TBI Blogs: Meet Chetna Nagpal: Visually Impaired, Ambitious, and a Fighter

Note: The post has been taken from the Better India blog. It was written by Shruti Pushkarna in 2016, the Communications Manager with Score Foundation in New Delhi.

People suffering from visual impairment often face extreme difficulties in various aspects of their lives. Here’s a young woman who decided to take on her disability – and its associated difficulties – head-on.

Chetna Nagpal was born with an eye condition called Nystagmus. It is a condition that causes involuntary eye movement and may result in reduced or limited vision. In Chetna’s case, she can see things but is unable to focus on anything. However, unlike many, Chetna does not think of her disability as a limitation. She believes visual impairment is more of a mental condition than a physical one.

“Visual impairment is not in the eyes, it’s in the mind. If you will feel that you are visually impaired then you will not be able to do anything. You need to go out of the way to explore the world.”

A 21-year-old ambitious young woman, is studying in her first year as a Political Science major in one of India’s top colleges, Lady Shri Ram College for Women. Born to totally blind parents, Chetna did not have it easy while growing up. Her parents did not know she could see at all, until she was old enough to start talking and pointing out things to them.

Chetna reminisces, “Initially my parents didn’t know that I could see at all. They had this misconception that I was totally blind like them. They used to switch off the lights and I used to cry, and they couldn’t figure out why. It was only when I started pointing out things to them that they realized I could see…When they did figure out that I had some vision, life became a bit easier.” Her journey was tough, but given her parents’ and her own optimism, Chetna never really felt restricted in any way despite her visual impairment. “My parents were very supportive. My father never stopped me from doing anything or going anywhere,” she says, visibly proud.

In 2007, Chetna came into contact with a Delhi-based NGO, Saksham, who helped her integrate into an inclusive education system in Salwan Public School.

“I was admitted into Saksham where I got two years of training. There, I learnt to read and write in Braille, and learnt math using a Taylor Frame. I learnt computers. After that, Saksham trainers felt I was polished enough to be inducted into a mainstream set-up to study, and got me admitted into Salwan.”

Chetna was among the fortunate few to have teachers and school authorities who understood her weakness and helped her study along with able-bodied children of her age. She did face issues initially because the teachers were not used to addressing the needs of a visually challenged student, but they gradually managed to make the environment more conducive.

Chetna made the most of her opportunity of studying in an inclusive environment. She was quick to point out her issues when her teachers failed to address her needs. Chetna even fought alone with the school authorities to get herself a good scribe so she could score well in her Class XII exams. She grabbed all opportunities in school to hone her communication skills, because she believes good communication is essential for one’s successful integration into the mainstream.

“Communication is very important. Everyone else communicates a great deal with their eyes. But for a visually impaired person, if we cannot speak well, then we cannot communicate or express ourselves fully.”

Apart from developing good communication skills, Chetna believes that persons with visual impairment should embrace technology. At her college now, with the help of assistive technology, she is able to keep up with her lessons. She is also able to commute by herself daily to college using public transport and her smartphone.

“With the help of computers, I can do my work faster. Technology eases out everything,” she says. “I have a smartphone with software in it that speaks out everything. So, I don’t need anyone’s help to read out numbers to me or to save a particular number for me. I have my laptop which has a screen reader because of which I don’t need anyone to read out the written text to me – I can read it for myself. I can record things for myself. If technology is used in a good way it can be very helpful. For us [visually impaired people] it is truly a blessing. The process of education also becomes a lot easier with technology.”

 At Lady Shri Ram College, Chetna has access to a resource room which is fully equipped with both technological and human support. But she believes that there is a need to replicate such support systems in all colleges and educational institutions so that visually impaired people can succeed and lead independent lives.

As a starting point, there is also a need to receive the disabled with welcoming arms into the inclusive education system.

Chetna has very clear views on the subject, “They should always welcome students like me. They should not say that he/she will not be able to survive in this environment. They should give us a chance.” She also feels that instead of putting responsibility entirely on the authorities, individuals should alter their behavior towards the disabled population. “I don’t know about authorities. I feel that individuals should do something. Authorities will automatically begin to do things when individuals will be more aware and proactive. The society is mixed. There are both good and bad people. They are not really bad people – they are just unaware – and they just don’t know any better.”

