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.

Finding the path to become independent

The discrimination against blind and visually impaired children starts right from their homes. Considered of no value by their parents, they are hardly invested into. And attention and preference is often given to their sighted siblings.

 
Growing up 22-year-old Bheem suffered the same fate. Born into a financially disadvantaged family in Bihar, he lost his vision while studying in Class 8, forcing him to drop out of school. His parents were not as supportive and only provided for his basic daily needs. This indifference towards Bheem pushed him to explore employment opportunities to fend for himself at an early age. But with no education and no vision, he failed at finding an appropriate job for himself. So when he heard about the Eyeway Helpdesk two years ago, he immediately called the toll-free number seeking information on job vacancies in his state.

 
Aware of the challenges faced by a visually impaired person and understanding his need for employment, the Eyeway counsellor suggested Bheem to enrol for Class 10 through open school. Explaining the importance of education for visually impaired people, he was apprised of requirements of the job market. He was given various study centre options in his state to aid him in preparing for the exam. Paying heed to the counsellor’s advice, he successfully completed his Class 10.

 
Bheem wanted to study further so securing a job would become easier. He wanted to know if it was compulsory to take up English as a subject in Class 12. The Eyeway counsellor sensed the apprehension in his voice and encouraged Bheem to speak about it. We then learned that appearing for his Class 10 board examination, he had found it difficult to find a scribe for English subject. Despite the scribe guidelines issued by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) which state that students with visual impairment can take a scribe of any age or qualification, many schools and colleges in rural areas still do not adhere to these rules and only allow a scribe of a lower grade, forcing children like Bheem to compromise on their education. Uncomfortable with the English language, his scribe had failed at doing a good job barely managing to pass the subject with grace marks.

 
Not wanting to go through the same experience, Bheem had made up his mind to give up English as a subject entirely. It was after much assurance by the counsellor that he agreed to pursue his Class 12 with the subject. The counsellor also stated the essential requirements of English language in learning computers and acquiring a decent job. He was further encouraged to enrol for online English classes offered by an organization free of cost in Mumbai.

 
The Eyeway intervention has helped Bheem pursue his Class 12 and work on his English speaking skills. We hope he finds a suitable employment opportunity soon.

From self-doubt to self-discovery

Born sighted into a middle-class family, twenty-three-year-old Anil Mhaske from Paithan, Aurangabad gradually began to lose his sight at the age of four. He was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder of the eyes that causes loss of vision. His parents, however, enrolled him in a mainstream Marathi medium school.

 
At school, Anil found it difficult to see the blackboard but his teachers and classmates would assist him at all times. With the help of family and teachers in school, Anil cleared his Class X with merit. He went on to complete his Masters in Commerce from Deogiri College in Aurangabad in 2018, where too his teachers were very supportive.

 
Like any other youngster, Anil was left confused about his choice of career after completing his education. One day when he heard about Eyeway’s national helpline for the blind on radio, he immediately reached out to our Helpdesk to seek career guidance.

 
Despite his interest in becoming a Chartered Accountant, he was skeptical if he could take it up due to his vision loss. To clear his doubts, the Eyeway counsellor shared stories of visually impaired people who were successful Chartered Accountants and also connected him to a well-known CA for further counsel. He was also motivated to prepare for the upcoming CA Foundation entrance examination. The Eyeway counselor also suggested him various screen reading software and applications for his use. He was apprised about various organizations in Mumbai where he could undergo an advanced computer and mobility training to become independent so that he can function without having to rely on the assistance of others.

 
With Eyeway’s intervention, Anil is now confident to pursue his dream and is preparing for the entrance examination due in mid- November.

A new start with many possibilities

21-year-old Loknath hails from Durg, Chhattisgarh. Born blind by birth into a poor family, he managed to study only till class 8 through Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, Government of India’s flagship programme making education free and compulsory to children between 6 and14 years.. With SSA’s special focus on education of children with special needs, he was able to learn braille during his time in the school.

