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.

Undaunting spirit and relentless pursuit

28-year-old Jayashree (name changed) is a very ambitious girl and her accomplishments are a proof to it. Never has she been bogged down by her visual impairment which is limited to faint light and image perceptions. She comes from a middle-class family with working parents and an elder brother. Despite her deteriorating vision, her parents gave her timely education till she could realise the value of it herself. Once she realised the prospects of an adequate education, she decided to put in hard work to succeed. Jayashree who hails from Bihar finished her schooling, went on to do her graduation and post-graduation in Music. She complemented all of it with a B.Ed. degree making herself eligible for teaching.

Initially she struggled through schools, exams, assignments, etc. relying on her family and friends, but the knowledge of scribe later during her college, improved her situation. So much did she know about the possibilities she could avail to make her life with disability easier and dignified. She sought information from various sources and her efforts were not futile. In 2017, she came in contact with Saksham Trust, New Delhi through which she was guided to NAB- Eyeway Helpdesk in New Delhi. She immediately contacted NAB-Eyeway and communicated with the respective counselor. On comprehending her issue, the counselor felt that her lack of awareness in terms of assistive technology was perhaps a stumbling block in her progress.

The counselor informed her about various assistive technologies like NVDA and JAWS screen-reading software for computers as well as Talkback for Android phones. He also guided her on how to easily use the laptop for her work. Though she was in possession of a laptop for the past 5 years, she was not using it due to deficient knowledge. Considering her technology related concerns, she was also advised to enrol in a technology training program at NAB. Convinced by the potential of learning these skills, she spared no time in joining the program and acquiring the desired skills in 2017.  Since then she is in constant touch with the Eyeway counselor regarding various queries. This also included her ambition to seek employment in the public sector which required the availability of accessible study material. The counselor duly assisted her with the same. Being her industrious self, she absorbed all these skills and suggestions and put it to optimum use.

In July 2018, she cleared the NET exam which makes her eligible for professorship as well as the preliminary exam for SBI clerical vacancy. Jayashree is an example to many women who are visually impaired but confined, battling everyday stigma and societal hostility. We hope Jayashree will reach greater heights with all her confidence and passion to succeed.

A mother’s quest to educate her child

Meenu Yadav, a resident of Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh, was on a train to Gwalior from Jhansi when she met Gautam, a former client of Eyeway. Gautam who is a visually impaired teacher at a government school in Jhansi, came to know about Tanya Yadav through his conversation with Meenu. Tanya is Meenu’s 7 year old daughter who is blind and speech impaired by birth. Moved by her circumstances, Gautam was told her about Eyeway and its services for the blind as he recalled his own positive engagement with Eyeway.

In August 2018, Meenu connected to the Eyeway Helpdesk and shared her experience of raising her visually impaired daughter. Kidney failure contracted by her during gestation affected the foetus which resulted in Tanya’s vision loss and speech impairment. The parents sought Tanya’s cure for long at many hospitals but their efforts were in vain. Tanya’s father is a software engineer and her mother, a homemaker and they also have a 10-year-old son. Lack of proper guidance was their problem due to which Meenu struggled with her daughter’s day-to-day needs for mobility and independence. This also left her worried about Tanya’s future. When she connected with Eyeway for the first time, she wanted to know about various education opportunities for Tanya. She believed that education could change her life and instil a new beginning to an otherwise heavily dependent life.

On comprehending Meenu’s concerns for her daughter, the Eyeway counselor had to take a well-thought-out decision given the dual disabilities the child was suffering from and then provide with the appropriate options for her empowerment. Eyeway counselor gave her the options of sending Tanya to SENSE International in Ahmedabad or Helen Keller Institute for Deaf and Blind in Mumbai which are both organisations that work for people with multiple disabilities. Due to the lack of hostel facilities at SENSE International, they chose the Helen Keller Institute where they impart education to children between 7 to 18 years who have multiple disabilities along with visual impairment.