As for the visually impaired, Chetna believes they need to believe in themselves to be able to become a part of the mainstream, “As an individual, I always believe that one should never give up on anything. One should keep trying. You have all the right to do something for yourself and for society. So never give up on hope and always think that there will be a positive outcome. If today is not a good day for you then that doesn’t mean that tomorrow won’t be better. There will be a new day, a new beginning.”

The Inspiring Story of the Blind Photographer Who Shot an Ad Campaign with Katrina Kaif

Note: The article has been taken from Better India.

Why is it so amazing to not have any limits or doubts?

This profound quote by Aaliya Kamal, the blind photographer grappling with her artistic expression in the film Ship of Theseus, immediately comes to mind when you come across the work of Bhavesh Patel. Bhavesh is a visually impaired photographer who has shot one of the biggest ad campaigns in the country, starring Katrina Kaif.

An inspiration to many, Bhavesh is neither limited nor intimidated by his lack of sight. Photography, for him, is his passion, his artistic expression. A recent report by Bayside Journal gives us a glimpse into the mind of this talented artist.

In the interview, Bhavesh opens up about his creative process while working on the Lux photo shoot. “I shot those images while interpreting the sound of the fabric Katrina wore as well as certain machine-generated sounds that helped me interpret her movements. I was nervous before the shoot because I wasn’t too sure what I was about to come across but as soon as the shoot started, it went off pretty smoothly because there was no pressure to click pictures within the frame.”

For Bhavesh it all began in school, when his brother would encourage him to paint and help him by describing the things around. Bhavesh, however, wasn’t so confident about capturing moments himself. Not until he gained admission in St. Xavier’s College and met his mentor Partho Bhowmick, who specializes in teaching photography to the visually impaired. Soon, he went on to participate in the ‘Blind with Camera’ project.

Bhavesh, who had always wished to be unique, explains why he chose photography as his profession in a behind the scenes video from the Lux photo shoot. “I like photography for the very reason that, as a visually impaired person, nobody expects us to choose something that needs sight as the basic pre-requisite. That’s what makes me unique and that’s why I like being a photographer.”

Currently working with Barrier Break, he sees photography as his way of artistic expression. “I see photography as an art and I will perceive it that way. Professionally, there are many layers to it and it is a huge concept. The role of the photographer is to show society the real ‘picture’ and mirror the current situation. So, instead of sympathising with blind photographers, people should empathise with us. This would help people with disabilities feel encouraged to take it up and flourish in what they do.”

Now a confident professional with a passion for his work, Bhavesh gives credit to his mentor Bhowmick. Praising ‘Blind with Camera’ for providing a platform to blind photographers like himself, Patel says that they take the pressure away from the art and make the profession a passion. “There are a lot of blind folks that hesitate to come forward and experiment. He (Bhowmick) has provoked our minds to think differently and generate ideas and to explore the art to its highest level,” says Bhavesh.

There are many who hesitate to follow their passion because they doubt their own abilities. There are others who are afraid to take the plunge.

For all those reluctant minds, Patel has only one question: “How will you know how good or bad you are at something till you don’t make an attempt to go for it?”

So, feeling inspired to take that plunge, are you now?

Source: https://www.thebetterindia.com/72595/blind-photographer-shot-campaign-katarina-kaif/

Image Source: PICTURE FOR REPRESENTATION ONLY. SOURCE: PIXABAY

My first experience with Google Home, a Voice First Hardware

To begin with I would like to provide few facts and figures taken from an article at:
“A) Proliferation of voice-first hardware Voice labs define a voice-first device as an always-on, intelligent piece of hardware where the primary interface is voice, both input and output. The first voice-first hardware on the market was Amazon Echo at the end of 2014.
According to the 2017 VoiceLabs Report, there were 1.7 million voice-first devices shipped in 2015, 6.5 million in 2016 and there will be 24.5 million devices shipped in 2017, leading to 33 million voice-first devices in circulation.
The main speakers on the market are Amazon Echo (November 2014) and Google Home (November 2016). However, new players are rapidly entering the game: Sony launched the LF-S50G powered by Google Assistant (September 2017), Apple will soon release Homepod (December 2017), Samsung also recently announced that they will release something “soon” and Facebook may release a smart speaker with the touchscreen. Google assistant will also be coming to a number of new speakers, including the Zolo Mojo by Anker, TicHome Mini by Mobvoi and the GA10 by Panasonic. No doubts that the voice-first hardware layer is developing fast and is
expected to grow!”I got my first-hand experience with Google Home speaker in middle of

