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 struggle for economic independence

25-year-old Abdul Kareem from Aluva, Ernakulum, is visually impaired by birth. Born into a lower middle-class family he faced multiple challenges growing up.  Abdul had to suffer at the hands of a complete lack of awareness of living life with blindness. His family’s financial condition and absence of proper education made matters worse.

From an early age Abdul had to overlook his dreams for his needs. Unfortunately, the needs of a disabled person remain to be isolated from the mainstream, adding to the plight of visually impaired people in the country. Abdul had to always make decisions in his life based on what was available to him as opposed to what he ‘wanted’.  For instance, during his school education, he had to give up his interest in Computer Science, because he was told that visually impaired students can’t work the machine and learn the subject. He had to choose Commerce instead, which wasn’t a subject of his interest. But Abdul overcame all such challenges in life by sheer determination to achieve success. After finishing school, he enrolled for BA in Economics and took up a sales job in a nearby electronics shop. The job helped him with some income in hand and acquiring a new skill.

After completing his graduation, Abdul joined the government’s Skill Development programme under the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Jan Kaushalya Yojana (DDUJKY) after which he found a job as a fulltime salesman. But with his first fulltime job, there opened a fresh set of challenges in his life. On one hand, it was the challenge of having to individually travel long distances to work and on the other, the lack of accessibility at the work space and adequate technology. These challenges forced him to resign in a year and this pattern repeated a few times hereafter.

Abdul contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk in in Little Flower Hospital, Angamaly, Kerala seeking help with employment opportunities. The Eyeway counselor connected him to the Special Employment Office in Ernakulum and helped him attend interviews with various companies. Though he appeared for several interviews, Abdul couldn’t find any job. Eventually he landed another sales job which he had to give up in a few months because of similar issues faced by him in the previous sales jobs. In all these jobs his accessibility needs or his misgivings were not addressed. Having struggled for so long, he decided to give up on the job-seeking exercise and instead start something on his own. He felt that starting his own business would ensure some stability his accessibility needs could be well provided for. So our counselor suggested a few workable options like applying for a loan from NHFDC, or seeking assistance from the Municipality office in his district for workspace on rent and so on.

Following our suggestions, Abdul Kareem has received a positive response from the Municipality office and is hopeful of starting a textile business of his own soon.

Pursuing the dream of education

19-year-old Sachin Kumar is blind by birth. Born into a farmer family in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, Sachin lost valuable years initially because he was denied admission in mainstream schools. His parents were not aware of special schools for blind children and so their son simply sat at home, losing out on education. But they were keen to educate their son and finally decided to home tutor him. They arranged for a teacher to come twice a week to their house for the next two years. Sachin’s tutor who was a special educator found out about a Pre-Integration Camp (PIC) for disabled children in Moradabad, under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan government programme.

At the age of 12, Sachin enrolled in the camp and studied all the way up till Class 8. But once again, he hit a roadblock as he couldn’t find any schools who would admit him in Class 9. His blindness coupled with over age became a deterrent. At this point, Sachin called Eyeway asking for help. Our counselor put him in touch with Jayati Bharatam, an organization based in Lucknow, engaged in education of persons with vision impairment. He was admitted in Class 9.

A year later, Sachin is now pursuing Class 10 at Jayati Bharatam. Alongside mainstream studies, he has also learnt to use computers with the help of screen reading software. He is also keen on preparing for entrance exams which he will become eligible to appear for once he finishes Class 10. Eyeway continues to offer assistance to him for his varied needs.

 

Showing an alternate course 

Sahib Singh is a 19 year old boy from Delhi who was born blind. At the age of four, his parents met with the doctors at the Guru Nanak Eye Care Centre in Delhi with hopes to restore his vision. Post-consultation, the doctors decided to install a lens in one of his eyes which facilitated him to move around like any other sighted person. Unfortunately, many years later his eyesight began to deteriorate once again due to a degenerative eye condition known as Retinitis Pigmentosa. The doctors couldn’t help him a second time and instead advised him to visit the National Association for the Blind, Delhi (NAB) for rehabilitation.