Tanya being 7 years old can make use of this facility where special educators will instruct and teach her. The activities and curriculum are individually modified to suit each child’s developmental and cognitive level. Functional development like personal hygiene, daily living activities, mobility, community outing, money management, etc. are all also taught to them. Academically depending on the capability of each child, a modified curriculum is taught for each subject and computer education is an integral part of academics.At Helen Keller Institute, Tanya will be provided accommodation and around-the-clock care till she can be on her own. Heeding the counselor’s advice, Meenu promised to enrol Tanya at the earliest.

Having a right attitude to life

24 year old Chandra Prakash from Begusarai, Bihar out up an unrelenting attitude in the face of multiple rejections and this has helped him fulfill his desires. His desire was nothing unachievable but when the circumstances around him started being unsupportive, it was only natural to doubt. But he was not ready to go down that easily. His family felt hopeless about the future of their child but Chandra Prakash still sustained confidence and he kept trying.

It was the optic nerve weakness that led to his vision loss which he and his family identified when he was only in 5th standard. His parents took him to various doctors seeking a fix to his vision loss but all the efforts and hope didn’t help. They have to accept condition of a gradually losing vision for Chandra. Initially the news was devastating to Chandra’s family and the lack of awareness made them take all the wrong decisions for his life. Chandra never went back to school; he sat idle at home pondering his condition for the next few years. The rejections he faced from special schools in Patna and Banaras where he sought to pursue his education on various grounds like age, knowledge of Braille etc. led them all believe it to be the end of the road. His father opened for him a petty shop after few years in 2014 so that he will have some engagement during the day and later enhanced it in into a general store. Even after so many years he still retained a desire to study and complete his schooling. He got to know about National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) wherefrom he can pursue his education.

While trying to know more about NIOS, his friend coincidentally found out about Eyeway and the toll free number. On getting the number Chandra didn’t waste any time to contact the Eyeway counselor. After comprehending his issues counselor suggested to National Association for the Blind (NAB), Patna for pursuing education through open schooling and NAB Delhi for accessible study material. But it seemed the challenges were not yet over for Chandra. NAB Patna had stopped running the Open Schooling Special Centre, thus there was no support he could gain from there and it was the same case with NAB Delhi. Now the onus was on him take the challenge by its nape and steer it or give up. He decided to go for the former. He contacted Eyeway and informed the situation. Eyeway put him in communication with Satguru Rathi, a former Eyeway counselor and now who works with NIOS. This helped him a lot. He was made to understand that one can enroll for open schooling independently online and assisted him to do it. Eyeway counselor also put him in touch with the Eyeway counselor at NAB Delhi who helped Chandra gather all the accessible study material.

Though multiple rejections made the family hopeless, Chandra’s right attitude and efforts were large factors in him being able to get back to pursue his education. Chandra’s ambitions have come alive again and he is preparing to make the best out this second opportunity.

Striving to survive

Sanjay Negi from Garhwal, Uttarakhand is a 22 year old hardworking individual wanting to be independent and support his family. But sometimes the systems are too immutable to change that the poor and weaker sections will fail to catch-up, and irrespective of how hard they try. He contacted Eyeway in July 2018 and the call was regarding hostel accommodation.

Being born in a poor family itself was a struggle for Sanjay while growing up. While doing his 7th standard in school he met with an accident and lost his vision. This left him and the family devoid of all hope. They couldn’t fathom the reality of the situation that the next two years they spend ruing it. And in 2013 getting to know about National Institute of Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Dehradun from some of his friends he joined there for three months rehabilitation training. After that he joined an Industrial Training (ITI) course in NIVH itself for one year in 2014. After that he came to Delhi and staying in a hostel accommodation for the next two years he finished his 10th standard in 2016. But at the same time the hostel accommodation where he stayed, shut down and he had to leave Delhi not being able complete his schooling. But being so industrious Sanjay was not ready to give up; he went back to NIVH for computer training in 2017 for the next six months. Once after he realised that it is possible for him to lead a normal life with education and employment, he was always on the lookout for new opportunities.

