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 clarity on railway reservation rules

39-year-old Zoher Kheriwala is a visually impaired person from Mumbai, Maharashtra. He and his wife contracted an eye disorder known as Retinitis Pigmentosa which resulted in a gradual loss of their vision. Zoher is a businessman and his wife is working as a Helpdesk counselor at the Victoria Memorial Blind School.

Zoher and his wife faced an issue while booking third class AC railway tickets from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. While trying to book two seats for himself and his wife under the physically handicapped quota of reserved seats, he found that only one ticket was confirmed while the other appeared under the waiting list. He couldn’t find an explanation as to why this occurred and decided to try once more by booking two tickets under the same quota from Ratlam to Ahmedabad. To his dismay, the result was the same.

Zoher contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk wanting to know why only one ticket was confirmed and not the other. A representative of the Eyeway team filed an RTI to the Ministry of Indian Railways seeking information on this query. A few days later, Eyeway received a response to the RTI along with a circular stating that two berths in 3AC Class are earmarked for persons with disabilities in all long-distance mail or express trains and that these tickets are available on concession. It was also made clear that out of the two reserved seats under this quota, the lower berth is set aside for the handicapped person while the middle berth is for the escort. The counselor informed Zoher of the same and was able to clarify his doubts. Following this, Zoher booked a ticket keeping his wife as his escort and was able to get two confirmed tickets. Zoher is grateful to the Eyeway Helpdesk for their timely response and have requested them to spread awareness on this rule.

A budding cricketer becomes an inspiration for many

15-year-old Santosh Kumar is a visually impaired resident of Jamui, Bihar. He has no vision since birth and comes from an economically backward family. His father works as a mason and his mother is a home maker. Although they were unaware on how to raise a child with visual impairment, they wanted Santosh to be educated, so enrolled him at the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in their district.

During his education and training at SSA, he heard that there were blind people who played cricket and this sparked his interest for the sport. Santosh heard about Eyeway through Hamari Vaani, an audio dissemination service for persons with disabilities. He contacted the Helpdesk to seek information on opportunities for people like him to play cricket. The Eyeway counselor informed him about Cricket Association for Blind in India (CABI) who select and coach talented visually impaired people to play at a state and national level. He was also advised to watch episodes of our TV series Nazar Ya Nazariya which talks about the importance of sports in the life of a visually impaired person. On heeding to the counselor’s advice, Santosh sent an application to the Bihar state branch of CABI and was chosen by the Selection Committee Chairman and four other members after monitoring his performance in various zonal matches. Recently, he had the opportunity to participate in the Induslnd Bank Nagesh National Cricket Tournament for the Blind held in Delhi.

Santosh expresses utmost gratitude towards the Eyeway team for helping him follow his passion. He feels excited when his sighted friends enquire about his selection process into the state cricket team. Santosh said that his parents and relatives use him as an example to motivate other visually impaired people to follow their dreams.

Denial of school marksheet

Rahul Kumar Yadav is a 19-year-old resident of Etawah, Uttar Pradesh. He is visually impaired since birth and has been dependent on his parents for daily navigation. He completed his education till Class 8 from a Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan identified school. Both his parents were farmers and it grew difficult for them to accompany him every day to school. Thus, he could not continue to study further than this.

Rahul contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk when he faced difficulty in obtaining his Class 8 marksheet as his teacher refused to provide him with the same. The counselor then consulted with the Basic Shiksha Adhikari of the Etawah district regarding this issue. The authority present there took note of the issue and contacted both Rahul and his teacher. The teacher was made to understand the relevance of issuing the school marksheet. Following this, Rahul was issued his marksheet. The counselor realised that Rahul was not independent and required proper training so that he continue with his studies. Thus, the Eyeway counselor took the initiative to convince Rahul’s brother and help him understand the importance of brother’s independence and apprised him of the various opportunities available to him. To instil a little self-confidence, the counselor suggested that he watch episodes of Nazar Ya Nazariya and advised him to join a rehabilitation training program in any organisations such as the Blind Relief Association, Rajasthan Netraheen Kalyan Sangh, Natya Kulam and Jayati Bharatam.

