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.

Can Technology Solve the Scribe Challenge?

Visually impaired people are known to use Braille script for reading and writing. They also use computers, smartphones, or other assistive devices for the same. In fact, many blind people don’t know Braille but they are well-versed with technology. But the general perception remains that a blind person cannot read or write in a mainstream format. Hence, there are provisions mandated by law to use a scribe to appear for examinations.

How easy is it to avail the services of a scribe? Are schools, colleges and official authorities aware of the guidelines to provide a scribe for a visually impaired student or even a job aspirant?

Twenty-one-year-old Manmohan Singh from Gonda, Uttar Pradesh could not appear for his Class X examination because his school officials were neither aware of the rules nor did they act in time.

Manmohan studied from an inclusive school which did not seek prior approval from the state board to provide him with a scribe. As a result, he was not issued an admit card. When Manmohan contacted Eyeway for help, the counselor shared a scribe form to be approved by the Principal. Once signed by the school authority, it would enable him to engage a scribe to write his exam. But the principal ignored it and Manmohan lost an academic year.

Educational institutions in various parts of the country also fail to provide study material that is accessible to blind students through audio output.

Twenty-year-old Jeel Kakkad is a first year B. Com student in a Mumbai college. As a person with low vision, she contacted Eyeway to seek help with the inaccessible study material and arranging a scribe.
The counselor asked Jeel to get her syllabus in a PDF format which could then be converted into audio recordings for her to study independently. She was also put in touch with a few organizations that provide scribes to students like her.

Blind people appearing for competitive exams to seek employment also face the scribe challenge. Thirty-seven-year-old Namratha Rajwani from Hyderabad acquired blindness later in life. She was unfamiliar with how and where she could seek assistance. Unable to arrange a scribe herself, a week before her exam for a job selection, she contacted Eyeway. Luckily the counselor could help source one for her in a short span of time.

Technology has bridged the gaps of access between the sighted and the blind world, in a lot of ways. In this increasingly digital world, shouldn’t it be mandatory to impart computer training to visually impaired students from an early age, so that they can access mainstream education and employment opportunities seamlessly?


Undeterred by Sight Loss

Twenty-one-year-old Hanumesh was born blind to a low-income family in Raichur district of Karnataka. His parents were unable to educate the three children with their daily wages. But Hanumesh was lucky to be enrolled in a special school for the blind, for free.

Both his sighted brothers left home, to fend for themselves. Seeing his parents struggle and only his disability pension to offer, Hanumesh yearned for a job to support his family. At school, he learned about Eyeway in a workshop conducted by partner NGO, EnAble India.

He called the Karnataka Helpdesk, curious about job opportunities. Since he had finished Class X, the Eyeway counselor recommended finishing school and then aiming for college education. This would brighten his job prospects and also open up government job options based on different criteria.

Following the counselor’s advice, Hanumesh successfully cleared Class XII and applied for the post of Junior Assistant in the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited. He has been shortlisted and is currently preparing for the written examination.

He has also enrolled in a government college in Raichur to pursue his graduation. He was encouraged by the Eyeway team with the promise of all support in terms of a scribe, accessible study material et cetera.

Loss of sight has not deterred Hanumesh to envision an independent future where he can not just take care of himself but also his family.

Rights Denied

Thirty-one-year-old Munna Nayak is a resident of Cuttack district in Odisha. He lost his eye sight at an early age but was able to pursue his education in a special school for the blind. Due to financial constraints, Munna had to give up studies after Class X and start a small business to sustain the family. He sold small items like mobile cases, key chains et cetera but his source of livelihood was adversely affected by the pandemic.
Two years later when things began to settle down, he thought of setting up a cosmetics shop, and applied for a loan of INR 50000. The nationalized bank denied his request on grounds of blindness, contrary to the equal rights of banking mandated by law for all persons with disabilities.

Eyeway contacted National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC), a company set up by the Government of India to provide financial assistance for income generating activities to disabled people. A circular issued by NHFDC was shared with Munna, asking him to submit a copy to the bank. When the application was rejected, Eyeway pursued NHFDC officials to issue a letter to the bank instructing them to process the loan request. But our efforts yielded no results.

Another visually impaired person from Rajasthan applied for a home loan with the bank where he held his salary account. Prakashchand, a government school teacher was also denied the loan due to his lack of sight. And this was not the first time he faced rejection from the bank authorities. His request to issue an ATM card was denied previously. Eyeway shared the RBI and Indian Banking Association’s guidelines that mandate extension of all financial extensions irrespective of disability.

Prakashchand pursued the matter with his bank but the officials refused to comply. Munna and Prakash are not alone in this fight against discrimination. The Eyeway Helpdesk receives similar calls from across the country where time and again visually impaired people are denied their banking rights. While few are lucky to find resolutions, for most it’s an arduous battle.