But the lack of accommodation facilities turned out as an obstacle for him to progress in Delhi. Getting to know about Eyeway from one of his friends, he contacted Eyeway counselor immediately and sought recourse. Eyeway counselor was quick to suggest institutions like Blind Relief Association (BRA), National Federation for the Blind etc. here in Delhi so that he could find a place to stay and pursue his education. Unfortunately he was denied accommodation on the ground that he won’t enrolled for any academic or training programs with these institutions. On one hand this is a difficult reality but also the truth. Institutions are hampered with the onus to accommodate and educate as many disabled people as possible that they have to resort to such hard-line policies. The lacks of such eminent and productive institutions across India in turn hamper the opportunities for disabled people to pursue education, training, employment etc. But after comprehending this issue Eyeway counselor figured out the solution for Sanjay. He was directed to Bharat Blind School in Delhi where he can avail free education while pursuing a future of his choice.

Shaping one’s own future

Adil Rashid Malik from Kulgam, Jammu & Kashmir is so enterprising that his efforts are benefitting many in his village. He is not bogged down by his gradually losing vision of which more than 60 percent is already lost. He is only 19 years old and with this kind of enthusiasm the best is yet to come. He has been a client with Eyeway since 2016, interacting often on education related matters being a student. Eyeway has always assisted him overcome various challenges. This time he contacted seeking help to apply for a competitive exam with the India Railways.

He was born partially blind to a middle class family of five in Jammu & Kashmir. His family was highly supportive, especially his mother who taught him the value of education and independence for first time, the lessons his two elder brothers benefitted from. His elder brother is also visually impaired but has completed his post-graduation and the eldest one is in the local police. Adil was taken around by his parents for various medical consultations as a child but no fix was achieved to his losing vision. But this didn’t let the family to lose any hope or did they allow Adil lose even a bit of his confidence growing up. And those efforts didn’t go in vain. With the support of his family, teachers and a dear friend who wrote class notes for him he studied and finished his schooling. His aunt and uncle being teachers in the same school also helped him in making his studies and exams easier.

After finishing his school, driven by a consciousness to contribute back to the society he started a NGO in his village in 2010 for children of the school going age. He values education so much that he wants to support rural children to achieve good education. He is providing education for around 80 poor students in his NGO free of cost. Free education with study materials, food and basic clothing are provided for these students. At the same time he is also looking to study further or to gain some government jobs. He is also looking towards gaining some coaching for UPSC exams and other government exams. Eyeway counselor not only helped him apply for the Railway job for which he sought help, but also explained to him the scope various potential fields of education or employment he can prepare for.

Adil is an inspiration to many not only because he has overcome the challenges of disability but also for his desire to give back to the society. This will surely inspire many youngsters out there.

In need of the right guidance

Amitha Murali (name changed) from Ernakulum contacted Eyeway in July 2018, after hearing about it from the radio promotions. She contacted Eyeway seeking education related guidance. Amitha is a very ambitious girl having done her schooling and graduation with deteriorating vision with the support of friends and family. 21 year old Amitha came through a lot of struggles in education, mobility and daily living since 2rd standard when her visual impairment was identified for the first time.

Being a financially poor family there wasn’t much they could do about her treatment. Her mother who worked as a peon in a nearby school was the only source of income for the family. This income was barely enough to run the household chores. Thus, after Amitha complained about her vision and some reading difficulty, they couldn’t afford any major consultation or treatment. They temporarily aided her with a pair of spectacles. This seemed a relief at that point but her vision kept deteriorating. Without having any awareness of technical aids she struggled through her school life. Her friends and teachers helped her and the best they could do was audio record the class notes for her. She finished her school and graduation with whatever little assistance she could mobilize. But mobility and independence remained large obstacles for her daily living. Also, her mother being very protective she never travelled anywhere far and alone. Now her vision is diminishing exponentially than before and she is underprepared for the future. Except that she has replaced her spectacles with a magnifying glass for reading and other minor tasks, no significant improvement has come to her life. She has finished her graduation and she wants to gain employment so that she can be independent and also support her family. For this she has few government exams in her mind like the UPSC, Public Service Commission (PSC) etc.

