. Jayati Bharatam also provides free accommodation which suited his needs well.

On a follow up it was understood that he completed the training. Now at the age of 19 years, he wants to resume his class 10th through National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS). Eyeway counselor also put him in touch with NIOS regional office in Kolkata. For study material in accessible formats, he was put in touch with NAB Delhi’s audio books library.

Bullied and cornered but afloat by resolve

Pradeep Rahane (name changed) is a 15 years old teenager living in Hingoli city of Maharashtra along with his parents and an elder sister. He is visually impaired since his childhood. He heard Eyeway promos on radio and instantly got in touch with National Eyeway Helpdesk in Mumbai in May 2017. He was looking for a blind school in Pune.

We provided him contact details of Koregoan Park School, Pune for blind and Victoria Memorial School for Blind, Mumbai. Eyeway counselor helped him understand the practical challenges and realities of studying in a
new school in metro cities. He was also informed that he can get new exposure in metro cities schools because of better technology and assistance he could encounter. This was conveyed as a possibility for enhancing his ability as a visually impaired student.

On probing further we found out that  Pradeep had studied in blind school till 7th standard and he moved to Z.P. School which is a mainstream school due to lack of a blind school in his area for class 8th. The school lacks the availability of special educators and he experienced non-cooperative teachers. The teachers seemed unskilled to teach visually impaired students. Pradeep could not gain any study material in accessible formats like braille script or audio formats from the school. He solely depended on listening to the teachers in the class. In addition to the challenges in studying, sighted classmates also bullied him due to his blindness.

Pradeep has been a bright student since childhood but he faced many problems in the mainstream school. He also faced problems in availing scribe facility. This even led to one of his teachers advising him to change schools. But he was persistent on continuing in the same school ignoring all the antagonisms. He was dogged and brave to think much longer into his own future. His acceptance of his condition was there on the forefront when he decided that he is continuing in the mainstream school. He reasoned himself that he will be doing his college and that will be with the sighted world. He tutored himself that he would rather continue in the mainstream school and prepare for a future with the sighted than shift to a blind school.

Eyeway appreciated and reinforced his zeal to continue his studies in a mainstream school. As additional support, Eyeway counselor put him in touch with NAB, Mumbai to get study material in accessible formats. Our counselor motivated him to learn computer with the help of screen readers and gave him a soft copy of computer tutorial. Eyeway counselor also apprised him of the importance of assistive technology in how it could help in achieving all his goals.  On a follow-up, it was understood that Pradeep has started learning to use an Android phone with the help of talkback. He has learned to adjust with sighted students as he is focused on the bigger goal in his life.

Economic empowerment is integral for independence

Anjali (name changed) is 28 years old and is a resident of Shillong. She is blind from birth. Her father passed away and her mother is working as a farmer. She came to know about Eyeway through one of our counselors. She completed her graduation in 2015 and underwent three months skill employment training in Enable India.  After that, she did an internship in LemonTree Hotel but she was not absorbed as a full-time employee there. In 2017 she reached out to Eyeway seeking some opportunities to work. As directed by the Eyeway counselor she shared her CV and we put her in touch with Preeti Monga who heads a HR Recruiting agency called Silver Linings. Preeti runs the agency for both people with and without disabilities. Anjali was recruited as a trainee to shortlist CVs and further coordinate with the agency by vetting and shortlisting desirable CVs. She started with Preeti Monga on 9 October 2017. From December a stipend was instituted for her.

On a follow-up call, Ms. Monga informed that Anjali was very happy and doing a good job. Silver Linings have also taken care of her accommodation and food free of cost in their hostel. Once she completes 3 months, her work will be reviewed to finalize her confirmation in the job.

Neither a man nor any disability, let alone cancer

Aditi (name changed) is a resident of Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. She is 30 years old, a graduate in Commerce and she got in touch with Eyeway in 2017. She was referred to Eyeway by one of her friends. She wanted to gain employment in order to be economically stable and independent.

