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.

Raising aspirations

Blind and visually impaired people in our country are left to depend on their families for every decision about their lives. The result of which is often neglect and uncertain future. Budhaji Niguda, 28-year-old visually impaired person from Thane district of Maharashtra has been a victim of such neglect by his family.

Budhaji was never enrolled in school by his parents. He was overprotected and not allowed to move beyond certain places resulting in his confinement. After his parents passed away, he had to move in with his uncle’s family where he carried out his chores but depended on them for financial assistance. With no education or life skills, Budhaji lacked direction to live life on his terms.

An Eyeway promo on radio brought a ray of hope and Budhaji called the Eyeway toll-free number to inquire about government schemes he could avail for financial assistance. As one of the frequent enquiries from our callers, our counsellors understand their underlying need for seeking financial assistance is rooted in the desire to live a dignified life. While he was apprised about various schemes available in the disability category, there was also a need to rehabilitate this young man and put him through life skills and vocational training so he could become employable in the future.

As a necessary step, the counsellor also guided him to apply for UDID (Unique Disability Identity Card), explaining its importance in availing schemes as well as opportunities of education and employment. He was also suggested to enrol in rehabilitation and training programmes at National Association for the Blind in Mumbai.

Further, the counsellor also informed him about Tata Agriculture and Horticulture Training Centre in, Walsad, Gujarat where visually impaired people are given vocational training for employment opportunities.

Besides raising his career aspirations, Budhaji has also benefitted from the counselling on a personal front. As he and his family assumed that visually impaired people were not eligible for marriage, they were given various examples of married blind people with successful careers. He was counselled on the need to become financially independent before committing to marriage.

Budhaji who is currently undergoing the training at NAB has taken the first step towards his empowerment and is grateful to Eyeway team for the opening new doors to his life.

Guiding on to the right path

Jayamala was only eight years old when she lost her eyesight due to untimely treatment. For the next decade, the young girl stayed within the safe walls of her home. Her family who sustained through a small business had no idea what to do with Jayamala. It was only when one of their relatives apprised them about an organization working for disabled persons that she stepped outside for the first time.

In the institution, she met with other visually impaired people like her and slowly got acquainted with a new life this place had to offer. She learnt to read and write using Braille script and appeared for Class 10 examinations. Further, she completed higher secondary and is currently pursuing graduation.

Jayamala contacted Eyeway when she was unable to take a print out of her Unique Disability ID (UDID). The Eyeway counsellor helped her resolve her immediate issue but also sensed Jayamala’s under-confident tone. Speaking with her further, it was realized that despite going through school and college, she lacked the necessary skills to cope with the outside world. The counsellor recommended Jayamala to undergo Enable India’s Health and Wellness training for visually impaired girls. This training would impart computer, mobility and life skills that would help her live an independent life.

Jayamala is currently pursuing training and is happy with these new developments in her life.

Eyeway is not only committed to providing immediate solutions to visually impaired people but also transform their lives by suggesting relevant life skills training to help them live their life to the fullest.

Led by conviction

28-year-old Suraj Dubey was born blind in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. When he came to pursue his graduation in Delhi, Suraj faced several difficulties. An ardent follower of Eyeway’s radio programmes, he called the Helpdesk for support.

The Eyeway counselor offered him insights into opportunities and ways of pursuing them. He was initiated into using computer and smartphone enabled with screen reading software.
When he started preparing for competitive exams, online learning tools were recommended to improve his mathematical and logical reasoning skills.

But as he explored digital media, he experienced limitations in use vis-à-vis accessibility, efficiency and affordability.

This prompted Suraj to build an app on his own, alongside pursuing regular career options. He enrolled in an online course to learn Python programming language. He dreams of developing a free of cost mobile app for the entire blind community.

Technology has helped countries reach outer space and yet millions of blind people on the planet face insurmountable challenges owing to the inaccessible physical and technological infrastructure. While Suraj is driven by his passion to end the gap between the blind and the sighted world, what will it take for governments, designers, developers and manufacturers to treat accessibility as a priority?

Willing to go the extra mile

18-year-old Sachin Kumar was born blind in district Basti of Uttar Pradesh. Like many visually impaired Eyeway callers, his family and community had little awareness and limited resources to raise a blind child. His father, a farmer had four other children to feed, leaving him no time to think about the future of his blind son.

Sachin, however, was an enthusiastic boy who made the most of what was available to him. He loved listening to radio programmes where he picked up ways to communicate with people around him. Listening to jokes and informative content over the radio made him happy.

When Sachin’s elder brother started working as a teacher, he gifted him a basic keypad phone. As he learnt to use the phone on his own, it opened ways for the young boy to the outside world. He got to know about Hamari Vaani, a social media platform for persons with disabilities that uses voice-based communication on ordinary phones, to create awareness and to connect all the stakeholders reach the unreached and scale the livelihood opportunities for persons with disabilities. Through Hamari Vaani, Sachin also learnt about the Eyeway Helpdesk.