I got my first-hand experience with Google Home speaker in the middle of September and have since been enjoying the experience which is getting richer day by day. Google Home is Google Assistant based dedicated hardware with the built-in excellent quality speaker. It has no battery and will run only till you have it plugged into electricity. Below are few basic things about such speakers:

We say Okay Google and the speaker will be ready to listen to your voice command for few seconds. Normally this is indicated by the change of color on its LED lights. I switched audio blips from the accessibility settings since I could not make out if the speaker is ready to take my command through the LED lights. The Google Home is \ connected to the internet through the Wi-Fi. Google home is also added as a device to your google account thus getting access to your personal data available in your account and to services that you have subscribed to it.
We can give audio commands similar to ones that we give to Google Assistant on android based mobile phones or the ones that we give to Siri on iPhones. The special thing about such systems is their very powerful and sensitive mikes. You can be sitting anywhere in the room and the speaker is able to pick up your voice command from distance.

Basic stuff:
We can ask Google home to tell us the Time, Weather of not only our own city but of any place in the world. We can ask various questions such as population, distance to the moon or to the nearest coffee-shop, etc. All this is good but only adds to the initial excitement of new toy. Moreover, all this is already available on my mobile phone. Then I started experimenting with something more such as Play BBC world” and the channel started playing from the speaker. “Played the song by Mohammad Rafi” and it started a playlist that had songs by my favorite singer. Initially, it would not play many of the artists that I asked for. However, I subscribed to Google Play Music and then it provided full access to the collection and then the fun really started. Google home is yet not officially released for India thus it is yet not

Google home is yet not officially released for India thus it is yet not connected to many India specific services of news or music. Due to this I also could not configure the Google Home to access tune-In Radio. I can imagine that once I am able to configure India specific services and apps with Google Home, then how useful and exciting it would become.I was able to enhance the capability of Google home by installing Google

I was able to enhance the capability of Google home by installing Google Chrome Cast Stick. I can control the device through Google Home. Imagine this: Yesterday I said: Play Video on Chrome Cast and it started playback of recommended videos from YouTube on my television. Then I asked to “play movie Kaho Na Pyar hai on YouTube. The Google Home confirmed my command and Within a second the movie started playing on the television. This was amazing and looked like magic.

This technology is really picking up fast and being Voice First experience, quite good for people like me with vision impairment. The real fun and magic begin to expand if we install Wi-Fi enabled devices as this device can then be controlled through Google Homes and Amazon Echo. I have a Wi-Fi enabled electricity plug socket. With this I can switch any appliance on or off that is plugged into it using Google Home. These things have started showing up in our country. Such appliances have become quite common in US and Europe. For example, I was recently hosted for two days by our friend in Boston. He is using Amazon Echo. He was standing on the first floor of his house when I reached. He recognized me and said: “Alexa, unlock the front door” The front door on the ground floor was unlocked and I entered his house admiring the convenience provided with this technology. He also could adjust the temperature of any of his rooms through Amazon Echo using voice commands.With the launch of Amazon Echo in India on October 4, this technology is

With the launch of Amazon Echo in India on October 4, this technology is all set to remove several accessibility hurdles from our lives in coming months.

 

By

Dipendra Manocha

The difference that Music can bring about in children with multiple disabilities

Vihaan (name changed) has been attending the Infant to Toddler Unit at Saksham from July 2016. He was three year when he came to us. He is an expressive, social and happy kid. Some of his challenges were when he joined Saksham were lack of speech, lack of independent sitting, visual processing disorders, absence of swallowing and gulping. He was tactile defensive. He would resist touching wet and a variety of surfaces and objects.

