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.

Fuelling Dreams

Blindness can be disorienting and traumatizing especially when it involves young children. This means all the habits, routines and processes one relied on have to be relearned. As a parent, it needs acceptance and careful handling as it has a significant bearing on the child’s future.

Pawan Kasliwal from Ichalkaranji, Maharashtra, went through the pain of watching both his children, a boy and a girl lose vision. Not losing hope, he continued supporting them to live an independent and fulfilling life, instilling confidence in children about their future prospects.

Pawan’s older child, Mohit aspires to be a software engineer. However, with no role model to look at and discouragement for blind students from pursuing the Science field, both father and son, unsure about the way forward, approached Eyeway for guidance.

Eyeway understood their apprehensions and explained to them about various career opportunities within the Science stream that Mohit could opt for. He was also informed about the special provision for blind students, where they only have to appear in the written exams and are exempted from the practicals.

Next, Mohit was connected with a Delhi based technical education expert on subjects like Science, technology and engineering for visually impaired students. Pawan was also counseled to enroll his son into ‘The Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged’ that provides customized support to visually impaired students, making their educational material and examination method accessible.

This infused fresh energy in Pawan and his children. Mohit is excelling in his studies and has recently enrolled for a Science course at a local college. His sister, now in Class 9, fluently operates computers using screen reading software.

Eyeway believes that an independent life is every blind individual’s right, and therefore continues to support this cause through knowledge and resource sharing.

Technological intervention

Blind by birth, 23 -year-old Vinayak from Karnataka has braved many odds to compete in the upcoming Common Entrance Test (CET), so he can pursue his dream of becoming a Biotechnology Engineer. He relied on his friends to read and research study material for his preparation.

From a young age, Vinayak was inclined towards Science. However, visually impaired students are often discouraged from opting for Science after Class 8 as teachers are ill-equipped to teach such disciplines. Victim of such a bias, he was denied admission in Class 11.

Vinayak refused to let his disability become his shortcoming and kept applying elsewhere. Fast forward to today, he has completed his Class 12 securing 75% marks.

Given his lack of sight and family’s vulnerable financial condition, Vinayak’s zeal and motivation alone was not enough to pursue his aspirations. Eyeway identified a basic computer and life skills training programme that could help him become independent for ease of education as well as to increase his chances of employment.

However with the Coronavirus outbreak, all such trainings switched to the online mode, rendering Vinayak helpless, as he could not afford assistive devices to access these programmes.

Gadgets like computers and smartphones that seem ordinary to sighted individuals are life-changing assistive devices for students like Vinayak. Using a computer or smartphone enabled with a screen reading software, not only gives them access to a whole new world of online learning but also enables them to become self –reliant and confident in every aspect of life.

Eyeway explored ways to help Vinayak and succeeded in connecting him to a local organisation that offered the desired resources. Bangalore based NGO, Help the Blind Foundation provided Vinayak with a laptop along with screen reading software to enable him in continuing his learning.

Purposeful persistence

17-year old Sachin Porwal lives in Udaipur Rajasthan. After successfully completing his Class 10 examinations from a special school for the blind, he was keen to pursue higher education in an inclusive set-up. But when he applied to a renowned school in his state, he was denied admission on the grounds of his blindness. This however, was not the first time he was meted with such discriminatory behavior. When he started to lose his vision in Class 6 due to Retinitis Pigmentosa, he was forced to leave the school. On knowing that he was blind, other reputed mainstream schools also closed their doors on him. Despite being financially well-off, his parents had to enrol him in a blind school that had minimal resources.

Sachin’s parents even submitted a copy of RPWD Act 2016 to the school, which clearly states that children with disabilities have equal rights to education and that a quota must be reserved for such students by every school in the hope of admission of their son. However, this substantial document did little to convince the school administration. On the contrary, the school authorities hurled insulting questions at Sachin’s father like ‘’How was his son going to eat, change classrooms, cope with his sighted peers? Who would be responsible if something happened to him?