When he called our toll free number, Sachin had no idea that visually impaired people could pursue education as sighted people did. He wanted to know if there was a way he could earn a living for himself and be independent. The Eyeway counselor recommended a yearlong rehabilitation and training programme through Blind Relief Association in Delhi. He was also counselled to pursue his Class 10 through the open board that would help him secure better job opportunities in future.

Sachin who has already joined the training, is ecstatic on starting a new life and is grateful to Eyeway for showing him the way forward. His family is relieved that Sachin can pursue his dreams despite the vision impairment.

On the path to self-discovery

Mabusabu was born into a poor family in Nandhigrama village of Bellary which lacked awareness on how to raise a blind child. This had left Mabusabu confined to his home, isolating him from the outside world and denying him access to mainstream education.

When Mabusabu suddenly lost his father a few years ago, his mother had to step into her husband’s shoes and provide for her three children. The sudden loss brought along with it many challenges for the family, compelling the mother to take up work in the fields. This had an impact on Mabusabu who wanted to contribute to his family to lessen the burden on his mother.

Having received no education or any formal training, he found himself ill-equipped to do anything about the circumstance his family was in. The disabling attitudes of Mabusabu’s family, who thought he was not capable of achieving anything on his own, compounded his challenges.

Mabusabu was determined to change his life and so when he received a smartphone from his brother, he made optimum use of it by listening to informative news and videos that helped him gain knowledge on various topics. It was also during this time that he learnt about Eyeway Helpdesk through a friend. Without wasting any time, he called up our toll-free number expressing his desire to do something worthwhile with his life.

Majority of Eyeway Helpdesk callers seek employment opportunities and the emotion behind it is usually to live a more independent and dignified life. Often the visually impaired and blind callers struggle to prove themselves to their families.

Understanding the need for rehabilitation and training, the Eyeway counsellor guided Mabusabu to enrol at National Association for the Blind (NAB) in Bangalore. He completed a four-month mobility and vocational training that has instilled new confidence in him. He was also suggested to complete his class 10 through a Government Blind school in Karnataka.

Stepping outside the four walls of his home to achieve what seemed impossible to his family has not only changed the 24-year-old Mabusabu’s life but it has also changed the attitudes of his family who were oblivious to what a blind person was capable of achieving with the right opportunities.

 

Ignorance and Apathy

Born blind in Pune, Maharashtra, Shruti Gujjar suffered at the hands of her family’s ignorance. Abandoned by her biological mother when she was only one, her stepmother considered the little girl a worthless burden. Family’s neglect led to delayed developmental milestones in Shruti, furthering her dependence on them.

The Eyeway centre in Mumbai received a desperate call from her stepmother, looking to rid herself of the girl’s responsibility. She asked for organizations that could offer permanent accommodation to her.

After a series of engagements, the Eyeway counselor understood the respective challenges faced by both mother and daughter. It was pertinent to counsel the family as much as looking for solutions to rehabilitate the girl.

Eyeway succeeded in sensitizing the mother towards the visually impaired girl’s different needs. Shruti could be an equal member of the family, like her sighted step brother, once she acquired adequate skills of independent living.

The real challenge was to find an organization willing to spend extra time and effort in training the thirteen-year-old to overcome her limitations. Institutions in and around Pune didn’t offer residential training facilities and so the counselor looked for solutions outside. An institute in Surendra Nagar, Gujarat has responded in the affirmative to impart rehabilitation training and other skills.

Absence of timely intervention not only stunted Shruti’s growth, but also turned the family apathetic towards the young child. Often the lack of support and solutions to families with visually impaired children provokes drastic measures like desertion.

Despite the Integrated Child Protection Schemes for vulnerable children in India, there are thousands like Shruti who are left to count on their fate. To ensure that such children also stand a fair chance at life, resources and mechanisms have to be in place to help them realise their true potential.

Evolving with exposure

In 2011, a timid young girl called the Eyeway Helpdesk from Kashmir. She asked several questions pertaining to vision impairment but was wary of giving out any personal details. Only several calls later did we figure that Qurat Khan suffered from gradual vision loss due to Retinitis Pigmentosa. Studying in Class 12, she explained her struggles in the classroom with the printed syllabus.
Qurat is one of the many visually impaired girls, who find themselves at the receiving end of societal stigma towards disability. She thought of herself as someone lesser than her ‘normal’ peers.
But the Eyeway counselors slowly helped her realise what all she could accomplish by learning new techniques. She was introduced to technology that would help her with studies and her mobility.
After undergoing the recommended computer training course at Enable India in Bangalore, she started to regain her confidence. With assistive technology, education became easier.
28 years old now, Qurat has secured a job as a primary school teacher. She called us recently to get first-hand insights into teaching sighted students.
Eyeway put her in touch with a blind teacher in Rajasthan, who is experienced in instructing a mainstream classroom. This interaction would prove informative and helpful for Qurat who is set to start her career. She would learn of tips and tools to aid her in imparting lessons seamlessly.
Apart from disseminating information and counseling, Eyeway often refers callers to other visually impaired people who may have more experience in a particular field.
This helps us build a network of visually impaired people who can help each other resolve various issues and reduce their dependence on sighted people or even a service like ours.

