Denial of rights caused by ignorance

When coronavirus pandemic hit, 26- year old Babloo Kumar worked as a call center executive in Delhi. He enjoyed living independently and paying for his expenses with the monthly remuneration he earned.  This included visiting banks and withdrawing money from an ATM when needed.

Unfortunately he lost his job and was forced to return to his hometown in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. Here he visited the local public bank to open his savings account to enjoy hassle free banking services like he did back in Delhi. However, he was in for a rude shock when his bank refused to offer phone banking service or an ATM card. The officials said he was ineligible for such facilities as he was blind.

He tried hard to explain to the bank authorities that he was capable of using such services independently but the ignorant staff did not budge. Disappointed he reached out to Eyeway seeking help. They Eyeway counsellor in Delhi was quick to understand his issue and provided him with necessary RBI (Reserve Bank of India) and IBA (Indian Banking Association) issued guidelines citing that banks cannot deny service to anyone on the grounds of disability.

Despite being a graduate and a working professional contributing to the economy, blind customers like Babloo are denied banking rights-an essential service amid the pandemic crisis.

Babloo aspires to be a banker himself and is appalled at the lack of awareness on the rights of visually impaired people in the banking sector. To help him achieve his goal, Eyeway has also apprised him of various online classes and study material he can access to prepare for the banking examinations.

Babloo is hopeful that with more visually impaired people employed in the sector, current scenario will be replaced with increased awareness among the sighted people.

 

Re-kindling an old hobby

While on a regular visit to the hospital for an eye check-up, 33- year -old Sudheer learnt about Eyeway Helpdesk. When he contacted the Eyeway counselor in Kochi, his love for reading fiction was evident.

Sudheer was born sighted but gradually began losing his vision due to a degenerative eye condition. Despite his vision issues, he completed his Class 10 successfully. Due to financial constraints in the family he had to give up on his dreams of pursuing higher education and take up daily wage jobs.

After his marriage, Sudheer found great support in his wife, who started reading books to him again. However, he was keen to read on his own, without having to rely on anyone. Our counsellor informed him of assistive devices he could use to continue his passion for reading. He was guided to buy a smartphone and trained to use it with the help of screen reading software. He was also apprised on other special apps for audio books. Further, he was introduced to Kerala Federation for the Blind in where he could access his favourite Malyalam fiction books in audio format.

Sudheer is ecstatic to have found an independent way to pursue his passion for books and is grateful to the Eyeway team for guidance and support.

Learning the digital way

18-year-old Tirupati was born in Andhra Pradesh to poor parents. At an early age of 3, he lost his vision to an unknown medical condition. Lack of awareness on blindness and ways to raise a blind child, Tirupati’s childhood was a challenging one.

It was only after his family migrated to Maharashtra for work, Tirupati was admitted in a hostel for blind boys where he learnt mobility skills. After studying in the school till Class 6, he was then put into an inclusive school.

Through his school years, he learnt to operate computers with the help of screen reading software.

When he contacted Eyeway Helpdesk in Maharashta, he expressed his desire to own a computer and also to learn English speaking skills. Understanding his requirement, our counsellor informed him of various organizations in Delhi and Dehradun that provide laptops either free of cost or at a subsidized rate to blind students. He was also put in touch with a teacher who would provide him English classes free of charge.

He was further guided to buy a low cost android phone that would enable him to access free webinars and training classes offered by various organizations amid the pandemic crisis.

Presently a Class 9 student, Tirupati has access to the digital world from the comfort of his home.

Connected through technology

26-year-old visually impaired Bhuvanray Hardikar is a resident of Solapur, Maharashtra.  When the nationwide lockdown was imposed he suddenly found himself cut off from the world outside. A regular Eyeway client, he contacted Maharashtra Eyeway Helpdesk seeking status on the ongoing crisis. For the counsellor it was evident that Bhuvanray was anxious.

After probing further, he narrated his practical challenges preparing for his upcoming competitive examination. Born into a poor family with little resources, he had completed his Class X with great difficulty. Now pursuing Class 12, he is simultaneously trying for employment opportunities in the government sector. Given his age and family pressure to contribute to the household income, Bhuvanray found himself losing on the valuable time.

Understanding his challenges, Eyeway counsellor assured him of practical solutions to his issues. He was apprised on assistive technology like smartphone that could help gain knowledge from the comfort of his home. He was further guided to buy a low cost smartphone and trained to use it with inbuilt talkback feature.

With this new development, a whole new world opened up for Bhuvanray. With all academic classes going online, he can now stay connected with his college. He was also informed about various online resources where he can access study material for his examination.

Well-equipped to use the smartphone now, Bhuvanray has explored many digital platforms including social media and YouTube, to learn and stay connected amid the pandemic.

Eyeway believes that technology can be a great leveller in today’s digital world. Hence it is our constant endeavour to empower visually impaired people through usage of technology in their day to day lives, enabling them to live a more independent life.