She had gone through some tough times in life. Her eye condition Glaucoma was first detected in 2011 and since then she underwent treatment in many hospitals. Her eye condition affected her personal life also when her husband left her. She underwent a year-long treatment in Centre of Sight, Delhi where doctors gave her a faint hope of restoration of her vision. She was prescribed some pills by doctors, which didn’t make any difference in her eye condition. The eye condition also affected her job. She was working as a telecaller with a company called “Rich Feel” which works on hair fall and loss treatment. She as a telecaller handled product advertisement and description activities for the company. But her vision loss made her give up the job in 2011. Since then her life is limited to hospital treatments and house arrest with her father, brother, and sister-in-law. Her source of income is her father’s job in the UP police department and her brother’s business.
After the first line of treatment proving ineffective, she approached the Guru Nanak Eye Hospital, Delhi for treatment. But from there she got more satisfying treatment where the doctors within two days listed her for surgery and informed her that the surgery doesn’t assure vision gain but the result might be a complete vision loss. This was not like the first time when she was given sustained hopes but hardly anything was fruitful. She underwent an operation on 28 Feb 2014 at AIIMS and the result was no different – majority vision was lost. In 2015-2016 she was also diagnosed with throat cancer. After that, she went through depressive and lonely phases of life for three years until she approached Eyeway in 2017. She approached Eyeway for counsel to have a new beginning.

Eyeway counselor suggested her to initially gain a disability certificate and directed her to AIIMS. She got her disability certificate with help from her father from AIIMS certified with 75% disability. Counselor also apprised her about computer training for people with visual impairment and our T.V. serial Nazar Ya Nazariya that covers a wide range of case stories of successful visually impaired people. But Aditi stands tall on all these problems that affected her – divorce, vision loss, cancer – by courageously overcoming it with determination and not giving up. Now she can think only about how she can make her life productive by enhancing her capacities through training, education and an employment.

On a follow-up call, she sounded optimistic and shared that she is living a happy life. She has enrolled in in NAB Delhi for a four months Computer Training. She is an inspiration to many in defeating all these odds and still keeping her head above water. She was never intimidated by vision loss, cancer or her husband who left her in the lurch.

Retention of information or with sufficient reason

Banking Ombudsman Scheme, 2006 (Amended 2017) in its Chapter 4 (8-Grounds of Complaint) (r) states “forced closure of deposit accounts without due notice or without sufficient reason” as a circumstance for redressal of grievance. Vikram Joshi (name changed) turned blind when he was 3 years old as a reaction to a medication he was taking. But his ambitions and hard work never stopped him from taking the less trodden path to success in life. He did his Post-Graduation from Ferguson College, Mumbai in the English Language. Though he tried for public sector jobs he was unsuccessful in finding one. Thus, he mobilized his self-belief and confidence to start a self-employment venture. He had a Savings Account in Axis Bank where he applied for a bank loan to start a self-employed venture. This was when he got to know he was in a difficult situation with his savings bank account frozen and monetary excesses accrued by exceeding his credit card limit. The Bank took freezing of his Savings Account as a corrective measure to this circumstance and this information was retained for a period of three months between his account freeze and Vikram seeking a bank loan.

There is a clear retention of information in this case by the bank but will that serve as a sufficient reason in closing his account is a question to moot but doing it without notice is not justifying the act. Vikram’s requests for allocating some time to pay back the excess sum has been responded to rudely and his loan application was put on hold till he paid back the excess sum. His account was held frozen till the aforesaid condition was met by Vikram. This was when Vikram contacted Eyeway.

Eyeway Counselor shared the RBI and IBA circulars which explain resolutions for such circumstances. We also shared with him the contact of Rajesh Asudani, RBI Nagpur Office who in turn advised him to approach the Axis Bank head office in Mumbai. At the head office, he received good cooperation and the issue was resolved. He was allotted time to repay the excess sum. He later chose to withdraw the loan application from Axis Bank. He applied in SBI and received the loan promptly. Using the money he could start an agro-agency selling agricultural seeds, saplings, fertilizers etc. He is running the agency successfully and also plans to start new ventures for more economic gain.

