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.

Seeking Support for Education

Neha (name changed) graduated from school with flying colors in 2010. Her good score helped her get admission into Lady Shri Ram College, one of the top institutions in Delhi University. Neha suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa which results in gradual sight loss. Soon after she joined college as a student of Psychology (H), her eyesight began to worsen. This impacted her ability to cope with her studies and especially facing difficulty in comprehending visual elements of her course practicals. The college too did not seem to think that a visually impaired person could keep up with a subject like Psychology. Hopeless and unaware of accessible books and assistive technology, Neha dropped out of college within a year of admission.

Neha’s parents though supportive, seemed clueless as to how to help their daughter who was going blind. To ensure that she was actively engaged, they involved her in the family run baking business. Neha learnt how to bake cakes and got busy with the business. But she wanted to do more than that. She found out about National Association for Blind (NAB) and contacted them to see how they could help her. At NAB, she underwent basic computer training, where she learnt to use computers with the help of screen reader.

Neha wished to continue her education and was looking for adequate support and information to do so. She found out about Eyeway and contacted our Helpdesk. When she shared her desire to resume studies, Eyeway counselor apprised her of all kinds of aids and online resources available to assist visually impaired students with their studies. Since Neha expressed a desire to pursue English, our counselor suggested her to apply to the School of Open Learning (SOL) in Delhi University. We also put her in touch with a faculty member from the Department of English who could address Neha’s specific questions regarding the admission process. As a result of her engagement with the counselor, Neha has enrolled in BA (Honours) in English at SOL. Our counselor also encouraged her to get in touch with Eyeway if she hits any stumbling block on the path ahead.

From confusion to clarity

21 year old Reena (name changed) who belongs to Patna in Bihar has been visually impaired since birth. Her early years were spent at Antarjyoti Balika Vidyalaya in Patna. Later she moved to Delhi and enrolled in a school for blind girls at Vikaspuri. After graduating from school she went on to pursue a 3 month computer course at Bharti Kalyan Netrahin Parishad.

Like most girls her age Reena too is filled with multiple dreams and ambitions. However, unable to think things through in a clear fashion she decided to get in touch with Eyeway. She shared with our counselors how confused she was.  While on the one hand she thought it might be interesting to record books for the visually impaired on the other hand she also felt drawn to music.  Our counselor helped her understand that she could record books and pursue music, but what was most important was for her to continue with her education. They told her that pursuing an undergraduate degree would be the first step she should take. This would open up many more possibilities for her future.

2 months later we received a call from Reena telling us that she was pursuing her BA Programme from Satyawati College in Delhi University. We hope Reena is successful in her endeavors and in time finds her calling.

Technology: the biggest enabler

The idea that blind persons can be independent individuals charting out careers across a variety of fields is unthinkable to not only those who are sighted but also to many who lose sight at a later stage in life. Technology is one of the biggest factors that allows for this kind of independent living and working. Every month we get several calls from persons who, having lost their sight later in life, are clueless about how technology can help them cope and move on.

Raja (name changed) is one such person who called in from Fatehabad, Haryana. While completing his B.com in 2002 he was diagnosed with Retina Pigmentosa and by 2004 he’d lost most of his vision.

Today, Raja is the owner of a pipe manufacturing factory. He is assisted in his work by his co-owners and other associates. He got in touch with Eyeway because he wanted to understand how he could better adapt to the sighted world.  He seemed quite clueless about the range of assistive technology that was available for visually impaired persons to engage with others on an equal footing.  Our counselors gave him an overview of gadgets, software, apps and other aids like the smart cane that can enable and empower visually impaired persons to become independent and self-reliant. He was curious to know if there was a better way to use his iPhone. We educated him about the accessibility features that were inbuilt in most smart phones. We guided him to activate and use the Voice over feature on his iPhone.

He got back to tell us how thankful he was for opening up a whole world to him. He was so much more comfortable using his phone now. We sincerely hope that more phone companies consciously advertise accessibility features to blind persons.