 
Despite Loknath’s desire to study further, he was denied admission by every school he approached citing lack of seats or resources to teach visually impaired students. Due to the sheer lack of awareness and ignorance by people around him, he was forced to give up and sit at home for the next 7 years. Luckily, a few months ago he heard about Eyeway Helpdesk on Hamari Vaani, and without wasting more time he dialed the toll-free number to seek information on training and job opportunities.

 
On his conversation with the counsellor, Loknath shared that he always believed that he was capable of doing everything like a sighted person could do. But because his family had no awareness on provisions for people with blindness/ vision impairment, he was not able to pursue his dreams so far. He also spoke about the plight of many young girls and boys with blindness known to him who continued to live in darkness and sought help for them too.

 
Understanding his needs and a keen interest in starting his life all over again, Loknath was immediately apprised about various laws and provisions for persons with blindness. To help him reorient to normal life, the counsellor suggested a one-year training programme at Delhi’s National Association for the Blind, where he would learn life skills, mobility, basic computers using assistive technologies like smartphone, making him employable in future. He was also advised to enrol through open schooling to complete his Class 10 and 12.

 
Eyeway team has already helped Loknath enrol in the one-year training course from Delhi’s National Association for the Blind that begins in January 2020.

A new beginning

33- year-old Sant Lal Paswan contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk out of desperation in June, seeking employment opportunities. He had heard about Eyeway on radio. Growing up in West Bengal’s Bardhaman district, Sant Lal had struggled since early childhood to see clearly and had somehow managed to get by in school. However, in Class 12 when his vision deteriorated further, his visit to the local eye hospital revealed that due to retina damage he had lost 75% of his vision, which was irreparable. While he was handed over a disability certificate, no further information was given to him on how he could live his life with vision impairment.

 
After clearing Class 12 without using scribe facility, Sant Lal tried his hand at various competitive exams but failed to clear any. Due to his vision impairment, he was rejected from every = job he applied for. This eventually led him to believe that he could do nothing, confining him to his home for the next fifteen years. He is dependent on his father, who sold milk for a living and his three brothers who are daily wage labourers.

 
Understanding his state of desperation and accumulated frustration from years of dependence, the Eyeway counselor assured him that it was possible to take up any job after undergoing a computer training that was a prerequisite for jobs relevant to him. Unaware of screen readers and other assistive technology, he wondered how he could do a computer course without seeing clearly. As he was dependent on his family, he also constantly worried about the expenses he would have to bear to go through any training programme. Over the next few calls, our counselor apprised him of various training options provided free of cost in different cities by various organizations. He was counseled and encouraged to enrol in an organization of his choice and travel out of his hometown for better opportunities. Sant lal was also advised to undergo a vision assessment test.

 
Eager to start his life afresh, Sant Lal was ecstatic when he received a confirmation call from Samarthanam Trust in Delhi, where he will receive a three-month computer training along with a hostel accommodation. From being skeptical, he turned optimistic through his constant conversations with Eyeway. He was further encouraged to enrol into higher education through open schooling.

 
Calling Eyeway Helpdesk on the first day of his computer training at Samarthanam, a happy and confident Sant Lal expressed his gratitude to the Eyeway team for showing him the path to an independent and dignified life.

Empowering through meaningful interventions

Diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at the age of 6, Shobha Patil from Gadag district of Karnataka is left with only 25% vision. Rising above her disability, she continued to study and completed her Master’s degree in Commerce.

 
Shobha, who is now 31 years old aspires to work and become financially independent, but her family is adamant to only let her work in government sector jobs.To make the most of this opportunity, she started to look for coaching centers that cater to people with vision impairment. On a friend’s recommendation, she contacted Eyeway Helpdesk in August to seek help with her search.

 

Fortunately for Shobha, around the same time our partner organization- Enable India in Bangalore was conducting ‘Aptitude Training for Competitive Exams’, a training for visually impaired preparing to write government employment exams. The Eyeway counsellor apprised her about the training and motivated her to shift from her city to avail the benefits of these classes.

