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.

Inflexible by conventions

Abdul Sattar 35 years old is a resident of Bijnor, UP. He is in touch with Eyeway since 2016. He has been calling Eyeway seeking employment opportunities. He belongs to a low income family, and is married with two daughters. His girls are I and 4 years old. Abdul is completely uneducated.

He remained unemployed and confined because of ignorance and unawareness. He assumed he had to lead is life based on charity and whatever support was provided by his family and society. He never thought of being self-reliant and independent. He lived on the meager income his wife could make by beedi making and selling which was a mere Rs.25 to Rs.30 per day.

After multiple interactions with Eyeway counselor Abdul started was encouraged to take up the job of a peon in a nearby school. But owing to some personal reasons he gave up the job within a month. On further probing our counselor understood that he was actually seeking a job for his wife and not for himself. During 2016 when he was in contact with Eyeway, the counselor guided him to the Panchayat of his village to avail employment under MNREGA. He resisted, coming up with excuses that such jobs are not suitable for a visually impaired person. But our counselor persisted and also communicated the need to assure Satar a job under MGNREGA to the Sarpanch of the village. The Sarpanch after his enquiry into Satar’s family informed the counselor that they possess the necessary documents but he is not ready to work on a follow-up call.

During the latest conversation with him, counselor suggested Satar to join Sunny Piplani’s sports goods manufacturing plant in Meerut as an alternative if he is reluctant to take up a job under MNREGA. We hope that we will be able to convince Abdul Satar to act towards becoming independent and self-reliant.

Relentless support for visually impaired

Elza Joseph who works with the NGO Pardada Pardadi Educational Society in Anoopshahar, UP contacted Eyeway on behalf of two visually impaired students. Both these children are blind by birth due to retinal detachment. The NGO caters to the needs of poor and disabled girls by providing them with accommodation, education, training and life skills.

Sneha is one among the girl children who is blind and has been in the care of the NGO. She has studied till 7th standard and now the NGO has been looking to put her in a school outside their guardianship. Also, Lalit an 11 year boy who is blind approached the NGO for assistance to start his schooling. Elza Joseph who works with the NGO connected with Eyeway for appropriate education assistance for both these children. Eyeway counselor suggested Elza to connect with an organization in Delhi called Silver Linings run by Preeti Monga who is herself visually impaired seeking assistance for Sneha. As for Lalit, our counselor recommended to get in touch with All India Confederation for the Blind (AICB).

On follow-up it was understood that Sneha joined Silver Linings while Lalit couldn’t join AICB since the project for the blind had recently terminated there. Eyeway suggested an alternative in Jayati Bharatam Lucknow, UP which also didn’t work out for Lalit due to distance and transportation issues. Lalit’s parents were not willing to send him away from home. Finally they themselves arranged for admission in Amar Colony Institution for the Blind, Delhi. His parents were relieved that they could put Lalit in the care of their relatives and family in Delhi. Unfortunately this also didn’t work out due to some age barriers set by the school.

Eyeway has been relentlessly trying to help out Lalit and has connected him now to National Association for the Blind, Meerut and is eagerly waiting for a response.

The enigma of inaccessible banks

Sangameshwar Sangundi is 20 years old. He is from Borati near Solapur in Maharashtra. He belongs to a low income family of five people. He is the eldest among three other siblings. He had normal vision till the age of 6 years until he contracted jaundice which adversely affected his eyes. As a result, cornea in one eye was damaged leading to a complete vision loss and he lost partial vision in the other eye. On consultation, the doctor suggested that the eye with partial vision could regain better vision in the long run. Doctor left eye operation as an optional decision to the family. They chose not to undergo the operation at that point.

His family was very supportive and never gave up on him. He was put to school for the first time at 8 years in Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Blind School, Solapur. There he studied till sixth standard. He always believed that he didn’t belong to a special school which made him shift to a mainstream school after sixth standard in 2012. At the same time he connected with National Association for the Blind (NAB), Solapur and took up vocational courses like candle making, chalk making, weaving chair, file making and book binding. He also started conducting training sessions for other trainees at NAB.

He stayed in NAB hostel while pursuing school in 11th standard and being a trainer there. He came to know about Eyeway through social media. Since then he has frequently connected to Eyeway over various issues like employment, scribe related guidelines, etc. He recently contacted the Helpdesk because he was facing denied an ATM card by Bank of Maharashtra. He applied twice or thrice but was rejected each time on grounds of his visual impairment.

