Education  India Project #30243

Eyeway- Support the Blind

by Score Foundation
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Eyeway- Support the Blind
Eyeway- Support the Blind
Eyeway- Support the Blind
Eyeway- Support the Blind
Eyeway- Support the Blind
Eyeway- Support the Blind
Eyeway- Support the Blind
Eyeway- Support the Blind
Eyeway- Support the Blind
Eyeway- Support the Blind
Eyeway- Support the Blind

In 2011, a timid young girl called the Eyeway Helpdesk from Kashmir. She asked several questions pertaining to vision impairment but was wary of giving out any personal details. Only several calls later did we figure that Qurat Khan suffered from gradual vision loss due to Retinitis Pigmentosa. Studying in Class 12, she explained her struggles in the classroom with the printed syllabus.

Qurat is one of the many visually impaired girls, who find themselves at the receiving end of societal stigma towards disability. She thought of herself as someone lesser than her ‘normal’ peers.  

But the Eyeway counselors slowly helped her realise what all she could accomplish by learning new techniques. She was introduced to technology that would help her with studies and her mobility.

After undergoing the recommended computer training course at Enable India in Bangalore, she started to regain her confidence. With assistive technology, education became easier.

28 years old now, Qurat has secured a job as a primary school teacher. She called us recently to get first-hand insights into teaching sighted students.

Eyeway put her in touch with a blind teacher in Rajasthan, who is experienced in instructing a mainstream classroom. This interaction would prove informative and helpful for Qurat who is set to start her career. She would learn of tips and tools to aid her in imparting lessons seamlessly.

Apart from disseminating information and counseling, Eyeway often refers callers to other visually impaired people who may have more experience in a particular field.

This helps us build a network of visually impaired people who can help each other resolve various issues and reduce their dependence on sighted people or even a service like ours.

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Chandrakanta Kumari
Chandrakanta Kumari

Life came to a standstill for Chandrakanta and her parents, when she suffered from gradual vision loss. She became totally blind when she was pursuing Class 12. Despite the loss of vision, she managed to finish her graduation.

Because of societal pressure and her disability, her parent’s natural instincts of protecting their child took over. They considered their blind daughter to be helpless and dependent throughout her life. But Chandrakanta had other plans. She refused to give in to the societal stereotype of being doubly disabled as blind women.

Chandrakanta had heard about government job reservations for persons with vision impairment. She was looking for help in finding a job. Soon after, she came across Eyeway’s helpline number and immediately made the call.

She inquired on ways to prepare for competitive exams so she could become eligible for employment. While our counselors told her about tools and techniques of accessing study material and filing job applications, the team also helped build her confidence to adjust and deliver in a mainstream work set-up. Eyeway guided her with demos to use screen reading software to access computers and several other apps that would make her independent.

A quick learner, Chandrakanta cracked the state exam, landing a clerical position with a bank. But the bank stalled in issuing her an offer letter. She suspected discrimination on grounds of her disability. Eyeway informed her of the provisions and guidelines laid down by the government for employment and reasonable accommodation in terms of accessibility at the workplace.

Armed with the knowledge of her rights, Chandrakanta confronted the bank officials, explaining to them her abilities and ways in which she could deliver in her role, like any able-bodied person. When she demonstrated how she could work using computers and other assistive devices, the bank caved in.

Today Chandrakanta is employed as a clerk with the same bank. She dreams of climbing up the organizational ladder by acquiring better skills.

Women with a disability tend to face more challenges and difficulties in both personal and public spaces. The impact of these challenges can be seen in their education, employment, personal relationships, and living conditions. In the public sphere, they face discrimination at the time of seeking employment, promotion, and inequality of pay for the same amount of work as their male counterparts. In personal space, they are at a greater risk of experiencing gender-based violence, neglect, mistreatment, and sexual abuse.

Almost 50% of the blind population of India is constituted of women but the majority of calls on the Eyeway helpline are made by men. To be specific, only 7% of our callers are visually impaired women. To change that, a lot of effort and work needs to done to empower these women and their families to challenge the general disbelief in their abilities.

We were able to guide Chandrakanta, but there are many more women like her who still need our help. Eyeway is a platform, where information is provided to such women. Donate and show your support for our work.

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Roundtable conference on Midlife Blindness
Roundtable conference on Midlife Blindness

39-year-old Prathap DG, a native of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala is a graduate in Commerce. He had cataract since birth and his vision was limited to 40 percent. But it was enough for him to pursue his studies and work like any normal person. He disregarded the difficulties and somehow managed to cope. In 2009, Prathap suffered from Retinal Detachment which resulted in complete sight loss in his left eye.  At the time, he was working as an Accountant in a private company. His inability to see clearly and work on a computer seamlessly made him lose the job.

He next landed a supervisorial role in a publishing house. Here he managed to oversee operations without having to use computers. But as luck would have it, in 2013 vitreous degeneration occurred in his right eye. Over the next few years, his vision deteriorated further, making it difficult to continue in this job as well.

With only 25 percent vision, Prathap was left unemployed and dependent. Along with his wife and daughter, he had to relocate to Faridabad, Haryana where his spouse found employment as a private school teacher to support their family.

Looking for solutions and quick fixes, Prathap visited the Eyeway center at Delhi in March 2018. He was desperate for a job and willing to take up anything. Despite having worked as a qualified accountant, with additional content writing and editing skills, he agreed to enroll in a massage training course at the Blind Relief Association. With more than a year gone by without a job, Prathap did not lose his hope. He knew that his family could support him but he was adamant on becoming independent and be able to provide for his family once again.

All this while, he was in constant touch with Eyeway counselors who kept sharing information about potential job opportunities for him.