 
The only challenge was now to convince her family to support her decision so she could pursue her dream of becoming financially independent. Trainers at Enable India counselled her family and demonstrated to them how visually impaired people were leading successful and independent lives in various parts of the country. The collective effort of the counsellors and trainers paid off and she came to Bangalore to complete the training.
After recently writing an exam, a very happy and confident Shobha shared, “I had very little confidence when it came to doing mental calculations. Seeing all my peers do the same with ease, inspired me to learn how to do it. Also, in my earlier attempts, I had scored nil in English. But after this training, I am confident that I will score at least the cut off marks in the upcoming exams.”

Barrier free life with assistive technology

Forty-year-old Suresh Yemekar is a visually impaired person from Nanded city of Maharashtra state. After losing his vision at the age of fifteen due to Retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder of the eyes that causes gradual loss of vision, he had to drop out of school. His family was indifferent to him and did little to help him become independent. Despite being considered useless by the family, Suresh never gave up and believed he could still function like other sighted people. At the age of 22, he enrolled at an employment exchange and was selected for a government job as a telephone operator.

 
With limited vision and having received no rehabilitation or training, he struggled with his work. Determined to overcome these challenges, he adopted various techniques to cope at his workplace. However, he was still dependent on his colleagues to read office related documents or notices. Apart from office work he had difficulty in identifying currency or exploring new places and markets.
So when Suresh heard about the Eyeway toll-free number for the blind a couple of months ago, he called up immediately to know how he could use his smartphone to work and live more independently. The Eyeway counsellor learnt that he was already using a few apps which had not been of much help to him. Understanding his needs, the counsellor apprised him of various mobile apps like Kibo, that reads and translates printed/handwritten/digital text across 100+ languages in real-time via audio. He was also informed about accessible GPS apps that make it easier for blind people to move around on their own.

 
This information has proven to be life-changing for Suresh. He can now access all printed and handwritten documents without having to rely on his colleagues. He also shared that he now visits markets independently and uses apps to identify currency while shopping for his groceries. Very recently when his three-year-old son needed help with his homework, he was able to do so by taking a photograph of the textbook and then reading it with the help of screen reading software, something that he had not been able to do before.

 
These recent developments have inspired Suresh to organize a training programme in his city with the help of a local NGO to impart the same information to other visually impaired people. Suresh is grateful to Eyeway team for guiding him to lead a more independent and confident life.

Paving way for a bright future

Yogesh Kad suffered from the rare Stevens-Johnson syndrome leading to vision loss. His middle class family approached various good eye hospitals for his treatment but to no avail. Since the mainstream school was ill equipped to teach a visually impaired student, he had to drop out of school. He took a one year break to learn braille and enrolled in a special school for the blind in grade 6. After finishing grade 8, he decided to directly appear for Class 10 exam through National Institute of Open Schooling.

Growing up Yogesh did not see blindness as a deterrent, he learnt mobility on his own. He was always surrounded by sighted friends who helped him write his exams and read out notes for him. This helped him to successfully complete his Bachelor’s in Computer Applications. It was only when he could not pursue his Masters due to financial crisis that Yogesh found himself at a loss of information on advanced courses and while researching online, he got to know about Eyeway.

The Eyeway counselor suggested him alternate ways of pursuing his interest which would also make him employable. Once he started with his free advanced online computer training, he realised that he needed to work on his communication skills. On contacting Eyeway again, other alternate options were suggested to him.

Yogesh is now confident that with these skills he can pursue his interest in computer operating jobs.

Vision comes with determination and the right mindset

While he was still a student of grade 12, Monu Kumar heard about Eyeway in a message broadcast on All India Radio. Little did he know that one day Eyeway would become a source of constant support and guidance for him.

Monu first experienced vision issues when he was in grade 6. He was harrowed by the feeling that he was unable to see clearly after sunset. As a result, he started confining himself to his house in the evenings. On knowing about this development, his family got him a Disability certificate so that he could avail scribe facility for his board examination.