Today, 4-year-old Vihaan vocalizes and babbles to communicate, sits independently and successfully swallows semi solid foods. Vihan is also able to fix his gaze at objects, tracks moving objects and has developed satisfactory eye hand coordination. He plays with a variety of toys having different textures. The team at Infant to Toddler has consistently worked in overcoming Vihaan’s challenges.

What really worked for Vihaan was MUSIC.  We started giving him music therapy since he joined and included music in most of his sessions. It was through this planned music program we were able to achieve the goals and targets set for Vihaan.  Vihaan never used his left hand before and now he is making great attempts in using his left hand. He is now performing activities that require the use of both the hands.

Saksham’s Infant to Toddler program is a family support program where services are provided to children with visual impairment, low vision; severe multiple disabilities and deaf blindness in the age group of 0-4 and till toddler.

By

Supriya Das 

Program Coordinator

SAKSHAM 

 

Not Just Seeing Is Believing, Accessible Audio Books & a Library for Visually Impaired Are Here

(Note: This article has been taken from the Better India Blog, it is written by our employee Ms. Sonali.)

Books are considered a person’s best companion. It is said that “When you open a book, you open a new world”. Books provide us with an endless pool of knowledge and information and allow a person to improve his / her understanding by exposing one to new things, besides being an invaluable source of entertainment.

Books have been in existence forever, but recent advancements in technology have provided us with various other alternatives to choose from besides the physical form.

These include electronic books and talking or audio books.

The concept of talking book goes all the way back to 1870s when Thomas Edison for the very first time recorded the recitation of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. T

he early initiatives of producing audio books were undertaken by Library of Congress in the United States and Royal National Institute of the Blind in Britain. In 1931, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and Library of Congress Books for the Adult Blind Project established the “Talking Books Program” (Books for the Blind), which was intended to provide reading material for veterans injured during World War I and other visually impaired adults. Not until 1952 when an upstart recording company called Caedmon Audio released Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” did people begin listening to what were then called “spoken word” recordings, which marked the beginning of commercially available audio books in the United States. There was still the issue of limited space, which meant there were considerable abridgments that led to adoptions, and even dramatizations, with full casts, music, and sound effects.

Audio books have since then undergone tremendous amount of transition, from Books on Tape all the way through books on CD and now downloadable books.

Mobile technologies such as smartphones, tablets etc have further boosted their popularity. In India in particular, audio books on topics such as business and self help have become extremely popular.

Even though audio books are now being more widely read and enjoyed as an alternative by people in general, they have proven to be one of the most essential medium for accessing information for persons with print disabilities who include people with blindness, low vision and certain physical and learning disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy, multiple sclerosis, dyslexia and quadriplegia.

Audio books are considered a highly preferable means to provide books to persons with blindness as unlike Braille books that can go up to several volumes per book, audio books are not bulky.

The audio books are also preferred by people who lose their sight later in life and are unable to read Braille as quickly. Their popularity has further increased with advancement in technology, and one can read and carry a whole lot of books with portable digital players or even on one’s mobile phone.

As a result, audio books have also proven to be extremely important for the education of visually challenged students.

With innovations such as text to speech softwares, more books than ever before can be converted into accessible audio format without even the need of relying on human effort for this purpose. Digital Accessible Information system (DAISY) are the standards for creating accessible talking books. DAISY is based on web standards, and allows for creation of one master content, which can be converted easily into innumerable formats preserving the complete structure of the publication. An extremely important feature of DAISY talking books for the user is that unlike a normal audio recorded book, a DAISY talking book allows the users to navigate sentence, heading, paragraph or page-wise, thereby allowing them to access a book easily and more efficiently.

Yet surveys carried out worldwide show that less than 1% of the published information is available in alternate and accessible formats for use by persons with print disabilities.

One of the major challenges in this regard in a country like India is the diversity in language. More than 5 million blind and low vision persons speaking 22 different languages pose a tough challenge to provide books and information in accessible formats. Moreover, instead of books being produced in accessible formats at the time of publication itself, the task of making them accessible have to be undertaken by different local organizations working for persons with blindness to address the needs of their users. This not only causes considerable delay in their availability for students and other visually challenged and print disabled users, but needs of many remain unmet. Lack of resources and infrastructure for production of high-quality audio books are some of the other key challenges.

