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.

Bhagyalaxmi

This is Bhagyalaxmi’s story. Bhagyalaxmi is a 57 year old woman with low vision associated with other medical issues namely neuro-muscular problems, diabetes, and depression. She is currently living alone in a government quarter in Delhi. She has no contact with her single brother who is her only surviving relative. She has been terminated from the office and living her life without any pay or financial gain.

She never got married on the pretext that her brother would arrange a suitable partner for her. She joined the Armed Forces Headquarters, Ministry of Defense in 1983, and has survived three road accidents which occurred in 1987, 1993 and 2005.  The accidents aggravated her health issues and furthered the feeling of helplessness due to lack of appropriate treatment and guidance.

Post the last accident in 2005, she was treated at a private hospital and informed her office about the fact. Since she was not treated at a government establishment she could not submit government Medical Certificate, due to which her absence was considered unauthorized. Furthermore, her office contested that due to her deteriorating eyesight, she was no longer fit to work on a computer.

As a result of this, a charge sheet was filed against her without considering second opinion about her medical condition, and she was terminated from her job. The walls caving in from all sides, namely disability, deteriorating health, financial & emotional insecurity prompted her to call the Helpdesk after listening to our radio show – Eyeway Yeh Hai Roshni Ka Karawan in October 2011.  We apprised her with relevant legal information in accordance with her case. Under Section 33 and 47 of PwD ACT 1995, she has the right to be reinstated and ask for suitable accommodation at her previous job. Equipped with legal information she pressurized her officer to send her for medical review in order to get a Disability Certificate. From here, the journey of advocating for her rights began. She approached many hospitals namely LNJP, AIIMS, RML and Safdarjung for a review of her medical conditions, and knocked the door of every government official from the chief minister to her MLA, she also wrote a letter to the then president of India in 2012 to get support or else permission for Merci- killing.

Her plight increased manifold in 2012 when the electricity supply to her house was officially cut off and the water supply stopped. This continued for almost one year. One cannot even imagine life without these two basic facilities in a city like Delhi. However, Bhagyalaxmi did not break under all this pressure; instead she stood up strong and continued her fight against the unfair government system. She faced series of discrimination from every avenue including CPWD, DESU, BSES Rajdhani Power Limited and NDMC. Thanks to her grit and determination the aforesaid problems were finally solved.

The Helpdesk has provided her constant support throughout this time. She has been provided with all relevant documents at her time of need. Our office staff has also made several home visits to deliver documents to her personally and also to provide assistance in household chores like cleaning and dusting. Because of the medical conditions she finds it difficult to perform household chores and moreover, she cannot afford domestic help.

Till date, the official matter is lingering on which has led her in to depression. In the absence of emotional, physical and financial support, she often cries out of helplessness. Considering these issues, two of our helpdesk counselors visited her in 2013 and discussed the plan for future action which she might need to take. We observed that her living quarters were in serious need of renovation as naked electric wires were hanging everywhere and the cement was falling from the ceiling. All these things are very risky for her life as she is staying all alone.

We struggled to convince her to renovate. We even suggested various options to make her living place clean and safe. With her consent, someone from our office helped her in house cleaning and assembling of loose electric wires. Since a couple of years, she has been running around hospitals for medical review to get a Disability Certificate. Finally after a lot of struggle, she was assessed by the medical board in the latter half of 2013. However, she was not informed about the communication that happened between the medical board and her office.

With our assistance, she filed an RTI to the medical board and got a copy of the communication that took place between both the departments. The Medical board’s report stated that she had been diagnosed as having 40 % disability of visual impairment and suggested her office that as per the section 33 and 47 under PwD Act, she be reinstated.

This finally gave her the assurance that she will soon be reinstated.  After so many years of struggle, she can finally envisage a better quality of life.

Our next step was to address her emotional instability. Thus, with her interest in mind we suggested her that going to Dr Achal Bhagat for counseling and treatment can be helpful for her.  She took this positively and visited him, where she was diagnosed with depression and finally put on medication.

Now, she is hoping for better times to come back in her life and as a passionate learner, she wants to learn computer with screen reading software. She is also willing to narrate the plight of her life to the current President of India so as to highlight the deplorable status of single blind woman in India.

Munna Kumar Shah

24 year old Munna Kumar Shah has been living with blindness for 10 years now, due to Retinitis pigmentosa. Since the death of his parents, he has been shuffling between his elder brothers houses. One of his brothers lives in a village in the Saran district of Bihar, while the other stays in Delhi. He frequently travels from one to the other with the help of an escort. He spent his days, without any hope of ever being independent or resuming his education. He seemed to have resigned himself to the situation.

Upon listening to the Eyeway Radio show he called up our helpdesk. He spoke of helplessness as his brothers were not interested in investing in his education, employability or independence. Since both his brothers did not have a clue about life with blindness, they were often ignorant of his needs. He wanted guidance regarding education and training. We informed him that education and training were very much possible even without financial assistance from his brothers.

We told him about open schooling, mobility training, and about technologies such as Braille, Screen Reading Software etc used by visually impaired people to become more independent in their day to day lives. He enlisted our help in locating services in Bihar as he wanted to stay close to his familial roots. However thorough research revealed that there are currently no options for rehabilitation of a 24 year old school drop out in Bihar. Considering his needs and financial constraints we put him in touch with Jayati Bharatam in Lucknow.