With family’s support, he overcame his limitations and went on to complete his undergraduate degree in Economics. He also successfully cleared the Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) and secured a school teacher’s job in Bihar.

As life seemed to get smooth for Monu, one unfortunate day at the school, he lost his vision completely. With his sight, he lost hope too. He became completely dependent on others for assistance. His confidence levels dropped drastically and he began to suffer a deep sense of inferiority. His colleagues at school undermined his ability to be able to independently teach his class given his blindness.

Desperate for help, he contacted Eyeway. Our team counselled him by citing examples of people who were completely blind in teaching profession using technology as a medium to be at par with their sighted colleagues. He was introduced to various assistive technology devices that would enable him to teach his class independently.

On Eyeway’s advice he has undergone mobility and computer training. He has also learnt how to use a smartphone using the talk back feature that has helped him greatly. All these new developments have brought back his lost confidence. Now 28 years old, Monu shows extraordinary determination to stay at par with his contemporaries in school.

Getting back to normal life

A road accident in 2015 changed Sarath Krishnan’s life forever. A commerce student of Class 12, he was out for a fun ride with one of his friends. Sarath lost 65% of his vision and after spending nearly six months recovering in the hospital, he was handed over a Disability certificate without any further information on how he could live his life with blindness. With little acceptance of his vision loss and no reorientation, Sarath dropped out from school and sat idle at home for the next four years.

Coming from a financially poor background, Sarath did not want to be a burden on his parents who were daily wage labourers. He wanted to restart his life and become independent once again. But he did not know how. He reached the Eyeway Helpdesk on the recommendation of his eye doctor in the Little Flower Hospital in Angamaly, Kerala.

After understanding his need, the Eyeway counselor suggested him to undergo six-month rehabilitation training in a Kerala based non- profit organization, Ability Foundation. Here he learnt mobility skills, coping with basic daily needs as well as how to use computer with the aid of screen reading software. The Eyeway counselor also encouraged him to complete his class 12 through distance learning. Sarath plans to use his newly acquired computer skills to study for competitive examinations that will help him with government job opportunities. He aspires to become financially independent and support his parents and younger brother one day.

 

Overcoming limitations

20-year-old Garv Sabharwal has been mostly dependent on his mother for decision making in every aspect of his life after he lost his vision in grade 6. With the guidance from National Association for the Blind (NAB), his parents were able to apply for a Disability certificate that helped him complete his Class 12 from a mainstream school. At NAB, he also underwent a basic computer training and a short advanced programme.

Born into a middle class family, his mother, a homemaker has left no stone unturned to visit every organization working with the blind to help her son live an independent life. She heard about Eyeway during her visits to other organizations and brought her son along to meet with the Eyeway counselors in Delhi so he could receive career guidance and valuable inputs from the team.

During the interaction with Eyeway, it was found that despite pursuing his Bachelors from a mainstream college, and surrounded by sighted people, Garv lacked confidence to make friends or interact openly with his classmates. Stigmatized by his disability he had low self-esteem that prevented him from exploring opportunities independently. He wanted to pursue a career in technology but was unsure on how to move forward.

On realizing the need for an intervention, Eyeway counselor apprised Garv about Nazar ya Nazariya series that showcases life stories of successful people living with blindness. This helped boost his confidence, shifting the focus on his abilities. He was also advised to subscribe to accessible online libraries and news portals to remain updated on the latest study material and news that would help him pick conversations with peers. In addition, he was advised to participate in a series of theatre workshops that would help in overcoming his fear of interacting with people. He was connected with a technology expert, Mr. Prashant Ranjan Verma, General Secretary of National Association for the Blind, Delhi to get guidance on various opportunities and new accessible technologies that can help him pursue his interest without any apprehensions.

Paying heed to the counselor’s suggestions, Garv is taking baby steps to integrate into a social life and overcome self -imposed limitations to live a fulfilling life.