On comprehending her issue, Eyeway counselor deemed it important that she learn computer and suggested that initially for her. She was made to understand that learning computer can help her prepare for her exams easier with accessible study material and independently. Also, counselor made her understand that computer knowledge is inevitable to any workplace, both in a private and public sector job. For this purpose contact details of computer training course was shared with her and also informed her to avail the facility of a free computer supplied from the Panchayat office for the visually people. And to do UPSC or any government related exam coaching, useful contact details were shared with her. But Amitha interrupted all suggestions which were far from her own town or even in another district. She shared her misgivings about travelling far from home or without the support of her mother. Eyeway counselor considering her fears suggested options close to her home and where she was confident of travelling, while subtly suggesting to her the need to overcome all such fears. A bright and ambitious girl like Amitha needs to empowered and informed so that she will not drown in the socially driven fears and doubts.

Eyeway counselor has taken it upon himself to communicate to her the idea of independence gradually that she reaches her goal fearlessly and with dignity.

Trailblazing a new path

Ravi Shankar Yadav from Maharaj Ganj, UP is 16 years old and contacted Eyeway for the first time in 2018 having no knowledge of living life with blindness. Ravi was born in a large financially poor family where his father is the only earning member. He was born visually impaired with a swelling in one of his eyes. His parents expecting to reverse the situation sought treatment for a long time but ultimately all efforts proved futile. Surgeries were done on both his eyes later in his teens but it didn’t result in any improvement except nullifying the chances of cancer. But Ravi did not compromise his education in the face of any challenges. He sought education support from various sources and regularly attended his school. He was helped by his friends and teachers in school. Initially with the advice of National Institute for Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Uttarakhand he studied in a special school till 8th standard and came back to Gorakhpur to pursue the rest of his studies. Currently studying in 10th standard he contacted NAB Eyeway not knowing about a future as a blind individual. Having very little confidence he called with the help of a friend. He spoke in bits and pieces not knowing how to articulate his concerns.

On conversation with Ravi Shankar, Eyeway counselor found that he is completely unaware of living life with blindness. Thus, his education, mobility, and daily living have been largely hampered due to this unawareness over these years. He has been depending largely on others to meet his daily requirements. Understanding his problems Eyeway counselor zeroed in to help Ravi out with education, technology and some life skills, which the counselor felt to be the impending problems. Counselor demonstrated to Ravi how to use a mobile phone with the help of talkback, Daisy Player for making reading books easier, use of computers, accessible study materials, smart canes etc. Also, hope and confidence was instilled in him to never give up on his studies. On follow-up it was learned that Ravi has already started making use of technology for his studies and sounded a happier person.

Being hopeful and positive

Ramaswamy M K is 25 years old and in search of employment. He has been trying for various government jobs for quite long now. He has tried banking exams, state and central government exams, UPSC exam etc. but hasn’t been yet able to clear any of them. But his patience and persistence has not tapered yet. He still reposes his faith in public sector jobs. It is the job security and income certainty which he argues in favour of his pursuits.

Being born blind into a financially poor household, he wouldn’t have gone to school unless the Gram Panchayat had not identified him and enrolled in nearby village school. But he was a hardworking student, moreover he had the will which became apparent while doing 7th standard when further vision loss shrouded his vision. He stopped schooling but not his education. He studied from home, took help of his friends and family and gave his exams. Again the lack of awareness and poor financial situation deprived him of any accessible study material or technology which could have made his life easier. But overcoming all these challenges, he managed to study. He completed his tenth, higher secondary and also his graduation. He never let any negative thoughts creep into his head but pushed forward hoping the circumstances to change. Though he wanted to pursue post-graduation, his financial situation was the obstacle. Instead he decided to prepare for competitive exams and look for public sector jobs.