On following up, Rahul informed Eyeway that he will commence his training program at Jayati Bharatam from March 2019 and simultaneously continue his education from a mainstream school.

Opening up a new world of access!

A resident of Nanjangud city in Karnataka, Pooja is totally blind. However, she has not allowed her vision impairment to come in the way of her ambitions. She is a diligent student who performed exceedingly well in her Class 10 and 12 exams.

Pooja learnt to read and write Braille at an early age because that was her only means to access study material. Like a lot of visually impaired people, she was unaware of any other way of acquiring knowledge given her impairment. Pursuing her graduation in Commerce, Pooja often faced difficulty in accessing Braille books for her accounting syllabus. She called Eyeway seeking help.

Talking to the counselor, for the first time she realized that there were other accessible formats in which notes and books could be read by visually impaired people. She learnt about the online accessible libraries, Bookshare and Sugamya Pustakalaya. It was almost as if a new world had opened up for Pooja. What seemed to have been limited by Braille, now appeared limitless with technology. She soon switched to Daisy format of books for her studies. This also instilled in her, the confidence to fulfil her dream of becoming a Chartered Accountant (CA).

When she shared the same with Eyeway, our counselor apprised her of other visually impaired people who are successful practicing CAs today. Empowered with all information regarding accessible text books, online resources, ease of access through technology and inspirational stories of other blind people, Pooja is determined to work hard for achieving her goals.

Seeking assistance to further his ambitions

15-year-old Ajay Kumar was born blind in Sirsa, Haryana. His parents took him to various eye specialists with the hope of finding a cure. But the doctors told them that there were very low chances of restoring the boy’s vision. Ajay is now studying in Class 8 at the Helen Keller Blind School in Sirsa and is passionate about becoming a music teacher. Ajay’s father is a daily wage labourer and his mother is a housewife, who has been a constant support to him, encouraging him to be independent despite his inability to see.

Ajay found out about Eyeway from his friend and called up the Helpdesk to seek information on availing a free smartphone and a laptop from National Institute for the Visually Handicapped, Dehradun. He also wanted to know more details regarding purchasing a Braille Display device. He’d earlier acquired a Daisy Player from an NGO in Bangalore and he sought the counselor’s help in using the same. A Daisy Player is a digital audiobook that works as substitute for printed material. The Eyeway counselor cleared his queries by providing him with all the required information. While speaking to the counselor, Ajay also mentioned that he was looking for English speaking classes that will help improve his language skills. He was informed about an online English speaking course conducted by the Desai Foundation. Currently, he has enrolled for this course and has expressed his gratitude towards Eyeway for assisting him.

Knowing his banking rights

Rajaram Bishnoi from Nagaur, Rajasthan is a 41-year-old visually impaired person. He has a wife, a daughter and a son. Being visually impaired since birth did not stop Rajaram from completing his education and pursuing higher studies. He has a Bachelor’s as well as a Master’s Degree in Hindi. He is currently working as a second grade Hindi teacher in a school in Rajasthan.

Rajaram visited State Bank of India in order to open a bank account. However, the bank officials denied his right to open an individual account on grounds of visual impairment and was allowed to open one jointly with his wife. This resulted in him having to travel 12 kms from his home to the bank with his wife whenever any transaction had to be made. Moreover, he travelled on foot due to the roads being inaccessible to vehicles. Once his joint account became active, he requested the bank for an ATM card but he was denied once again. After being pushed around for three years, he realised that he was unaware on matters related to banking and what his rights were.