On understanding his struggle the Eyeway counselor shared with him the IBA and RBI guidelines that specify the rules related to the issue. When he produced the circulars the bank authorities couldn’t deny him the service. But what turned out odd was the undignified treatment he was put to by the Bank Manager. The Manager himself took to verifying the disability of Sangameshwar by making him perform some accessibility tasks. He was asked to prove himself capable of using a mobile phone, internet facility etc.

It is not within the authority of the bank officials to resort to such acts and could become harassment in worst cases. Though Sangameshwar didn’t react contrary to what he was asked he surely felt insulted. Many similar discriminatory cases where visually impaired are denied services by banks have occurred and continue to occur. This is mainly because of the ignorance and unawareness on the part of the bank officials. Only proper training and knowledge dissemination can fix these problems and alter people’s mindsets towards disability.

Empowering by example

Sheru Patel a totally blind 24 year old man from Aurangabad, Maharashtra contacted Eyeway on behalf of two visually impaired students who are in his NGO’s care. Sheru is running an NGO called ‘Apang Bal Kalyan Bahuddeshiya Samantha’ in Aurangabad for visually impaired boys. The NGO caters to education, training and rehabilitation needs of the visually impaired poor and rural children.

Sheru became totally blind when he was 11 years old while studying in a mainstream school in Aurangabad.  He was prescribed treatment but it turned futile for him, rendering his eye condition incurable. Later with the support of NAB, Mumbai he gained vocational training to be an electrician. During the same time he finished his schooling.  It was his stint in Germany where he went for higher studies on a scholarship that changed his perspective entirely.  There he encountered with the struggles faced by visually impaired people leading him to decide to work more closely with them. This made him come back to India and start the NGO in 2013.

He called Eyeway seeking recourse for two students his NGO has been supporting for the last two years. Easwar Gaekwar pursuing his 9th standard and Gajanand his 12th standard are the two students, Sheru called for. These two students were denied scribe facility in giving their board exams. The school was unaware that visually impaired students could get such assistance. Eyeway counselor duly guided Sheru in finding the scribe related government document.

Sheru could make use of the document which was submitted to the school with the disability certificate of both the students. As a result, the school acknowledged the documents, allowing the students to give their exams using a scribe for assistance. Sheru called us back and shared his gratitude for the supporr provided by our Helpdesk counselor.

Woman with disability: How worse can it get?

Teena is 34 years old and an 80% visually impaired woman. She contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk from Hapur, Uttar Pradesh. She came to know about the Helpdesk from an acquaintance of hers. She belongs to a farmer family and she is youngest to two elder brothers. She experienced eye-related problems since birth and her vision kept deteriorating. She managed to study up till her MA in Sociology pursuing her education in mainstream institutions.

Immediately after studies she found a job of a playschool teacher and later worked in a financial company as a tele caller before she got married at 24 years. She lived with her husband and in-laws for ten years in Bulandshahr, UP before she was forced out of the relationship. The reasons were nothing new, neither to her nor to her husband’s family. They knew and had agreed to her significant health conditions before marriage. She had a pregnancy related health condition which left her incapable of conceiving alongside having a worsening eye-sight.

But in ten years the circumstances changed. She became a burden for her husband’s family on multiple fronts. The fact that she couldn’t bear a child, her vision kept deteriorating further, and she was financially dependent started to bother her in-laws. This made the family turn hostile towards her. She couldn’t understand the accusations because she hid nothing from her husband about her heath conditions. In fact, she gave up her job in the interests of her husband’s family.

Insensitive to her circumstances, they sent her back to her parents in Hapur. She contacted Eyeway in the middle of this crisis. She called us in fear and despair for her life ahead. Her major concern was financial independence which was not easy for a woman unemployed for the past ten years. Eyeway on comprehending her ordeal suggested her to upgrade her skills. For this the counselor suggested her to enroll for a Computer Training programme in Samarthanam Trust, Delhi.

She moved to Delhi in October 2017 and started living with her uncle’s family in Faridabad. She joined Samarthanam for the training and also found a job as a tele caller with a BPO in Okhla, Delhi. On Eyeway’s follow-up it was known that she is currently working and undergoing the training simultaneously but still remained unsure of her future. She shared her fears which are rooted in the biased social norms, like how can a woman survive with so many ‘limitations’.

Eyeway has put confidence into Teena to overcome the immediate phase of struggle and gradually take over her life. Our Helpdesk counselors will continue to be in touch with her to guide her to transition into a self-reliant woman once again.

Alleviating parents’ fears

6 year old Akhilesh (name changed) was born with normal vision into a low-income family in Cochin, Kerala. A tumor was detected in his eyes, when Akhilesh was only 7-months old. He underwent an operation for the same but unfortunately it resulted in complete loss of vision. His parents couldn’t come to accept their son’s vision loss and hopelessly persisted in seeking medical help to restore his sight. Social stigma and lack of awareness pushed them towards a state of denial and unacceptance.