A recent initiative to address some of these challenges is the launch of an online national library of accessible books known as Sugamya Pustakalaya. This online library is a joint effort of Government of India, the DAISY Forum of India and corporate support. Accessible books from various libraries across the country, along with those from some of the notable international agencies such as Bookshare and Accessible Books Consortium are available here so that users can obtain maximum content on a single platform.

Thousands of digitally accessible books across diverse subjects and languages and multiple formats are available in this library which a person with the print disability can access on click of a button after registering with this library for free. These publications can be read by a user on any device of his / her choice, like, mobile phones, tablets, computer, DAISY players or even in Braille. Initiatives like these and awareness among publishers to produce more and more accessible audio books have a potential to eradicate the book famine being faced by persons with blindness and other print disabilities.

By Sonali Jain

 

Screen reading software… Where have I been throughout my life?¿

Recently I googled the statistics of the blind in India not out of curiosity actually, just because I’ve got an assignment to write an article on assistive technology and visual impairment. The time I clicked on the search button to find the stats the first thing which I came across was India is now home to the world’s largest number of blind people. Shocking Right!!!! Wait… I haven’t given the figures yet, Of the 37 million people across the globe who are blind, over 15 million are from India. Now that’s shocking!!! While studying all these articles and pdf’s I was just wondering why I have stumbled upon only 3 blind people all through my 23 years of life. But now I’m in Saksham and enjoy the fun time with my blind friends. Before joining Saksham I remember I used to think that how they use laptops and mobile phones and various other technologies but still never thought of googling it… actually various screen reading software makes the mobile and laptops accessible for the person with visual impairment. Screen readers are software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer or braille display. A screen reader is the interface between the computer’s operating system, its applications, and the user. The user sends commands by pressing different combinations of keys on the computer keyboard or braille display to instruct the speech synthesizer what to say and to speak automatically when changes occur on the computer screen. Jaws, NVDA, Super Nova (especially for low vision), narrator are the popular screen reading software android talkback, voice over on i phone are the mobile screen readers.

Let’s talk about the most affordable screen reading software in India.

The Non-visual desktop application also known as NVDA is an open source software. Especially for making the computers accessible. INDO NVDA is a Screen Reading Software which is a customized VERSION of NVDA for Indian languages. Indo NVDA includes 14 Nuance vocalizer and Eloquence voices in 10 different Languages (Indian English, British English, American English, Hindi, Bhojpuri, Bengali, Kannada, Tamil,   Telugu, and Marathi). The software is designed to make computers accessible for visually impaired people in all parts of the country. The DVD of the software includes Itools, the self-learning tutorial package from Enable India. It is yet another step of SAKSHAM in empowering persons with blindness in collaboration with Enable India as SAKSHAM believe in limiting limitations.

It’s always good to learn…or goggle it… Isn’t it 😉

Note: from the authentic sources. 😉

By

Saksham’s new Recruit

The Best Things in Life are priceless- An Intern’s Journey in SAKSHAM

The first look by a juvenile

My first step into the office was filled with loads of nervousness as this was my first ever professional fellowship. Each of them was busy working and after a while, I was introduced to my mentor. She explained me the brief work which I was supposed to do. Further, I got introduced to the team, I could see 6 people who were visually impaired. I didn’t think much about the kind of work they did, but now I can say, it’s nearly impossible to run this NGO without their help!

Think of a day where you lost your sight! Scary? Probably No!

Sometimes in past, there was a thought in my mind that if I go blind, how will I watch YouTube videos, facebook, how will I walk, read, learn, apply. How will I plan and follow my daily routine? Each hour will be a night for me! Aren’t you feeling amazed? Think it over once that how difficult you think the life of a visually impaired person can become? I used to believe that life will almost end and I will have to be dependent on others for everything. You probably must be thinking the same, but, I am glad to say now that, even if I at some time go blind, I will survive! It was a difficult thought earlier but it would be easy for me now.