Banks need to be educated

Banks are under-educated on banking norms and policies. They are unaware of their own apex body’s circulars and notifications. Whose fault is it? The clients are often at the receiving end of this ignorant and indifferent attitude of officials. Ashok Dhoni (name changed), a 17-year-old teenager from Ranchi, Jharkhand is suffering at the hands of two public sector banks – Oriental Bank of Commerce and Bank of Baroda-which adds to several other problems spewed out by nationalized banks in India. Ashok is the youngest of three siblings who were detected with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) at the age of six which has led to a gradual loss of vision. His family’s financial constraints add to the problems Ashok is facing in his life. He was put into a special school growing up, heeding to the advice of his brother’s Mathematics teacher. But the facilities were inadequate in the school and he was not happy there. He convinced his parents to move to Delhi seeking better opportunities and facilities. In Delhi, he enrolled in a Government Senior Secondary School under the Social Welfare Department and got a hostel accommodation. At school, he was actively involved in many cultural and academic activities. With limited support from his family, he helped himself finding scholarship programs to pursue his academic interests.

In hindsight, sourcing money was less hard than depositing and withdrawing it for meeting his needs. Ashok opened an account in the Oriental Bank of Commerce which denied him an ATM card. He finally got the ATM card after producing for himself the RBI and IBA circulars. Then on his attempt to get an ATM card from the Bank of Baroda where he had an account for the past two years seemed even more difficult. Not only he was denied an ATM card, he was asked to bring along two account holders to give an undertaking on his behalf. At the same, his blind friend was also denied the ATM card by the same bank.

Ashok contacted Eyeway regarding this matter and our counselor provided him the contact of Nodal Officer A. Shankar Narayanan, Deputy General Manager and Deputy Zonal Head, Bank of Baroda. The Nodal Officer confessed his poor knowledge on the matter inadvertently by responding that they are not aware of such provisions for blind and asked him to mail RBI and IBA circulars. He was also advised to drop his complaint in the branch complaint drop box. Ashok did drop his complaint and contacted the officer again after few days, but he refused that he had received any complaint from Ashok. He again contacted Eyeway and the second time we provided him the contact of R L Sharma at the Reserve Bank of India Office. The response is awaited on this matter and Eyeway is keen on the course of this issue.

Empowered by ambition

Manish (name changed) visited the Eyeway center in Delhi with his parents on 16th October 2017. He is a 15-year-old boy pursuing Class 10 in DPS Sushant Lok. He lives with his parents and younger brother in Gurgaon. His vision is affected by Coloboma (a hole in one of the structures of the eye, such as the iris, retina, choroid, or optic disc) since birth but his vision impairment was noticed only when he was in Class 1. He has had few retinal detachment surgeries to prevent total blindness. He was referred to Eyeway by Dr. Varshini Shanker of Shroff Charity Eye Hospital and also by one of our trustees, Rajive Raturi.

Kanishq is passionate about studying Chemistry in his higher classes. But he is unsure and apprehensive of the possibility of following his passion given his eye condition. His school teachers have already suggested exempting him from Math education as it is hard to teach the subject to someone with vision loss. Kanishq wanted to know if he could still study Chemistry despite the fact that he had to drop out his Math class.
He was also curious to learn about career options open for a blind person. He even expressed a desire to pursue Cricket as a career as he extremely enjoyed the sport. We suggested him legal profession as a possible career route.

Manish’s family was completely unaware of the laws and provisions in place for visually impaired people. We suggested them to read up on the latest RPWD Act and we also sent them details of the CBSE rules and provisions for blind students. We recommended him to start using computers for his classwork and exams. Eyeway advised his parents to talk to the school authorities to switch his mode of studies from writing to computers. We also suggested that the school authorities should inform CBSE so they can send appropriate question papers in soft copies in the future.
At this point, it seemed Manish’s main concern was to learn about ways that could help him to cope with his studies. Eyeway suggested him to visit Saksham to learn more about assistive technology and textbooks in accessible formats.