At NAB, Sahib met with the Eyeway counselor who apprised him of all the opportunities that are still available to him. To start with, he was asked to apply for a disability certificate that can be used to avail his disability pension. He was then counseled on the importance of education and how accessible study material can help with his studies. The counselor informed Sahib about a four-month computer diploma course at NAB, Delhi where he could learn how to use a screen reader enabled computer.  Heeding the counselor’s advice and instructions, Sahib successfully secured a disability certificate which he can now use for availing various provisions. He also enrolled for Class 10 through the National Institute of Open Schooling and appeared for his exams earlier this year. The counselor at NAB assisted him during his exams by providing him with books he required for prep, in accessible format. Sahib has completed his diploma in computer course from NAB and is now awaiting his Class 10 results.

A relentless pursuit

21-year-old Ambuj Mishra contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk from Jaunpur, UP. Although he was visually impaired by birth, it was never medically diagnosed until he was in 6th standard in school when his vision started substantially deteriorating. Till then without having any knowledge on the impending sight loss, he managed with a pair of spectacles. Ignoring any challenges that arose with his diminishing vision, he studied in a mainstream school all the way completing his 12th standard.

Although Ambuj joined college to pursue his BA, he had to drop out after the 2nd year due to various challenges He found writing his exams increasingly difficult and he had no clue that visually impaired students could use scribes for help. Several family members and friends also discouraged him stating it was impossible for him to complete his education given his visual impairment. The absolute lack of information and misplaced ideas resulted in Ambuj giving up his graduation.

But Ambuj being a very hardworking and ambitious man never let any of these of challenges affect his pursuits. In 2017 he joined a Diploma in Education (D.ed) in pursuit of a teaching job. He also contacted Eyeway seeking help for education and employment opportunities. He realized that he needed proper training in English and computers to secure a decent job and therefore he sought our Helpdesk counselor advice on available courses. The Eyeway counselor suggested Ambuj Mishra to join English classes in Desai Foundation, Mumbai and for computer courses he was put in touch with various organizations like Blind Persons Association, New Delhi, NIVH Dehradun and Samarthanam Trust, New Delhi. Making use of all the relevant information along with proper guidance, Ambuj enrolled in an English speaking course at Desai Foundation and will also start with his computer training with Samarthanam Trust, shortly.

He also managed to complete the final year of his graduation furnishing a gap certificate for two years. Ambuj wants to make sure that he has ample skills so that he can get the best job pertaining to his abilities. Although his qualifications were limited, he is driven by the need to study more so that he can find the right job and be independent.

Discovering aid in form of assistive technology 

A hardworking student since childhood, Rohit Sharma is currently pursuing his post-graduation.  He has never allowed his blindness to come in his way. Born into a well-to-do family in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh he also had the able support of his lawyer father while growing up.

Rohit contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk in 2019 seeking information on assistive technology for his accessing study material. He’d heard about such devices from a few of his friends but didn’t have proper understanding of its use or the impact it could make in his life. So far he has largely dependent on Braille resources for his studies and additional help from friends in recording lectures, sharing their notes etc. This information regarding a variety of assistive technologies available for making the lives of visually impaired easier, excited him. He wanted to know more and wanted to start using them without any wait.

He shared with ourcounselor all the struggles he had to go through in his studies, having to take help from fellow classmates mostly. On comprehending his issue, the counselor informed him about various devices and apps that could ease his troubles. The counselor also shared with Rohit, information on how a laptop enabled with screen reader could make reading and writing notes easier, how a Daisy player (Digital Accessible Information System) could help him in gathering knowledge, Sugamya Pustakalaya, an online repository for accessible books and various apps and software which could aid his studies.

However for making best use of technology, there is a need for significant training. The Eyeway counselor apprised Rohit of computer training courses available at National Association for the Blind Delhi, Blind Relief Association Delhi and National Association for the Blind Faridabad. Proper training in using assistive technology could go a long way in helping Rohit to become self-reliant both with regards to education and employment. Rohit has decided to enroll for training at National Association for the Blind, Faridabad in the next session after finishing his post-graduation.