If you want to eradicate poverty, make people work for them instead of helping them throughout.

The main motto of Saksham is to provide and help visually impaired people with new and innovative technologies which empower them and make them self-dependent. This is something which I personally always strive for. Helping and taking care of underprivileged is not the way we can eradicate poverty, rather, make them work for themselves, you just need to show them a way, not walk with them at each stage.

I never could have imagined that people with blindness can even operate mobile or laptops if I weren’t here and didn’t spend time with them. Each one of them here is so efficient, so confident, filled with enthusiasm, that every day I walk into the office, I walk in with pride and it gives me a special feeling to be a part of this change!

The reason for my being here: The work!

I was assigned the work to handle social media where I was needed to promote what Saksham is, what Saksham does. The main idea for this was to reach out to a maximum number of people throughout India, telling them about the different products for visually impaired that Saksham offers and helping each and every people through the channel of online social media.  I used to assist the team with various platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Blog, LinkedIn, YouTube and Whatsapp.

I don’t know how I got so lucky to have such a wonderful understanding mentor. I feel privileged working under her guidance, the constant support was even boosted with the help of super extra cooperative team members.

All my ideas, initiatives, plans were listened properly, was thought upon by the team and most of them got approved also. I am grateful to the team for hearing me out at each stage (sometimes, even through my most lame ideas) but trust me, it gives you loads and loads of confidence and helps you become proactive in your work. Each day was a thrilling experience and this gave me a confidence to work more (sometimes till 7:30 pm) and to never get tired. I tried my best to never put them down (hope, I was a bit successful), and every applauds from the team, trust me was overwhelming and was many a time emotional. What a great team work going on here, each one eats lunch together, which grew my bonding to the entire Saksham’s team. The atmosphere, the spirit, the energy, the sense of respect for the work, all of this charged me up daily and helped to work, not because I had to because I wanted to. I hope to work with the same togetherness in my future endeavors, but, the cap is set very high!

An eye opener!

I was planning for posts on Facebook with the team members and suddenly an idea struck me to use radio more often than Facebook because of obvious reasons that how a visually impaired will see, the best will be if they can hear it. Seemed reasonably correct to me then, but suddenly someone got a bit angry and said don’t you know that almost 80% of visually impaired people use Facebook and enjoy browsing it (he was one of them using it every day in spite of being completely blind). I was again amazed by this, then they showed how they disrupted each activity on social media and use it to connect to the world. He said to use Whatsapp, Facebook to connect with him when not reachable through the call. I was speechless here, and that gave me a thought that poor of us to think of them like that. This incident really opened my eye and from then on, I got to see a whole new world with a new eye, the blind eye!!

The proud feeling 🙂

Each and every person who comes for training, or help regarding any product, or even any query on telephone, I can now bet that no one explain these better than who have been there.

How much time do you think it takes to plan, shoot and edit a 2 min 44-second video? Something in days? I did it in 2 hours, just because of the cast of the video, also blind by birth, understood each and every bit that I required and followed exactly the same. My first ever video was super successful, liked my many and was very much appreciated. Thanks again to him for building in me the confidence.

We got a chance to visit another employee’s house, also blind, and shoot a video. We saw him managing his family so smoothly, taking care of his child, his wife, and mother without even a glitch. We had a great time shooting his video and his thanks to his cooperation that even after so many retakes (because of his naughty child), he had a big broad smile on his face.

I still wonder that how a person blind by birth know how to smile if he hasn’t seen one. Still unanswered!

Next, we went to another home where both, husband and wife were blind. I got a great opportunity to live their life by spending a very good time with them, and in the afternoon having lunch prepared by the wife (still brings water to my mouth). I was observing and was amazed to see how perfectly she washed rice, cut vegetables, boiled rice, prepared dal and then served it. It still gives me goosebumps, and I really am super proud of them.

Keep yourself updated, as I definitely will

Stay connected to Saksham on various platforms and have a great time

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/wearesaksham/

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/sakshamtrust/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFTNnpF0GRb0p1H7gSvESXQ

Whatsapp: +91-92666 26368

Blog: http://www.saksham.blog

A vote of thanks!