Rajaram found out about Eyeway through his friend Bhanwara Ram Bhambu with whom he had shared his banking issues. Bhanwara contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk expressing the challenges that his friend was facing with the bank, seeking a solution. The counselor informed Bhanwara about the RBI guidelines regarding the issuance of an ATM card and provided him with the same. This gave Rajaram the confidence to meet the Bank Manager and present the guidelines as proof. But unfortunately this did not change the Bank Manager’s stance on issuing him an ATM card and also refused to provide him the reason for denial in formal writing. After repeated visits to the bank, Rajaram was happy to inform the Helpdesk that his application was forwarded to higher authorities and will soon be provided with an ATM card. He expressed his gratitude towards Eyeway for educating him about his rights and giving him the support, he needed.

Coping with late blindness

27-year-old Minakshi Rawat, a visually impaired person is a resident of Faridabad, Haryana. She wasn’t blind by birth and completed her education from a mainstream school. She completed her graduation from Maharaja Dayanand Open University, Rohtak and went on to work as a Placement Coordinator and then a Sales Supervisor. After four years of working, Minakshi contracted a brain tumour and ended up losing her vision completely. The sudden loss of eyesight coupled with her loss of independence was extremely saddening for her. She did not know how to move forward, therefore, she sat idle at home for the next four years.

In 2018, Minakshi attended an interview held by Manipal Group through a CSR Recruitment Project. There, she was given Eyeway’s contact number in the hope that it would help her find a more suitable job. She then called up the Eyeway Helpdesk seeking information on various employment opportunities available to her. The counselor recognised that Minakshi lacked the basic skills required by a visually impaired person to carry out different tasks in any workplace. So, the counselor advised her to enrol in a computer training course simultaneously with mobility and orientation training. She was also apprised of various organisations that offer such training courses. The counselor also suggested that she watch episodes of ‘Nazar Ya Nazariya’ which is an Eyeway TV series that covers almost all important aspects that play a vital role in the life of a visually challenged person like education, employment, business, art, marriage, laws and rights alternatively.

On following up with her, Minakshi said that she is currently undertaking her training from National Association for the Blind, R K Puram, Delhi and has also started using a smartphone. She feels more confident and will soon begin looking for employment opportunities.

Seeking support to fulfil his ambition

Dinesh Wankhade, a 30-year-old visually impaired person comes from a village in Amravati district, Maharashtra. He was born with no vision and his parents were less hopeful about his future as they were unaware on how to raise a blind child. He began his education at the age of 4 in a residential school in Chikhaldara. However, he was brought back home when his parents realised that the school did not provide a clean and hygienic environment. A few years later, Dinesh was informed of a blind school within the Amravati district which provided a better educational environment as well as trained their students in music. His parents hoped that a career in music would back up as a profession for their visually impaired son if not anything else. But he was not able to continue further than Class 7 in the same school as they did not have the required facilities to teach. Following this, Dinesh had to shift between two more schools before he completed Class 12. He also faced difficulty with inaccessible study materials due to which he had cleared his Class 12 exams only on his second attempt.

Coming from an economically backward family, Dinesh faced financial constraints and had to pursue graduation through correspondence mode. He recognised that visually impaired people are seen as a liability to society and he wanted to change this mindset by serving his community through the public service sector. While pursuing graduation, he came to know about government jobs provided by the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) and decided to enrol in a coaching centre to prepare for the MPSC exam.

He contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk to seek information on how to purchase a Daisy player which would record his MPSC study material. But on further conversation with the counselor, he realised that he couldn’t even afford a Daisy player. Therefore, as an alternate solution the counselor apprised him of a group named ‘Yashowani’ from Pune which works for visually impaired people by providing audio study material free of cost. He was then guided by the counselor to view the list of books available to him through Yashowani and how to obtain them. While waiting for the required study materials to be couriered to him, the Eyeway counselor motivated Dinesh to do a focused self-study and start his preparation without further ado. We hope to help Dinesh all the way until he realizes his ambition.