Bridging the Gaps in the Path to Independence

Twenty-two-year-old Basavaraj was born blind to a poor family in Bijapur district of Karnataka. His parents who worked as daily wage labourers, couldn’t afford educating their children. But as the only visually impaired child among four siblings, a relative suggested his parents enroll him in a special school.

After successfully completing Class X and XII, Basavaraj aspired to get a job so he could contribute to the family income. The lack of job opportunities for visually impaired people demotivated him. For two years, he kept trying to apply for government reserved jobs. Since he was dependent on sighted people in the cybercafé for the application, he would often face problems and end up with errors in submission.

Luckily, Basavaraj heard about Eyeway from Namma Vaani platform, an audio-based social media platform that supports the needs of persons with disabilities through ideas, stories and opportunities sharing. He called the helpline enquiring about job opportunities. He also shared his bitter experiences about the lack of support for people like him and how many others faced the same issues in rural parts of the state.

The Eyeway counselor was quick to connect him with Udyog Mitra, a platform created by visually impaired volunteers who provide public job notifications and also help blind and visually impaired candidates apply for these positions. As a result, Basavaraj was able to apply for a Multi-Tasking post at Employees’ State Insurance Corporation. He is now awaiting a written examination in the month of May.

The Helpdesk counselor strongly recommended him to pursue higher education to improve his employment prospects. He was advised to enrol for a BA degree while preparing for the government job. Eyeway also suggested him to achieve personal independence by acquiring mobility and computer training, simultaneously.

Many blind people like Basavaraj lack proper guidance and resources to move ahead in life. Eyeway bridges that gap, helping them move forward on the path to independence.

Timely Intervention Helps Visually Impaired Siblings

Twenty-one-year-old Khushbu Aggarwal lives in Jaipur, Rajasthan. She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at the age of 15, but she managed to complete her graduation with deteriorating vision. She discovered Eyeway while looking for ways to cope and assist with her sight loss.

The Helpdesk counselor apprised Khushbu of various assistive devices that could help her with reading, writing and other activities of daily living. She learnt about screen readers to use computers and smartphone. Khusbhu wants to prepare for competitive exams that will help her secure a government job. Guided by the counselor on acquiring adequate skills for employability, she has enrolled for a training programme.

Happy with the help received from Eyeway, Khushbu sought our intervention yet again. This time for her brother, Shubham who has the same eye problem. A Class XII student, preparing for his board examination, Shubham wanted to avail scribe facility. Except his current medical certificate listed his disability as 40%. As per the rules, the board won’t allow a scribe to assist Shubham unless he had a certificate of 70% or more.

Even though his vision had significantly deteriorated in the past few years, he didn’t have a way to prove it to the authorities without an official document. And only a week to his examination, it was a challenge getting a new assessment.

But the Eyeway counselor geared up for this task chasing resources all the way to the office of State Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities. As a result, the commissioner sent a special request to the District Civil hospital asking for an expedited checkup for Shubham. He was issued a new certificate with 90% disability, which helped him get an approval for engaging a scribe for the finals.
Both Khushboo and Shubham feel relieved after connecting with Eyeway. They are doubly motivated to pursue a path of independent living.


Happy Learning

Information technology has become an integral part of our lives. More so after the pandemic and the following work/study from home operations. One cannot imagine a life without a smartphone or a computer. Ever wondered if visually impaired people use technology? How does a blind person shop online, book movie tickets or catch the latest news online?

The answer is, just like you and I do it. Persons with vision impairment are also equally dependent on devices for their daily needs. Except they use them a bit differently. Screen reading software on computers as well as phones enables them to navigate using audio cues. What we see, they hear.

Sixty-two-year old Baba Gawade Patil lives in Miraj, Maharashtra. He first experienced vision problems when he was in Class IV. But he managed to see with high powered spectacles and finished his engineering. He was employed as a Junior Engineer with Maharashtra State Electricity Board for fifteen years. Unfortunately, over the course of a few years, Baba lost vision in one eye and then in the remaining eye.

Because of his good reputation, he continued in the job for another two years, but gradually became a victim to discrimination from his peers and seniors. However, he refused to give up and taking help from the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Baba prepared himself for a job role suited for a visually impaired person.

He learned to use computers with screen reading software and switched his work profile to communications. He finally retired in 2017. When his daughter gifted him an iPhone, Baba wondered what use could a touchscreen mobile be to a blind man. Unlike the computer, he could not touch and type using a keyboard. That’s when he sought help from Eyeway.

The helpline counselor not only explained about the inbuilt screen reader called VoiceOver in the iPhone but patiently taught Baba to use all the functions. Over a period of time, Baba regularly called the Eyeway Helpdesk and learnt to use all the features of the phone for his daily needs of calling, messaging, navigating, reading, identifying objects and people etc. He picked up simple tricks to use when accessing the browser, WhatsApp, Twitter and several other applications.

Eyeway is happy to empower Baba to independently engage himself using his smartphone, and perform basic functions without any sighted help. He is grateful to the counselor for a comforting learning experience.