Seeking information and guidance

Sayaji Waghmare is a 29-year-old visually impaired resident of Nanded, Maharashtra. At 6 years of age, he suffered from a severe fever which resulted in complete sight loss. His parents sought medical help but his vision loss was irreversible. Sayaji started off his education at the age of 9 in a special school for the visually impaired. After finishing Class 12, he pursued a Telephone Operator course and a Maharashtra State Certificate of Information Technology course (MSCIT) in the Technical Training Institute for the Blind, Maharashtra. After completing both these courses, he got a job as a Telephone Operator in Hyderabad. But the job away from home wasn’t very comfortable for Sayaji and so he came back to Mumbai. Here he found a job as a masseur after completing a Massage Training course at the National Association for the Blind (NAB).

Sayaji heard about Eyeway through a promotional message on radio and he called up the Helpdesk to seek information on various queries. Recently, his UDID card online application was rejected due to errors made while submitting the same and he wanted to know how to resolve the issue. Our counselor informed him about a special camp for UDID card applications being organized at Degloor Andh Vidyalaya and advised him to meet the Officer posted there. On reaching the camp, he contacted the Helpdesk and requested the counselor to speak with the higher authority present there. Eyeway counselor explained to the Officer in-charge about the mistakes made by Sayaji in his submission following which the errors were rectified and his form resubmitted. Sayaji was happy and extremely grateful to Eyeway for the support he received in this process. He then shared his feelings of dissatisfaction towards his current job and sought guidance from the counselor on better employment opportunities available for him in the government sector. He was apprised of the vacancies advertised by the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) along with their application deadlines.

In a follow up call, Sayaji informed our counselor that he received a 14-digit registration number for his UDID application and he’d submitted various application forms for jobs put out by RRB.

The zeal to move forward

21-year-old Santosh Kumar is a resident of Begusarai, Bihar. In 2011, he was injured in a bomb blast that occurred within his locality thereby losing his eyesight and fingers of his right hand. He was taken to the AIIMS hospital in Delhi where he underwent treatment for two years. Unfortunately, the doctors said that nothing could be done to restore his vision and provided him with a Disability Certificate. Depressed and hopeless, he returned home and sat idle for the next five years unaware on how to live a life with blindness. His education came to a halt after Class 8 as he didn’t have the required training to study independently. His parents feared sending him for rehabilitation and had kept him confined to the four walls of his house.

Santosh recalled a radio program called Nazar Ya Nazariya that had aired in 2014. He obtained the Eyeway National tollfree number from the website and immediately called up our Helpdesk. On listening to his story, the counselor understood that Santosh lacked the basic skills required to help him move forward in life. He was informed about ‘Shubham Viklang Vikas Sansthan’ in Muzzafarpur, Bihar which is an unconventional welfare society that provides education to deaf, blind, mentally challenged, people with locomotor and multiple disabilities. The society runs a special residential school for visually & hearing impaired children with free hostel and other facilities. Although Santosh was ready to enrol for the training, his parents were sceptical about this idea. To convince his parents, the counselor had a conversation with Santosh’s father on the importance of providing training for better employment opportunities.

Recently, Santosh informed the Helpdesk about his enrolment at Shubham Viklang Vikas Sansthan. He is now hopeful for a brighter future and ready to continue his education through National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).

Battling with a lack of awareness and building life afresh

22-year-old Akash Dhar is a visually impaired person from Jammu, India. Akash who was blind from birth, did not study Braille and wasn’t aware of assistive technology. Therefore, most of his formative years, he was home tutored by his family members and friends. He went on to complete his Bachelor’s degree in History from Jammu University and is now pursuing his Masters in the same subject from Indira Gandhi National Open University. His father is an electrician by profession and his mother is a homemaker. He also has a sister who is visually impaired and is studying in Class 11.

Akash had heard that the National Association for the Blind (NAB), Delhi conducts computer courses and other training programs for people like him. So he decided to travel to Delhi and enrol in a 15-day computer training program. Later, he met with the NAB Eyeway counselors who then guided him to enrol in a four-month diploma course in computer training. Alongside the counselor insisted Akash to join mobility training, English speaking classes and a course in personality development. The Eyeway counselors felt that this would help him become independent and improve his overall communication skills, boosting his confidence. Now, he is able to read books, surf the internet, access social media platforms and navigate independently. After completing his course, he decided to become an Accessibility Tester. Considering his interest, the counselor advised him to take up an online Digital Accessibility Training Program which would guarantee Akash a placement once he completed the course.