Thanks! Thankyou so much to each and every person in the office, my journey wouldn’t have been this amazing without them. I always heard that “Team is the greatest strength for an organization to grow, thankfully, I got to see one (I am definitely gonna implement it in my organization). Special thanks to YES Foundation which gave me this opportunity to connect with them. I wish each and every member connected in any manner that they achieve tons and tons of success (Wish same for me, haha) and have a healthy life ahead. I am definitely gonna miss this journey, and these 7 weeks will definitely be included in my autobiography (:P) in golden words!!

BY
Samyak Jain 

UPBRINGING A VISUALLY IMPAIRED CHILD

The visually impaired (VI) have passed through various stages – of being treated as rejected section of the society to being recognized as talented persons who were no inferior to their counterparts. The blind person is usually self – taught, often being given appropriate assistance from institutions or schools. They are taught not to pity for their blindness but be self- reliant. Education of Visually Impaired child was not easy but received a further boost in 1834 with the successful adaptation & development of the embossed dot code by Louis Braille, a French man who himself was blind. Braille was developed for an easier communication among the blind, opening the doors for the acquisition of information & knowledge through the sense of touch.

In India, Miss Annie Sharp, a Christian missionary from England founded the 1st school for the blind at Amritsar in 1887. There were just 4 schools for the blind at the turn of the century but by 1944, when the report on blindness in India was submitted, there were 32 schools in undivided India.The significant landmark in the history of education of the visually challenged in India has been through state level decision to establish a Braille press to produce books in Braille. In 1923, submission of the reports on blindness leads to most of the services for the blinds today. Ministry of Education set up a cell in 1946 to promote education, training & rehabilitation for the blind, development and acceptance of “Bharati Braille”, a common Braille code for Indian language which was finalized in November 1950, replacing the earlier codes in the light of certain recommendations made by UNESCO. Establishment of National Association for the blind in 1952 marked the beginning of concerted voluntary action in this field. Further, the first vocational training center was established for the adult blind women in 1957 at Dehradun.

For the upbringing of a Visually Impaired Child, there are social and community development programs that promote health care through changes in behavior and the environment. For the upbringing of the Visually Impaired child, strengthening community, family, recognition and appropriate care of individuals and immunization is very important. Communities also play an important role in the implementation of appropriate intervention such as early childhood intervention programs, education, awareness, medical/surgical and therapeutic intervention, services for parents/caretakers, proper guidance and counseling. Further, good psychosocial assessment is needed which will lead to a good psychosocial intervention to reduce complaints and improve functioning related to mental disorders and/or social problems.

Here, education for parents and family is very much needed. Also, for the upbringing of the Visually Impaired child, appropriate training to parents on blindness and its management is of utmost urgency. National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), a non-profit organization working as an interface between the Government, Industry, International Agencies, and the Voluntary Sector towards empowerment of persons with disabilities.

There are various technologies in support of persons with blindness like screen reading software, text- to- speech converter (TTS), refreshable Braille display, note- takers, talking calculator, talking watch, talking thermometer, Daisy Player and much more. The Saksham school for the visually impaired and the disabled people aims to provide education, rehabilitation, training, empowering individuals with the assistive technologies making them self-sustainable, self-independent and enhance their dignity. Saksham strongly believes in inclusive education, a dream turning into reality. There are many events that take place in Saksham Resource Center (School) such as Intra-school art competition, clay modeling, and painting, which is organized within the school itself. This initiative is certainly worthy of appreciation.   

 

By
Nharika Sehgal

Legal Rights for Visually Impaired

The people of India with disabilities like blindness or visual impairment have been provided with “The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill – 2016”. Responsibility has been cast upon the appropriate governments to take effective measures to ensure that the persons with blindness or visual impairment disabilities enjoy their rights equally with others. Additional benefits such as reservation in higher education, government jobs, reservation in the allocation of land, poverty alleviation schemes etc. have been provided for persons with disabilities and those with high support needs. The bill provides the penalties for offences committed against persons with disabilities and also the violation of the provision of the new law. Special courts will be designated in each district to handle such cases.