The school’s apprehension stemmed from their ignorance and weak intentions to enrol a blind boy in the school.

On knowing the issue, Eyeway apprised a Disability Rights Advocacy group in Udaipur on the matter and connected Sachin’s family with them. Further, a written complaint was filed and sent to the State Disability Commissioner who issued an order to the school stating that they cannot deny admission on the grounds of disability to any eligible student.

This had an immediate impact. Sachin was granted admission. On his part, he addressed the school’s apprehensions by demonstrating effective use of his assistive devices such as laptop enabled with screen reader that makes reading and writing notes easier, and a Daisy player (Digital Accessible Information System) that helps him in gathering knowledge.

Due to the pandemic all education is being imparted digitally. And Sachin’s equal participation in the online classes has brought about a subtle shift in the authorities’ mindset. His school principal often attends the sessions to ensure that teachers are adapting and catering to his needs.

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.


Empowering through information dissemination

Blind people irrespective of their education or socio economic background, have reported instances of denial of banking rights to Eyeway in the past. More recently, on behalf of 12-year-old Vicky Mahawae, his elder brother, Pawan called us from Kota, Rajasthan. A nationalised bank in Kota refused to open a (student) account for Vicky because of his vision impairment. Clueless about how to respond, Pawan sought Eyeway’s intervention.

Our counselor was quick to understand the issue and provided Vicky’s older brother with the necessary RBI (Reserve Bank of India) and IBA (Indian Banking Association) issued guidelines citing that banks cannot deny services to persons with vision impairment.

Individuals like Vicky, who are above the age of 10 are eligible to open a solo student account. Banks cannot deny so on grounds of disability. Vicky’s brother was briefed about the same and asked to get a note from the bank officials in writing, in case they continued to deny services after the submission of relevant guidelines.

Despite the rules and laws, it remains a constant challenge for blind and visually impaired people to access banking facilities because of the lack of awareness and ignorance among the banking authorities.

Eyeway Helpdesk- Supporting Blind community during the Coronavirus Pandemic

As Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the country, the blind community continues to be the worst hit. With social distancing becoming mandatory to contain the deadly virus, blind people are forced to stay at home. This means that many of them, who previously worked in the unorganized sector have now lost their source of income.

In the Unlock Phase 1, some visually impaired people got an opportunity to report back to work. However, limited public transport facilities have left the blind workforce dejected. Eyeway Helpdesk has received numerous calls seeking assistance on this issue.

Visually impaired Siddharth from Navi Mumbai was hired as a housekeeping staff through a consultancy. With nationwide lockdown imposed in March, he could not attend office, resulting in loss of monthly income. In June, Siddharth heaved a sigh of relief when his employer asked him to join work. But when he stepped out of his home to the nearest bus depot to reach his workplace, he was in for a rude shock as the bus conductor did not allow him to board the bus on grounds of his blindness.

For three consecutive days, this discrimination continued till he reached out to Eyeway.  The counsellor advised him to seek the consultancy’s help in arranging for a travel pass, but they declined. He was then advised to wait for a few days until the restrictions were eased. Luckily, a few days later, he was allowed to board the bus and he could finally report to work.

Another visually impaired caller, Neelesh Patil from Nashik who works as a lift man in a private hospital wasn’t paid his salary since the lockdown was imposed. He has now resumed work but due to unavailability of public transport, he has to walk for an hour every day to reach his workplace.

Neelesh has been constantly in touch with Eyeway Mumbai team, sharing his daily struggles and seeking information on new guidelines that could benefit him.

Trusting Eyeway Helpdesk as a reliable source of information, blind callers seek solutions to get through these testing times. For the blind and visually impaired community, social distancing is proving to be a big challenge as they rely extensively on touch and assistance from others. In such circumstances, accessing services like public transport, medical facilities or day to day necessities is doubly hard for them.