In view of appearing for various competitive exams he went to Delhi and took some coaching. But unfortunately in the last few years his attempts to clear some of these competitive exams have not been successful. And the financial situation has been weighing him down on him and his family hard. His father a daily wager who is the only income source of his family won’t be able to support him for very long. He contacted the Eyeway counselor in EnAble India, Bengaluru with a laden heart. Counselor comprehended his issue and judged the situation basing on his immediate needs of employment and financial independence. Eyeway counselor tried to make Ramaswamy understand the need for looking for private sector jobs alongside government jobs. Counselor could convince him that it is possible to prepare for competitive exams and keep looking for government jobs while working in a private job, which is also more common than the public sector jobs. In order to prepare him for that counselor asked him to join the 9 months Foundation and Advance Employability course. Under this course he will get training in employment related skills, mobility, soft skills etc. Also, the counselor asked him to join an Advance Computer training course because having computer knowledge will help him for the future in giving exams or at his workplace. EnAble India also will be providing recruitment opportunities at the end of this course and help him find cheap accommodation facilities in Bengaluru during the time of the course.

Passion and determination as the drivers

29 year old Pradeep Pandhare contacted Eyeway in June 2018 from Pune, Maharashtra looking for government jobs. Mobility and orientation were challenges for him in his current job as a physiotherapist, and he felt a government job could offer more security and reduce his physical struggles. There were not many opportunities the counselor could suggest for him based on his 12th qualification. But the evident desire to succeed in his voice made the Eyeway counselor curious to know more about him.

Born with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and Myopia, both vision degenerating conditions, growing up was very difficult for Pradeep. His everyday needs, mobility, education, thus a large part of his life was reliant on his family, friends and teachers. He started his education in a mainstream school but gathering notes, understanding lessons, writing exams were all challenges to him. But with the help of his friends and teachers he studied. After 6th standard there was a tremendous loss of vision in his eyes. He endured it all and finished his schooling with the help of friends and family. He joined for his higher secondary education in the science stream. He was confident that if he remains determined he can surmount any challenges. But here one of his professors became very uncooperative insisting that he should change his stream to Arts. Pradeep was adamant to learn science and this didn’t go down well for him. He failed in the subjects, was denied any additional assistance and finally Pradeep gave up his course. This was also because of the unawareness and ignorance on the part of these authorities who tried to decide for him based on their volition, rather than facilitating him with opportunities. This resulted in Pradeep, a bright and hardworking student being forced out of his passion to pursue anything for mere survival. After his schooling ended abruptly, he tried to pursue his education by open schooling but failed to progress. His passion being smothered by the system around left him confused. He was in a position to run with whatever he had at that point but not ready to give up. In 2007 he joined for a diploma program in Naturopathy and Yoga Science and after finishing this course in the next three years he joined for a Lab Technician course which was for a year. Being a highly enterprising individual he was always on the look-out for opportunities. He always thought about getting a job and being independent.

He earned his first job in 2011 as a Medical Laboratory Technician. But he couldn’t sustain this job because his mobility and orientation challenges appeared as obstacles. He had to give up the job but after persisting with its challenges for two and a half years. When employment didn’t work he went back to education and completed his higher secondary school in 2015. In 2016 he joined the National Institute of Naturopathy and completed a government certified course in Massage Therapy and started a new job as a physiotherapist. Also, he got married in 2017. Here is an individual who kept exploring options and whose passions never died out even after the system being hostile to him. Institutions, school and family at a point cornered him but he was never ready to agree that either education or employment was elusive to him. Despite getting married and having a family to look after he persisted with all the challenges of income, job, his mobility, his lack of education etc. to remain hopeful of a better future. But working as a visiting physiotherapist he still faced the challenges of mobility and orientation. These challenges gave him the idea of having a government job which can offer more job security.