Aadhar blues made right

50 year old Mukesh (name changed), a resident of Ahmednagar, Maharashtra works at the Zila Parishad Office and has been blind since birth. Mukesh has had an Aadhar card since 2009. Although biometric proof for Aadhar requires both finger and eyes to be scanned, in Mukesh’s case he was granted one with just the finger scan.

In 2017, the government made it mandatory for everyone to link Aadhar card with PAN card. Mukesh was facing trouble since the name on his Aadhar card had a spelling mistake and did not match the one on the PAN card. Also he was keen to start using the Aadhar website so he could track things online. To do so he needed to update his mobile number and e-mail id.

At the Aadhar office the authorities seemed unwilling to cooperate. They insisted that because he was blind he would not able to go through the standard biometric procedure of the eyes being scanned.  This was sufficient reason for them to not update the information. And so Mukesh left the Aadhar office dejected and unsure how to take things forward.

He decided to seek support from the Eyeway Helpdesk. Our counselor assured him that the authorities had no right to deny him the card. They informed him about the rules that clearly state that no person can be denied an Aadhar card on the basis of their disability. The confidence that the counselors instilled in Mukesh inspired him to resolve the matter. He went back to the Aadhar office and educated the authorities about the rules that they were flouting by denying him the card. They instantly realized their mistake and were quick to make amends.

His name and e-mail id have finally been updated and he is able to access the website. Eyeway is there to support and instill courage in so many who have to wage a daily battle against ignorance and discrimination. When will the authorities realize that acts, laws, schemes and policies only have meaning when disseminated and implemented effectively.

A teacher’s fight for justice

30 year old Kishore (name changed) is 100% blind. But his disability has in no way impacted his passion for academics. A meritorious student, Kishore’s love for English literature, led him to complete his Bachelors, Masters and MPhil in the subject. He further pursued a B.Ed degree and secured a job of Primary Teacher in the Bhuribha Lallubhai Mehta School in Singarva, Ahmedabad.
In September 2016, he came across an advertisement for the post of a Trained Graduate Teacher (TTS) by Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS). Kishore promptly applied for the position and received a Call Letter for the written examination. He undertook the exam with the help of a scribe. The question paper was in multiple choice format but there were also some diagram questions that needed to be answered. Given his vision impairment, Kishore felt that his inability to accurately answer the diagram questions adversely impacted his performance in the exam. When the results were declared, he missed the cutoff for the interview by one mark.
Disheartened, he contacted the KVS authorities to report the issue and request for a reassessment of his diagram questions understanding his limitations to respond to the same. But his pleas fell on deaf ears.
That’s when Kishore decided to take strong action and contacted Eyeway for help. After examining all facts in the matter, our counselor put him in touch with legal experts to help him file a petition in the matter. A writ was filed in Gujarat High Court seeking relief for Kishore and the court passed an interim order stating that one vacancy be kept open for the TTS post until the next hearing.
Eyeway is in touch with Kishore and will continue to offer support until his matter is resolved and justice is duly served.

Catch them young

15 year old Tejas (name changed) has been undergoing eye treatment at the Low Vision Enhancement Centre of Shroff Charity Eye Hospital, Daryaganj, Delhi. He began losing his eyesight in February 2016 when he adversely reacted to an injection while being treated for another condition. Ms. Sonia at the Low Vision Enhancement Centre suggested visiting Score Foundation in order to understand how to proceed further. And so Tejas and his parents arrived at the Score Foundation office, hopeless and anxious. They poured their heart out to our Helpdesk team. Our team, familiar with the attitudes that ignorance fosters, reassured his parents that blindness is in no way an impediment to personal growth and success. They shared with him many examples of persons who were visually impaired and continuing to live normal, independent lives.
Tejas, a confident young boy, was keen to hear what our counselors had to say. Our team told him about the various rehabilitation courses that were available for visually impaired persons. They contacted All India Confederation of the Blind (AICB) on behalf of Tejas and inquired about admission. They also helped procure audio books for 9th standard from National Association for Blind, R.K Puram to ensure that Tejas does not miss out on his studies. We will be keeping in touch with Tejas and his family to ensure that he enrolls in AICB for the coming session. Our team will not rest till Tejas is finally back in school.