Advising an appropriate course of rehabilitation

14-year-old Sajan Kumar was only three when he lost his vision following a brain fever. Sajan’s parents were not aware of how to raise a child with blindness and as a result, he became entirely dependent on his mother for daily needs. As a teenager, Sajan was unable to eat his food independently. He was living an isolated life tucked away from the outside world. Given his seclusion, Sajan didn’t possess any communication skills, worse he even suffered from a speech issue, unable to articulate his views very well. And recently when his mother passed away, Sajan’s father struggled between working and taking care of a dependent child. He sought help immediately.

In a chance meeting with Silver Linings CEO, who works with persons with disabilities including women and children, Sajan learnt about Eyeway. He was told to seek help from Eyeway counselors on rehabilitation.

Speaking to his father over a series of calls, Eyeway counselor realised that Sajan needed training for daily functioning and mobility. Simple solutions were suggested in response to complaints like his son was unable to eat food without spilling. The counselor introduced Sajan’s father to the idea of using shallow bowls which would be more convenient to eat from rather than a flat plate.

Sajan’s father was looking for some training for his boy so he could eventually become independent and employable. On probing further, and even speaking to Sajan himself, the counselor realised that even before he were put through any vocational or educational training, there was need for the boy to open up and communicate. Sajan told our counselor that alone at home he dances to the songs on radio. Music and dance give him joy in his otherwise dull life. So the counselor picked up on Sajan’s interests and suggested rehabilitative training at Natyakulam NGO in Jaipur, where they help visually impaired males overcome their inhibitions and build a personality through art forms like dance and theatre. Once Sajan learns to co-exist in a social set-up, he can pursue education or vocation of his interest.

Sajan’s father is extremely happy and relieved with both short term and long term solutions offered by Eyeway. He even sought help in acquiring Disability pension for Sajan to get some financial assistance in addition to his own income.

Regaining Independence

47-year-old Neetu Garg is a resident of Hapur, Uttar Pradesh. She was born without any sign of visual impairment and spent the first few years of her life like any other child. However, at the age of six, Neetu started facing challenges with her vision. On one particular day, Neetu found it difficult to play with her friends and rushed back home when she realised that she was losing her vision. She did not tell anyone about her problem but her behavioural changes came to her mother’s notice. Her mother then took her to a private clinic where she was diagnosed with Optical Atrophy, which is a condition that usually begins in childhood. The optic nerve is affected causing a slow deterioration of vision. She visited various hospitals with the hope that her eyesight can be restored but her efforts were futile.

While appearing for Class 10 Board exams, she was assigned to another centre to write her papers. During the exam, she faced difficulty in writing due to her limited vision and was suggested by the examiner to use a scribe for the remaining exams. But her family’s lack of confidence in her writing the exam with the help of a scribe and this resulted in her discontinuing further education. Neetu then decided to learn music for 5 years rather than sit idle at home.

She was then advised by one of her acquaintances to enrol at the National Association for the Blind (NAB), Hauz Khas to get some training. At the organisation, she was given a general training on computer, handicraft, massage, home science, English speaking skills and reading Braille. Along with this, she resumed her education from Class 10 in 2017 and is now studying in Class 12.

The Eyeway counselors at NAB have been regularly engaged with conducting training courses for the visually impaired and it was at the NASSCOM-NDLM certificate course in Hauz Khas where Neetu came in contact with our counselor. Here, she was taught how to use various mobile applications such as how to book an OLA or an UBER Cab, listen to songs on YouTube, navigate with Google Maps and Nearby Explorer, read using Smart Lens, socialise through apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp, use the mobile calculator and how to download songs and accessible study materials. This training paved way for her independence and motivated her to pursue higher studies.

Currently, she is enrolled in an advanced computer course at NAB, R K Puram under the supervision of the Eyeway counselors. She conveyed her aspiration to start a business as a masseur. On hearing this, the counselor apprised her on the various self-employment loans available under the MUDRA scheme that would financially aid her on this endeavour.