A struggle for economic independence

25-year-old Abdul Kareem from Aluva, Ernakulum, is visually impaired by birth. Born into a lower middle-class family he faced multiple challenges growing up.  Abdul had to suffer at the hands of a complete lack of awareness of living life with blindness. His family’s financial condition and absence of proper education made matters worse.

From an early age Abdul had to overlook his dreams for his needs. Unfortunately, the needs of a disabled person remain to be isolated from the mainstream, adding to the plight of visually impaired people in the country. Abdul had to always make decisions in his life based on what was available to him as opposed to what he ‘wanted’.  For instance, during his school education, he had to give up his interest in Computer Science, because he was told that visually impaired students can’t work the machine and learn the subject. He had to choose Commerce instead, which wasn’t a subject of his interest. But Abdul overcame all such challenges in life by sheer determination to achieve success. After finishing school, he enrolled for BA in Economics and took up a sales job in a nearby electronics shop. The job helped him with some income in hand and acquiring a new skill.

After completing his graduation, Abdul joined the government’s Skill Development programme under the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Jan Kaushalya Yojana (DDUJKY) after which he found a job as a fulltime salesman. But with his first fulltime job, there opened a fresh set of challenges in his life. On one hand, it was the challenge of having to individually travel long distances to work and on the other, the lack of accessibility at the work space and adequate technology. These challenges forced him to resign in a year and this pattern repeated a few times hereafter.

Abdul contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk in in Little Flower Hospital, Angamaly, Kerala seeking help with employment opportunities. The Eyeway counselor connected him to the Special Employment Office in Ernakulum and helped him attend interviews with various companies. Though he appeared for several interviews, Abdul couldn’t find any job. Eventually he landed another sales job which he had to give up in a few months because of similar issues faced by him in the previous sales jobs. In all these jobs his accessibility needs or his misgivings were not addressed. Having struggled for so long, he decided to give up on the job-seeking exercise and instead start something on his own. He felt that starting his own business would ensure some stability his accessibility needs could be well provided for. So our counselor suggested a few workable options like applying for a loan from NHFDC, or seeking assistance from the Municipality office in his district for workspace on rent and so on.

Following our suggestions, Abdul Kareem has received a positive response from the Municipality office and is hopeful of starting a textile business of his own soon.