Getting back on track

Being diagnosed with vision impairment early on in life is a challenging affair. This challenge is compounded when students, unaware of the plethora of opportunities available, drop out of school. The belief that life stops after blindness continues to persist despite so many visually impaired persons excelling in a variety of fields.
23 year old Piyush (name changed) a resident of Motihari Bihar, discontinued schooling after Class 8 due to his vision impairment. For many years he sat at home, engrossing himself playing the Tabla and Harmonium.
However, he desired to get his life back on track by finishing school and securing a job. Desperate for guidance, he called the Eyeway Helpdesk. Our counselors informed him about the vocational and mobility training programmes for the blind run at various institutions. The Helpdesk put him in touch with the Blind Relief Association, Delhi as well as the National Institute for Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Dehradun. They also suggested that he enroll in an open school.
Piyush not only enrolled himself in a vocational training program at the Blind Relief Association, Delhi but also completed his class 10th Board Exams though CBSE (correspondence) this June. Having expressed an interest in pursuing music, our Helpdesk has been working hard to find him a good teacher.
Piyush aspires to teach music at the University level some day. We are certain that if he continues to doggedly chase his dream with grit and determination he will surely succeed. Our counselors have assured him that they are there to guide and assist him whenever he is in need of any kind of information from the world of vision impairment.

Banking on Eyeway

40 year old Rajesh (name changed), a class 4 employee of the Indian Navy is posted in Lonavala, Maharashtra. He has an account at the local State Bank of India and recently decided to apply for an ATM card. The bank officer rejected his request claiming that he could not issue an ATM to a 100% visually impaired person. Rajesh tried to argue his case but was unable to convince the Bank Officer to issue him a card.
Rajesh heard the Eyeway promo on the radio and immediately got in touch and shared with our counselor the issue he was facing at his bank. Our counselor confirmed that the bank could not deny him of this basic right. They informed him about the RBI guidelines that clearly state that the bank rules are same for both sighted and visually impaired.  They e-mailed to him the relevant circulars and guidelines and urged him to share the same with his Bank Officer.
He submitted the circulars to his local branch and was duly given his ATM card 8 days later. He now uses his card regularly at the talking ATMs. He plans to avail of other bank facilities in times to come. This time round he knows he has the information to make the bank officers aware of the rules.

Changing destinies

Rajesh (name changed) works as an advocacy coordinator at the Shalom-Care Centre for HIV patients. Through the course of his field work around slums of Delhi he met Meera (name changed).
Meera is a 19 year old visually impaired girl who comes from an economically marginalized background. She lives with her mother who is in no position to provide her with the specialized care and support she needs. Rajesh very much wished that Meera too, like other girls her age, could have access to a good education and healthy living conditions. He got in touch with Eyeway wanting to know what her options were. Our counselors immediately suggested that the best way forward was to get in touch with NAB-CBW (National Association for the Blind Centre for Blind Women). NAB-CBW caters to equipping visually impaired girls and women with the education, vocation and life skills they require to operate independently. Rajesh, on behalf of Meera, contacted NAB CBW. Meera has since successfully enrolled with NAB-CBW. Rajesh and Meera were extremely grateful to the Eyeway counselors for their timely support and information that will make a lasting impact in Meera’s life.

Striving for self reliance

29 year old Palash belongs to Nashik. His blindness stopped him from pursuing his education beyond school. Over the years he did odd jobs around the house and helped his brother run a family grocery shop. When he found out about Eyeway he thought it might be interesting to call and find out if there were other options that he could explore as he really wished to do something of his own. Our counselor gave him information about how he could pick up his studies from where he left off.  However, Palash did not seem keen to resume studying after such a long gap. Our counselor then told him about other job options like starting a business. This caught Palash’s ears and he immediately expressed his desire to run his own business. In the past he had considered running an outfit that would grind flour and wheat. We informed him that the Social Welfare department has many schemes for loans and that he was eligible to apply for them. Following the Eyeway counselor’s advice, Palash got in touch with the Social Welfare office at his Gram Panchayat which in turn approved his loan. He is working steadily towards setting up his business. We wish him luck and hope that his story inspires others to move towards independent livelihoods.