One of their neighbors learnt about Eyeway in a local newspaper and apprised the parents of our Helpdesk service. When they came in contact with the Eyeway counselor, it took about five to six calls for them to open up with the concerns for their son. The counselor could assess how his parents were fearful and uncertain about Akhilesh’s future. Their fears turned them into being over-protective and guarded around him. Their absolute ignorance of the possibility of a life after blindness made them see nothing but a bleak future for their son. But over consistent engagement with the mother and the father, our counselor helped them understand of the practical difficulties Akhilesh could face later in life unless he was put on a path to rehabilitation.

Eyeway counselor apprised the parents of the need for Akhilesh to become independent and learn new ways of living life as a visually impaired person. The counselor also cited examples of other successful blind people who continued leading wholesome lives despite their disability.

Emphasizing on the need of a good education, when the counselor suggested that Akhilesh be enrolled in a school, his parents expressed fear of their child being bullied by strangers. The counselor addressed their fears and recommended admission in School for the Blind, Aluva. The counselor reassured Akhilesh’s parents by speaking to the Principal of the Blind School directly about their son’s admission. This helped in easing their anxiety and the parents became more receptive to the suggestions made by Eyeway. Akhilesh is all set on join the school in June 2018.

Addressing the gaps of implementation in government provisions

26 year old Ajay Sharma (name changed) was born as a sighted child to a farmer family in Solapur, Maharashtra. He has two elder brothers, one works as a telephone operator and the other repairs sewing machines. At the age of 4, Ajay was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa which led to a rapid vision loss, leaving him completely blind in a span of 6 months. His family turned hopeless from the time of Ajay’s diagnosis and showed no form of support in coping with his disability. Growing up as the only blind person in the house, Ajay experienced neglect, suffering at the hands of lack of awareness and sensitivity.

However, he managed to study in a blind school up till Class 5 and then went on to finish his education in a mainstream school. Given the lack of support at home, Ajay reached out to the National Association of Blind (NAB) in Solapur to further pursue vocational training in order to chart out a future for himself. At NAB, he underwent a candle-making course and is currently engaged in teaching other visually impaired students there. Ajay is also pursuing his first year of graduation, residing at NAB. He learnt about Eyeway listening to a radio promotion and connected with the Helpdesk in April 2017. As a frequent caller, Ajay has been assisted by Eyeway counselors on queries related to scribe guidelines, government provisions, employment opportunities and so on.

Ajay recently reached out to the Helpdesk once again to inquire about a State Transport concessions card. Eyeway counselor provided all the details related to the scheme including the process, mode and timelines of application. The counselor also shared with Ajay details of the Maha Seva Kendra, the concerned issuing authority for a State Transport card. But when Ajay visited their office, he learnt that even though the scheme had been announced by the government, the process of implementation had not yet begun. The office seemed unaware of the government declaration. Eyeway counselor then helped Ajay with an alternate online application process to secure the concession card. Following the procedure suggested by Eyeway, Ajay has finally managed to secure his transport card through which he can avail the concessions as a person with blindness.

A case of lost identity

25 year old Gopal Kulkarni (name changed) was born blind in Rui Talav village in Maharashtra. He is the third of the four children born to his parents, remaining three sighted. Gopal’s parents were deeply disappointed at the birth of a blind child and so they wanted to have a fourth child to make up for their loss. Given their lack of education and weak economic status, Gopal’s parents were unaware of the potential of a blind person and had no will or resources to invest in him. Under such unsupportive circumstances, Gopal started his education at the age of 8 in a special school in Yavatmal.

When he was studying in Class 6, his family decided to move to Telangana seeking better employment opportunities. Gopal was unwilling to move with them because he was wary of pursuing education in a new language at a later age. He wanted to continue his education in Marathi. Moreover his parents’ lack of interest in him led him to take a difficult decision to stay back in Maharashtra. Gopal moved in with his uncle and took admission in a blind school in Bhopoli village, Maharashtra. Unfortunately Gopal’s share of troubles continued as he faced bullying in his new school, forcing him to move out and relocate to Mumbai city. Here he finally took admission in Maratha Mandir Shala, a mainstream school. As a blind student Gopal needed help in pursuing mainstream education which was provided to him by National Association of Blind. With NAB’s continued aid and assistance, he managed to complete Class X scoring a 75%. Gopal is now pursuing his Class XI from Ruia College.