Starting Over

Forty-year-old Gangadharappa lives in Chikkaballapur district of Karnataka. He worked as an Assistant Manager in a garment factory for fifteen years before a road accident in 2015 resulted in his vision loss.  This life-changing event left him unemployed and devastated. He struggled to come to terms with his loss of sight and remained confined at home for the next three years.

While jobless, he leaned on his savings to provide for his family. When the savings exhausted, Gangadharappa was anxious and on the lookout for any opportunity that would enable him to support his wife and two young children. Right then, he got to know about Eyeway through Namma Vaani -an audio service run for disabled people in Karnataka. Immediately, he contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk for support.

The Eyeway Helpdesk counsellor in Bangalore sensed his desperation to rehabilitate. During the next set of calls, Gangadharappa was informed on various possibilities of living a complete life with blindness. He was also encouraged to undergo mobility training. Basis his requirement, he was apprised on various loan schemes that he could avail from the Disability Welfare Department to set up a small business of his own.

Acting on the advice, he at once applied for a subsidized loan under Aadhar loan scheme and 5% reserved funds for Persons with Disability in 2018.

After a two-year-long wait and regular follow-up with the District Welfare Office, Gangadharappa was granted the loan amount and an android phone. The Eyeway counsellor then trained him on using the mobile phone with talkback feature and other assistive touch apps for android.

Gangadharappa’s determination and Eyeway’s support has resulted in a flourishing grocery shop and an independent life for him. His greatest satisfaction is that he can now provide for his family like earlier times.

 

NHFDC: Steps towards Empowerment and Economic Rehabilitation

By Manjima Biswas

The government has come up with multiple schemes over time to safeguard the inclusion and social well-being of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in India. The provision of equal opportunities to PwDs includes empowerment through livelihood options and viable opportunities for becoming economically self-reliant. To help this stance of economic rehabilitation of PwDs, an institution for expanding concessional credit towards self-employment opportunities and vocational training, National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC) was formed in 1997, under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

 

Objective of NHFDC/NHFDC Schemes

 

Through schemes like Divyangjan Swavalamban Yojana and the Microfinance Yojana, NHFDC aims to achieve the objective of empowerment of PwDs and their inclusion in the mainstream. To secure this, financial assistance through loans is the main objective. The other broader objective is to focus on overall development, skill building and assist with funds for general/professional/technical education or training. Through Microfinance Yojana, financial assistance upto Rs 50000 can be availed by the weaker section among PwDs to help with small income-generating initiatives. The Divyangjan Swavalamban Yojana allows an upper limit of Rs 50 lakhs as loan for business initiatives that aim at the growth and betterment of PwDs in any way.

Read more

Invisible Disabilities: Missing from any Discourse on Disability

By Shruti Pushkarna

Lately, I have found myself unwinding to reruns of old favourite TV shows (now easily available on OTT platforms). The extensive amount of work unleashed by the pandemic, both on the professional as well as home front, leaves me utterly exhausted. So I treat myself to a nightcap in the form of yesteryear soap operas.

An episode of Boston Legal, (an American legal drama series which first aired in 2004) resonated with my current stance on challenging stereotypes and perceptions, specific to disability.
Screengrabs from Boston Legal, Season 2, Episode 15 where the protagonist makes a case for a little girl who cannot smile after a car accident damaged her nerve. Read more

Sighted Confessions of a Visual-aholic

By Shruti Pushkarna

I’ve been writing this column for a little over nine months now. I have attempted to state facts, voice certain pertinent issues, identify gaps, highlight the absence of empathy and compassion towards anyone who is labeled as the ‘other’. I’ve even criticised the media for ignoring matters pertaining to persons with disabilities. So I thought it’s a good time to pause and ruminate on my own self. Point the finger inwards for a change.

Let’s rewind to 2016.

I’m a sighted person. Okay, I wear glasses but they enable me to interact fairly well with the visual environment. So technically I’m not blind. Back then, I knew almost nothing about living life with blindness. It’s safe to say I was ‘blind’ to visually impaired people’s needs, challenges, abilities, their coping mechanisms, their whole persona so to say. I simply viewed them as people with no ‘vision’. Read more

Babita Kumari Moharana

Babita Kumari Moharana is a visually impaired Eyeway Helpdesk Counselor at Score Foundation. She has completed her M.Phil in Political Science from Delhi University. Before joining Score she worked as a communications trainer with National Association for the Blind (Centre for blind women) and Enable India. In her spare time, Babita loves to go sightseeing and exploring new places. At Score, she is responsible for handling Eyeway Helpdesk calls and assisting blind and visually impaired callers.

Ritu Jain

Ritu Jain is a visually impaired Eyeway Helpdesk Counselor at Score Foundation. She comes with fourteen years of work experience from varied background. At score, she is responsible for handling Eyeway Helpdesk calls and assisting blind and visually impaired callers. When not working, Ritu loves to sing and makes new friends.