Further, the new law will not only enhance the rights and entitlements of Divyangjan (the disabled persons) but also provide an effective mechanism for ensuring their empowerment and true inclusion into the society in a satisfactory manner. For empowerment of persons with disabilities, respect and individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choice independently, discrimination should not be there for persons with disabilities. Full and effective participation in society, equality of opportunities, respect for the evolving capacities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities needs to be supported in an inclusive environment. 

Support and assistance to a person with disability is provided with alternative modes like Braille, tactile communication signs, large print, accessible multimedia, written and communication technology. The right to free legal aid, the right to file a complaint is entitled under the provision of this “The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill – 2016”.

The persons with disabilities shall have equal protection & safety in a situation of risk, armed conflict, humanitarian & natural disasters. The government shall take appropriate steps to ensure that all their public documents are in an accessible format, ensure that the filing departments registry or any other office records are supplied with necessary equipment, to enable filing, storing and referring to the documents and evidence in accessible formats. The government shall ensure that the persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life and have the right to equal recognition everywhere as any other person. The government shall designate one or more authorities to mobilize the community and create social awareness to support persons with disabilities in an exercise of their legal capacity.

Making buildings, campuses and various facilities accessible, to provide reasonable accommodation according to the individual requirements. Making art accessible to persons with blindness and visual impairment and ensuring that the education to them is provided. Children with blindness or other disabilities should be provided with the transportation facility, free health care in the vicinity. Every employment exchange shall maintain records of persons with disabilities seeking employment, especially in the rural area subject to such family income as many, be notified. Promotion through various channels for preventing disabilities is needed for greater help and out reach.

 

By 

Niharika Sehgal 

EDUCATING CHILDREN WITH MULTIPLE DISABILITIES AT SAKSHAM SCHOOL

Children with multiple disabilities need special training, support in education needs special care. Special educators have required speech therapist, teachers for special education, occupational therapist, transportation facility, assistance, functional assessment, speech therapy, physiotherapy, parent counselling, computer literacy, etc. Saksham school in Noida provides all these special assistance to blind, visually impaired child or any disabled child. Each child is unique and requires special curriculum and intervention. Professional help with specialization has to be provided close to their residence SAKSHAM DAKSH SCHOOL has taken up this challenge for NOIDA region. Since 90% of children are from extremely poor families all these services are provided free of cost.

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The SAKSHAM SCHOOL  is for the children with multiple disability or blindness to give them the provision of education and support at its centres. Due to blindness or disability, they would not be getting admission into main schools or educational institutions. Those blind or disabled children who got the admission got less support and services due to which they were facing many problems and not being able to get a quality education. Realising that a blind child too- like any other child deserves an education. Saksham School for blind and multiple disabled is for small children. It is a hope of every blind child or Visually Impaired Person to get an education or to gain knowledge, just like any other normal child. The child hopes not be constraint only to the limitation’s he/she has due to the disabilities. But to explore the world of education although being bound by the shortcomings the child has Saksham School is an effort to support the beginning of development and an initiative to understand better way by which special educators can help the children. The use of hand- under-hand in our interaction with these children and becoming more mindful of what message our touch – conveys. Our objective is to provide them with a greater variety of textures and materials and giving them more time and opportunities. For an independent exploration of these objects. We are recognizing that hand use progresses systematically simply by the child completing constant repetition of specific hand movement schemes. We are thinking about touch as it relates to literacy and general learning. In short, we are better educated about the importance of developing touch in all our children with visual impairments and deaf-blindness. Developing the sense of touch and good hand use skills are important goals for any child with the visually impaired person.

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Learning through fun, although the sense of touch and tactile marking for the blind or visually impaired person is important to learn. There is technology also as a help or Aid to make it more convenient to understand for the child who is learning skills and tools of education gaining. The children for their growth in learning skills are taught brail with the help of brail slate, paper, alphabet trainer, brail cube, etc. Mobilization of students in Saksham Daksh School and final preparation for integration in mainstream school.

Developing the sense of touch and good hand use skills are important goals for any child who is blind or deaf-blind. “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched- They must be felt with the heart.”-by: – Hellen Keller.

 By Niharika Sehgal