Gopal first connected with Eyeway in May 2017 on suggestion from one of his friends and since then he has been a frequent caller seeking resolutions on various issues. Recently, he called the Eyeway Helpdesk asking for help to rectify an error in his official records. He discovered that his name was misspelt in all his ID proofs following which he contacted the college authorities to make a correction. But he was turned down saying that the correction needed to be made in his school certificate as a logical course. When Gopal contacted Eyeway, our counselor suggested him to get in touch with the State Board of Secondary Education. The counselor also suggested him to furnish a copy of his Aadhar card as proof to ask for necessary changes in other official documents. That’s when we realized that Gopal’s name was misspelt on his Aadhar card as well. On persistently pursuing the issue, we discovered that his Disability Certificate carried all correct details and therefore it could be used as a basis for correction on other documents.

With help and support from Eyeway, Gopal has managed to submit an application at the Aadhar office to update his name and contact details on the basis of proof submitted in the form of his Disability Certificate. The application is under progress and once he receives his updated Aadhar card, Gopal would be easily able to rectify all errors on any other identity documents.

Raising awareness and sensitizing co-workers

42 year old Nilish works for the State Bank of India (SBI) in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. He was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at the age of 20 after which he underwent treatment for 3 years but to no avail. He gradually lost his vision completely. But despite his vision impairment, Nilish pursued his education in mainstream institutions and he earned a Masters in Political Science.

Nilish started off by working with Canara Bank as a Probationary Officer and moved on to join SBI in 2006. Acknowledging and rewarding his efficiency, Nilish was then promoted to the Administration Department of SBI. Over and above his regular function, he was also asked to conduct training for his peers, as part of a bimonthly Disability Sensitization workshop conducted by SBI for all its employees. When Nilish was first asked to impart training to co-workers, with an objective to sensitize his sighted and able peers, he reached out to Eyeway for help.  He contacted the Helpdesk seeking relevant resource material to aid in his training. Eyeway counselor not only lauded SBI’s initiative of sensitizing its sighted employees but also provided Nilish with adequate material that could help alter mindsets towards disability and persons with visual impairment. Our counselor shared with Nilish a 13 part video series called Nazar Ya Nazariya, each episode of which profiles successful blind people pursuing different lines of work despite their disability. The series also touches upon common themes like universal design, education, employment, relationships and so on. Apart from the videos, Eyeway counselor also shared various blogs and articles citing the Do’s and Don’ts of how to behave around people with visual impairment, how much and when to offer help and how to respond to their varied needs.

Nilish made efficient use of all the material provided by Eyeway in his training sessions. In a follow up call, he told us about the visible difference in the awareness levels of his co-workers.

Stranded by immediate blindness, rejuvenated by confidence

Manmohan Sharma (name changed) is a 20-year-old from Jaipur. He is living with his parents and elder brother. His father works as a Chartered Accountant, his mother a housewife and his brother doing the final year of his Chartered Accountant studies. Manmohan has done his schooling from CBSE board. It was while doing his 11th standard in school when he first encountered the vision condition which was later diagnosed as Retina Pigmentosa (RP). His eye condition eroded 75% of his vision. The news struck him with shock and the knowledge that it would leave him completely blind as he grew older was a bitter pill to swallow. He fell into depression and lost hope but his family was courageous enough to give all the support he needs. His brother gave him immense support in battling the challenges in his studies.

With the hands-on involvement of his brother, he completed the CBSE board exam with 89% marks. Manmohan’s brother helped him study by scanning the study material and offering whatever instructive help was required. Once he finished his schooling, like anyone else Manmohan also faced the challenge of how to go ahead with his career. While researching on opportunities available for the visually impaired, Manmohan stumbled upon Eyeway and the toll-free number. His brother connected with Eyeway seeking career guidance for Manmohan. On inquiry, it was understood that Manmohan was interested in studying commerce but was unsure about the future with his 25% vision. Eyeway counselor guided him right, inspired confidence and assured him of his equal chance in excelling in life. Eyeway counselor also suggested various aids and assistive devices he could use like daisy player for studies, a scribe’s help for writing exams and the website http://helpinghands.synezatechnologies.com/ on which he can register himself for the purpose of finding writers.

Eyeway counselor also put Manmohan in touch with Mr. Sameer Latey who is a Chartered Accountant who completed the course with only 15 percent vision. Now Sameer is a successful CA working with Reliance. Manmohan also wanted to know about the scope if he chooses any subjects from Arts stream for higher studies. He was also provided with the possibilities and challenges of it. On a follow-up call, it was understood that he got good guidance from Mr. Sameer Latey and thus decided to study Bachelor of Commerce from Jaipur University by correspondence. Manmohan also informed Eyeway that he had decided to prepare for his CA entrance exams.