On comprehending his issue Eyeway counselor has identified that based on his higher secondary qualification alone an appropriate government job was not possible. Eyeway’s experience with many such individuals looking for opportunities to study and work made Pradeep’s skillset appear lacking. Counselor immediately suggested him to gain some computer training, soft skills training like personality development to start with. Exploring various NHFDC loans with which he can start a physiotherapy clinic which can be a good income resource was also informed to him. He can explore this facility once he has gained some basic skills. Also, information on various job opportunities for visually impaired people was shared with Pradeep, both in private and public and the education criteria, competitive exams, age limits etc. related to it. He can also make use of that information as an alternative in case his interests change.

A large percentage of the youth demography of our country is going wasted because their lives get decided by the systems around them and not by their own merit. Pradeep Pandhare is only one example and Eyeway wishes the best for him.

The power of positive thinking

32 year old Bhawana visited NAB Eyeway from Panipat, Haryana in July 2018. She is visually impaired with very low vision and vague light and colour perception. She has gone through difficult times growing up and is still wading in muddy waters. Her determination is her best quality although her circumstances are highly challenging. She believes she will surmount the challenges in the future like how she did it growing up.

Since identifying her vision problem for the first time at a very young age, the challenges to living a normal life have followed her and abounded year after year. Her family took her for treatment to many hospitals across Panipat, Chandigarh, and Delhi but had to ultimately accept her deteriorating vision. But she continued schooling with other sighted students in the mainstream school where she was already enrolled. Gradually the challenges of sight loss became visible like her having to sit at the front desk in the classroom, reading and writing problems, no accessible study materials, etc. Her family was also unaware on helping her live with blindness. All they could do was to support her studies by reading out her study material for her, give her some physical support and security, and anticipate for the best to come out of it all. Bhawana also sought the help of her friends at school to understand and study her lessons. Neither she nor the school authorities were aware of any accessible study materials and her education progressed without even her knowing or availing the services of a scribe to give her exams at any point. And she also didn’t know Braille leaving that option out in making her education easier. But with all the persisting challenges and deteriorating vision, she studied ahead overcoming all the negative thoughts of dropping-out from school. With the help of friends, teachers and family she completed her graduation.

And in 2012 she got married to a sighted man after mutual understanding of the circumstances. But the marriage didn’t stand the test of times. The relationship soured after some time and in four years Bhawana got the divorce. Humiliation at the hands of her husband whose attitude took a U-turn after the marriage was the chief reason for divorce. She faced verbal abuse, mental agony and fear for her child’s future when she became pregnant due to the ill-treatment. All these difficulties led her to extricate her relationship with her husband and family. Now with the divorce and her infant child, life had gone much downhill, depression and anxiety crept into her life. She faced challenges as a VI because she didn’t have the adequate training or skills to work as a VI. But she mustered confidence, not wanting to give up, enrolled herself in a B.Ed program. After successfully completing it, she also got employed in a private school. But she had to give up her job after a year facing many challenges in teaching small children. This resulted in her life getting worse with depleting finances, dependence on others for a living especially her brother and family, uncertainty about the future etc. During this period she got to know about NAB Eyeway from a family friend and visited the Eyeway counselor in July 2018. Her immediate issues were education, employment and financial independence and with her B.Ed training, teaching job was always in her plans. But she was lacking appropriate training and skills for her independence.

In view of helping her gain employment and achieving independence in it, Eyeway counselor suggested the three months computer training program in National Association for the Blind (NAB), Delhi. This would help her gather accessible study material and manage it with ease. Also, information about accessible technology like Digital Library, audio-books, mobile phone software etc. was also suggested to her. In view of her qualification and drive for self-independence, options for several government jobs and various competitive exams were also provided. Bhawana wasted no time in enrolling into the computer training program and she is confident of a positive change to her life.