However, he was reluctant to move to Lucknow and instead decided to come to Delhi. Since he was still looking to do something, we put him in touch with BRA in Delhi. Due to lack of support from family, the decision proved difficult. He wanted to stay in a hostel, however he feared that his brothers would sever all ties with him upon leaving home. We counseled and motivated him to enroll himself in a training as a stepping stone towards realizing his dreams.

We are happy to report, that he has finally enrolled himself in BRA for mobility and vocation training. He admits that his life is much better, now that is not sitting idle at home. He has found meaning in life. We have also informed him of the upcoming NIOS admission for class 10th, and we hope that he goes on to complete his education and live a meaningful and independent life.

Sanjog Kumawat

In mid July 2012 we received a call from Dr. Bharti Kumawat of Surat regarding her 18 year old son Sanjog Kumawat. The son of doctor parents had been a bright student and was doing very well at a private CBSE school till 2011. At the time he was preparing for competitive exams in order to study medicine after class 12th.

Since birth Sanjog could see only out of his left eye due to retinopathy of prematurity, this was  however enough for him to function independently. In class 11th he suffered retinal detachment in his functional eye, and consequently he was left with eyesight that could read font size as big as the name on a newspaper masthead that too from a very close distance.

After almost a year’s break in 2012, when his parents started exploring possibilities for continuing his education, the school principal raised concerns regarding how Sanjog would continue his school work as he was not able to see enough.  Since the school principal had no information on educating a blind child, nor was he interested in finding out, he simply asked the parents to shift Sanjog to a special school for blind children. While exploring the internet for information on educating a blind child, Dr. Bharti landed on our website – www.eyeway.org from where she got our Helpdesk number and called us.

We told her about the notifications by CBSE to all its affiliated schools, which clearly stated that they cannot deny admission to children with vision impairment. We also provided needed support for Sanjog’s studies and examination including science and maths. For him to adapt to the revised situation, we also educated Bharti about the newer ways of reading and writing using computers with screen reading and magnification softwares like JAWS, NVDA and Zoomex. We also apprised her of study material in accessible format including audio books, Braille books, E-text books. We along with NGOs like NAB, Saksham in Delhi and XRCVC in Mumbai, then put her in touch with a class 12 CBSE science student from Delhi who is totally blind and doing quite well in school.

The principal of the school was still resistant in spite of clear directions by CBSE. With the efforts of Dr. Sam Tarapurwala from XRCVC-Mumbai to whom we referred Sanjog’s case, Sanjog could rejoin his school in class 11th once again.

The timely intervention helped Sanjog move on in life without wasting too much time. He learnt to use screen reader enabled computer and took all his exams including class 12th CBSE board exams on his laptop and scored 76%.

However the road to board exams was littered with another set of challenges. CBSE had earlier refused to let Sanjog appear for his board exams in his examination centre at Surat. A 2012 CBSE circular stated that visually impaired candidates using laptop had to take their exams at a CBSE regional centre, which in this case was Ajmer. Since Ajmer was quite far from Surat, both his school and the Eyeway helpdesk rallied around him, and a talk with the CBSE heads by Eyeway meant that he could finally sit for his exams in Surat.

Dr. Bharti cheerfully acknowledged and thanked Eyeway as being a great help in showing her a ray of hope for her child’s future. She acknowledged that the right kind of information and guidance at the right time helped her to look beyond despair and take swift action.

Sunjog is not a confident outgoing boy. After scoring 76% in 12th he went on to attend a rehabilitation course from NIVH Dehradun which was suggested by one of our referrals. The earlier home-bound Sunjog now travelled alone from Dehradun to Mumbai to take admission at Saint Xaviers College for his graduation. With our time-to-time motivation and guidance coupled with the family’s own efforts Sunjog is now a happy young man who has many dreams and aspirations for his future. His mother has also gained confidence from this experience and doesn’t ever feel that her child is all that different from sighted children.

Mahesh Narasimhan

Mahesh Narasimhan, a 35 year old resident of Delhi having ten per cent vision got in touch with the Score Foundation in 2014. He had been called for an interview as part of the admission process to the Executive MBA programme at the prestigious Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), University of Delhi. Despite having cleared the written aptitude test and performed well in the interview, he was not offered admission. The misinterpretation of the Persons with Disabilities Act (1995) emerged as a stumbling block in this situation.

As per the Act, at least 3 per cent reservation should be offered to persons with disabilities. The Score Foundation encouraged Mahesh to stand up for his legal rights and engage with the Office of the Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) in this regard. Mahesh made a representation to the CCPD, which then took appropriate action by sharing a letter with the Registrar of the University of Delhi.

After taking consistent action to fulfil his dreams, Mahesh was finally granted admission to FMS in August, 2014. Despite the fact that he joined classes two months after the other students, he went on to achieve the 5th rank in the first semester examinations. The cherry on top of the cake is that he also topped the entire programme and received the gold medal. Mahesh’s story shows us that when you go on an all-out campaign towards achieving your dreams, nothing is impossible.