Securing an independent future

Thirty-year-old Naresh was born blind to a low-income family in Andhra Pradesh. Illiterate themselves, both his parents were keen on educating their son, despite the lack of awareness on raising a child with vision impairment. On a relative’s suggestion, Naresh was enrolled in a special school for the blind, where he studied till Class X.

He was then admitted in a regular institution, following which he completed his Bachelor’s degree. At present, Naresh is pursuing his Masters in Literature.

Alongside his academics, Naresh also acquired skills to use computer with the aid of screen reading software. All his efforts were focused on securing a job so he could support his family and become independent. He also did a short three-month employability training in Bangalore for the same.

But he lacked proper guidance on what opportunities were available and most importantly how to access them. He came in touch with the Eyeway Helpdesk in Karnataka, where he was advised to acquire needs-based training at Enable India. This would equip him with specific skills for certain job roles. The helpdesk counselor also suggested Naresh to prepare for various competitive exams to explore government jobs in railways, banking, civil services and so on.

Naresh is currently undergoing training, for employment specific skills including communication and resume building. Despite his blindness, he is the only one in his family with college degrees. He is hopeful of an independent future once he lands an appropriate job. There are many blind people who have the academic eligibility but are not job-ready for present market needs. Eyeway works with partner NGOs like Enable India so thousands like Naresh can secure their economic standing in the society.


Looking beyond the impairment

Twenty-six-year-old Kush Verma has many aspirations. After an oxygen overdose at birth left him blind, his wealthy parents from Ahmedabad, Gujarat tried everything in their reach but didn’t succeed in restoring his vision. With no awareness on raising a blind child, they confined Kush to home till he turned ten.

On a family friend’s suggestion, he was enrolled into a blind school. At school, Kush’s desire to learn and progress was evident in the pace at which he picked up braille and mobility skills. He went on to complete his Class 12 examinations. During this time, he developed a keen interest in learning computers and hence expressed his desire to pursue his Bachelor’s in Computer Applications from a renowned institution outside his state. His parents feared leaving their blind son alone in an unknown place. Kush, therefore, had to persist with a regular BA course in his city.

When Kush contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk, his inclination towards establishing a career in technology still ran strong. Equipped to deal with parents who often focus on the impairment over the potential of their child, Eyeway counselor thought it best to first counsel the parents by citing accounts of other successful blind people. Kush’s parents were guided to shift their focus on their son’s capabilities as an individual. Further, we facilitated his enrolment in the Technical Training Institute in Pune for a year- long Accessibility testing course which requires him to attend classes remotely for nine months and physical training in the campus for the last three months.

Eyeway is hopeful that Kush’s progress in the course will have a positive impact and free his parents of all apprehensions.

Ignorance on responding to blindness or raising children with vision impairment permeates across socio-economic status of families. Like Kush, there are numerous others who need opportunities to prove their ability to accomplish despite the disability.

Upgrading from conventional to digital

Visually impaired since birth, Bajrangbali from Kaimur, Bihar, studied in a blind school till Class 10. Before reaching out to the Eyeway Helpdesk, he mostly read and wrote in braille. However, he was keen to find an alternate solution as he enrolled in Class 11.

The Eyeway counsellor apprised him of various mobile apps including Kibo, that reads and translates printed/handwritten/digital text across 100+ languages in real-time via audio. Through the next series of calls, the Eyeway counselor trained Bajrangbali to use the app independently. As a result, he now regularly uses the Kibo app to access his study material.

Ever since the seventeen-year-old has been a regular Eyeway caller seeking solutions and information on various other issues related to his day to day needs.

Unconventional success

A resident of Ernakulum district of Kerala, 27-year-old Amitha was diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition in Class 5. At school; she mostly occupied the front seat in her classroom to have clearer access to the blackboard for reading. Despite facing challenges while studying in a mainstream school, Amitha with the support of her family went on to complete her Master’s degree in English. She even cleared the UGC’s National Eligibility Test (NET), becoming eligible for an Assistant Professor’s post. Unfortunately, she was not selected by the college where she applied for a job.

Amitha did not let the rejection dampen her spirit. She reached out to Eyeway seeking help with the procedure to register for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). While the Eyeway counselor guided her with the registration process, the counselor also realized the need for basic computer training to enable her to access study material and online platforms for her examination. She was counseled on the importance of computer skills for better employment opportunities.

She was further guided to enroll for windows-based training at RCG Foundation followed by an advanced six-month course from Karnataka Eyeway Helpdesk partner, Enable India. With the hard work and keen interest in learning, Amitha stood out in her batch and became proficient in computers and English language.

Three years later when the coronavirus pandemic brought everything to a screeching halt, Amitha reached out to Eyeway again looking for job opportunities as a computer trainer. The counsellor encouraged her to start online classes given the lack of jobs due to the pandemic crisis.

Amitha paid heed to Eyeway’s advise and started her own online computer and English classes for visually impaired people.

With 90% vision impairment, Amitha has managed to overcome several barriers, carving out her own independent path.