In June 2019, Eyeway organized a roundtable conference on Midlife blindness: Prathap was invited to share his story at the event. Mr.Anup K Srivastava, CEO of Sector Skill Council for Persons with Disabilities (SCPwD), who was an invitee to the conference was moved by the story, connected Prathap with an IT company. Soon after, Prathap was offered the position of Manager- Operations, where he will be handling HR, accounting and content creation functions. The job is based in Faridabad, which is close to his place of residence. Prathap and his family are exhilarated about this new opportunity and are grateful to Mr. Anup K Srivastava and Eyeway for their support.

Score Foundation is participating in the Delhi Half Marathon 2019. You can find more information on our website. Please donate on the GlobalGiving platform to support our cause. 

Prathap with Eyeway counselor
Prathap with Eyeway counselor
Prathap DG at the roundtable conference
Prathap DG at the roundtable conference

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Pooja M was born blind to her parents living in Nanjangud city of Karnataka. But lack of sight didn’t stop her from envisioning a happy life. As a child she simply wanted to study like her sighted peers. She learnt to read and write in Braille and went on to score exceedingly well in her Class X and XII exams. Next she pursued a BA in Commerce. She had come this far with little difficulty in studying with the help of Braille. But now with subjects like accounting, she found it hard to acquire Braille books for the same.

This was discouraging for an otherwise diligent student. She called the Eyeway Helpdesk seeking assistance for Braille books. Talking to the counselor, for the first time she realized that there were other accessible formats in which notes and books could be read by visually impaired people. She learnt about DAISY (Digital Access Information System) an audio substitute for print material that converts it into multiple accessible outputs like e-text, audio recording etc. The counselor told Pooja how she could access such material on a DAISY player, a screen-reader enabled computer or phone. She also found out about online accessible libraries like Bookshare and Sugamya Pustakalaya, stocked with lakhs of books available for free to blind people.

All this information liberated Pooja in an instant. It was almost as if a new world had opened up for her. She shared with the counselor that there was always an ‘if’ in her head when it came to choosing a profession as a person with vision impairment. But now with access to most of her study material, she inquired if it were possible for her to become a Chartered Accountant (CA). When she shared the same with Eyeway, our counselor apprised her of other visually impaired people who are successful practicing CAs today. This encouraged Pooja to set her ambitions high and aspire for a brighter future.

Technology has evolved by leaps and bounds over the years, creating resources in addition to Braille. But a majority of visually impaired people lack information regarding such options and are therefore restricted in their efforts to become independent. Eyeway aims to inform and inspire students like Pooja to become self-reliant and active contributors to the fast-growing Indian economy.

Please donate towards our Project Eyeway if you would like to support persons with vision impairment like Pooja. Score Foundation has been working tirelessly towards making independence and inclusion a reality for blind and visually impaired.

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Inas, Drishti and Pankaj
Inas, Drishti and Pankaj

Are we excluding millions of blind people from mainstream education?

Persons with vision impairment are as normal as those with eyesight. They have similar aspirations, abilities and desire to learn as any other person. The only thing that differentiates them from the ‘sighted’ is their lack of visual interaction with people, things and the overall environment. However, there are other ways they can use to engage.  What they also lack is an accessible environment and an encouraging attitude from people around them. Going through school, college and later securing a job becomes doubly challenging for blind people if their abilities are discounted simply because of their inability to see.

Inas is a 25-year-old student of 2nd year, pursuing B. Com from a mainstream college in Alibag, Maharashtra. He was born blind but his family accepted him with full joy and brought him up as any other child. However, his parents weren’t aware of special schools for the blind, so Inas was enrolled in a mainstream school. Studying in a school with sighted peers and teachers was very difficult as Inas battled with visual forms of teaching. He dropped out of that school after Class 4 and then for two years he struggled to get admission in another school. Most schools denied him admission on grounds of his visual impairment.

21-year-old Drishti from Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh had a strong ambition to open her own pathology lab. But when she was pursuing her Class 8, one day she woke up with a complete loss of vision in her left eye. Her dreams came crashing down. With no support from her teachers, she struggled to study further and failed her Class XII exams.

22-year-old Pankaj from Motihari, Bihar wasn’t blind by birth. His eyesight started to deteriorate when he was in Class 8 due to glaucoma. He managed to complete that year with deteriorating eyesight but could not pursue his education further. When the doctor declared that his eyesight could not be restored, Pankaj and his parents were very upset and lost hope for his future. Although his parents were illiterate and had little money, they wanted to look after him, but they had no idea as to how. For the next two years, he spent his time sitting idle at home, losing out on education.

How can we expect a change to come about in the condition of visually impaired population of our country? Are reservations in education and jobs an answer to inclusion? Or do we need a policy overhaul? Will educational reforms bring about a reasonable shift in the current process of inclusion? Schemes and provisions can act as temporary enablers but are they the long term means to empower such a large section of the Indian population?

Despite legislations like the Right to Education and Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2016 in place, Eyeway has first-hand account of thousands of visually impaired students who either don’t make it to a school because of the non-cooperation of community and inaccessible environment or those who make it, drop out of the system after Class VIII.

Eyeway Helpdesk gets a regular stream of calls from blind and visually impaired people who lost out on opportunities of education at an early age and very often it’s too late for them to be accommodated in the regular course of academics. At a later age their priorities also shift to employment as a means for financial independence. Read here about how Eyeway counselors enabled Pankaj, Drishti, Inas and several others to move forward in life despite their blindness.

Your support can help us empower thousands more. Please click the link below to DONATE towards our cause!

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Organization Information

Score Foundation

Location: New Delhi, Delhi - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @friendsofeyeway
Score Foundation
Shruti Pushkarna
Project Leader:
Shruti Pushkarna
New Delhi, Delhi India

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