In addition, the counselor also suggested that Akash prepare and apply for other government jobs so that his options remain open. But in order to apply for government jobs related to this field, he had to clear and certify the NIELIT CCC exam. He contacted the counselor when he faced an issue with the prescribed scribe guidelines for the exam. The Eyeway team spoke with the NIELIT exam authorities and expressed their concern regarding the guidelines. Akash told us that he did not face any difficulty when he appeared for the exam and is thankful to NAB-Eyeway counselors for the constant support.

Dealing with sight loss at 71

Joseph, now 71 years old from Ernakulam, Kerala first encountered the challenge of losing vision when he was 10. It was myopia, more commonly known as near-sightedness and he never knew it was the beginning of a road less taken. He fixed the situation temporarily with a pair of glasses although his vision was deteriorating gradually. With no knowledge of it and no visible challenges earlier, he lived an independent life taking care of his business, wife and two daughters. At his prime, he also drove around in Ernakulum town for business and society until he confronted the reality on one such drives.

Joseph met with Eyeway counselor in Little Flower Hospital (LFH), Ernakulum, Kerala. He lost almost 90 percent of his vision over the years and was largely dependent on his wife. It was 20 years before and a usual business drive when Joseph felt a darkness clouding his vision. If not for his presence-of-mind, the moment could have been fatal too. Doctors diagnosed Retinal Detachment in both his eyes and prescribed a surgery. However, surgery restored the retina in one eye and the other eye sustained only minimum vision. Since then his vision has been deteriorating and Joseph has been wading through his life without having any knowledge on living life with blindness.

Now Joseph desires to do at least few things independently; he thinks he should help himself and his family doing so. On meeting the Eyeway counselor, Joseph and his wife shared his challenges and desires. His lack of knowledge about living life with blindness had constricted his thinking. All what Joseph wanted to know was whether he could read newspapers himself and improve his mobility. The counselor was faced with the challenges of not just giving options to enhance his daily-living but also bringing back hope to a 71-year-old visibly hopeless man.

The counselor gave several assistive technology options to read and listen to daily news and events. Information on various mobile apps, online portals, android phones etc. was explained to him to start with. Since Joseph has never been a smart-phone user, he needs some basic training to use assistive devices. Joseph will undergo training from the Eyeway counselor on using technology for daily needs as well as learning to move around independently with a smart cane. We believe these sessions of training and interaction with the Eyeway counselor will also help Joseph to see possibility of an independent life despite blindness.

Importance of educating oneself

30-year-old Ganesh Walpathar is a resident of Koppal district in Karnataka. He is blind by birth. Ganesh completed his Class 12 from an Open University but unfortunately due to financial constraints he couldn’t continue his education any further. He contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk seeking information on availability of manual labour jobs. The counselor called up EnAble India Candidate Support Team to get details on jobs available for visually impaired persons. However, such jobs were available only for those who had low vision. The counselor then explained to Ganesh that manual labour jobs for people with complete blindness were very few in number and that it was highly unlikely to find one within his district.

The counselor then spoke to Ganesh about the importance of education and other skills related to technology and mobility which in turn would lead to better employment options. At first, Ganesh was hesitant with the idea of continuing his education or joining a training program because of his financial problems. To overcome this challenge, the counselor informed him about an organisation, Snehadeepa in Ranibennuru, Karnataka that helps persons with vision impairment free of cost. They provide free accommodation as well as English and computer training. They also encourage visually impaired people to continue their education, providing them with adequate study material support. Ganesh was encouraged to enrol at Snehadeepa and pursue his graduation. The counselor felt that Ganesh would consider joining mobility training course once he meets other visually impaired people during his time at the organisation and also open up to more employment opportunities.

He was given the contact details of Snehadeepa and he was grateful to Eyeway for showing him a way to continue his education. Ganesh will be starting his training in June 2019.