In spite of indifference and ignorance

Blind by birth, 33-year-old Deepak Daware is the sole breadwinner of his family in Nanded district of Maharashtra.

Deepak dropped out of college, ignorant of how to continue his education with his vision impairment. He then took up menial jobs for the sake of sustenance.

Struggling with an unstable and low income from selling knick-knacks, he applied for disability pension under the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Anudan Yojana.

But the officials declared him ineligible for the provision as his yearly income exceeded the cap of INR 21,000.

Recently the annual income limit for the said scheme was revised to INR 50,000 and Deepak made a second trip to the district office to claim his pension.

Unaware and insensitive officials simply turned him away yet again, denying any such revision issued by the state department. Denied of his rights, Deepak asked Eyeway to intervene.

The Eyeway counselor provided him with the government resolution stating the revised provision and asked him to submit a copy of the same along with his disability pension application.

All paper work in order, Deepak and five of his visually impaired friends will soon receive the first installment of their disability pension.

Happy to have helped them, Eyeway didn’t stop at that. Our counselor identified job vacancies based on Deepak’s present qualifications. He was encouraged to complete his graduation simultaneously, so he can seek better employment opportunities in the future.

How long can we expect visually impaired people to continue relying on piece-meal offerings by the government?

In line with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, there is an urgent need to steer people away from a ‘reservations-based’ mindset towards a more ‘empowering’ approach by providing them with equal opportunities of education and employment.

Aspiration, Perseverance, Optimism

Naseer Rashid lost his eye sight in an accident when he was three. A resident of the conflict ridden state of Jammu and Kashmir, where sighted students struggle to access mainstream education, Naseer’s family was unaware of ways to raise their blind child.

At 7, Naseer began his education in a Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan camp, enthusiastic and determined to work hard. As he grew older, he started exploring provisions in place for people with vision impairment, so he could cross the barriers in his path. Facing an issue with his scribe while appearing for Class X Board exam, the knowledge of government issued guidelines helped him fight for his rights.

Currently pursuing his final year of graduation, Naseer has been in regular contact with Eyeway for information on accessible study material. He has made use of free online libraries and assistive technology to further his educational goals.

But in a recent political jolt, he was confined to his home once again. As soon as the phone lines were restored in Kashmir, Naseer sought Eyeway’s help to pursue a skill-based training programme outside of the state.

His ambitions mired in confusion, Eyeway guided him with higher education options in other states. He was also made to enroll in a computer training programme under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana in Delhi.

The computer course will not only help him study independently using technology but also equip him to work alongside sighted peers.

Naseer wants to complete his Masters and Ph.D. in a more accessible environment. He aspires to return qualified and ensure that every visually impaired kid in his state continues to dream big.

Donning a new avatar

34-year-old Praveen Shankhdhar had a steady career in advertising before he experienced sudden sight loss. He lost his job as an Art Director, given the inability to work using visual media. Too shocked to respond, he reached out to his family.

He went from one eye doctor to another but his vision continued to recede. Praveen was barely able to accept his physical condition when his family abandoned him. Married and a father of a three-year-old girl, he was further traumatized by such brutal indifference.

Fortunately, his friends offered support and sent him to Shankar Nethralaya for treatment. But the vision loss was permanent and the doctors suggested him to undergo rehabilitation.

Praveen felt hopeless until he joined the one-year training programme at the All India Confederation for the Blind. When he saw other visually impaired people, studying, working and functioning independently, he was pleasantly surprised.

As he learnt new skills, reorienting his ways, his notion of blindness began to change. But he was still unemployed. In a round table discussion organized by Eyeway, Praveen got an opportunity to narrate his personal account to a gathering of medical and rehabilitation professionals, government body and non-profit representatives working towards empowering people with vision impairment.

As a fallout of his interactions at the conference, Praveen was recently offered a job by the General Secretary of National Association for Blind (NAB) Delhi. Almost three years later, Praveen has resumed work as a Project Officer at NAB. He is happy to put his prior managerial experience and newly acquired skills to use in the new role.

Praveen is determined to show the world what he or any blind person can achieve.