Having the ‘Indian’ mentality about the visually challenged, usually portrayed as illiterates or beggars, entering the National Association for Blind (NAB-Bangalore) changed my perception completely and thereby decided to document . NAB has one of the most inspiring, intelligent, lovable, always willing to help and loving people I have ever met in my life . They might not know but they inspire and motivate me. I learnt a lot from them during my one week visit to national association for blind ( NAB – Bangalore ) , one of which is you can live a purpose fulfilled life even with a disability . I have been wanting to blog about my dear friends for a while now but didn’t know where to start as there is so much to write about them so I decided to do a photo story . I was chuffed when they agreed to let us into their world. Thank you NAB!!!! A bit of warning- this is a long read but I assure you totally worth it.
About NAB :
The NAB-BANGALORE (estd:1977) is a Non-governmental , non-profit organization , affiliated to NAB(INDIA),that focuses on economic rehabilitation of the visually challenged persons . A one of a kind organization , it provides the infrastructure as well as wide range of projects & services for the general welfare , education & training of the visually challenged . They have rural projects , Deaf blind projects , Integrated Education projects . We solicit generous donations in our efforts to bring some comfort to the unfortunate sightless brothers & sisters of india . Vision : To lead the visually challenged persons from darkness to light Mission : Make visually challenged equal member of society
I had a talk with my friend MR.Haridas (66yr old) , who is visually impaired shortly after his birth and he is the Braille instructor at NAB – Bangalore
How and when did you become visual impaired (VI)?
I was born with a medical condition which meant that my eyesight was not good. Gradually it began to worsen, though to someone who was used to living life in a school for blind people, that deterioration was imperceptible. My family observed sometimes that the things I could see at one time, I could no longer see later.
I am aware that some VI people have some degree of sight does this apply to you?
In fact, this is a difficult question to answer, because I never knew how much sight I had, relative to other people. But I can say categorically that my eyesight has worsened, because there was a time I could read the bold newspaper headlines. Sometimes, I believe I can see things, not just shadows. I may be walking fast, and just notice something in my way. I try to clarify whether it is a shadow or not, and sometimes, I can plainly see that I see more than the shadow. At other times, I’m not so sure.
Can you tell me about day to day challenges of being visually impaired and how do you survive?
There are many, such as reading letters, asking for assistance, etc. There is now technology that can assist in many of these things. A good optical character recognition software can help read letters, but they’re expensive. Sometimes, people are a little apprehensive about talking to me, which worries me, because I want to shout that I’m no different from others. On the whole, I suspect that too many people are uncomfortable about meeting visually impaired people, and that makes us really lonely for the people who can treat us as normal. How do I cope? The most important thing is my faith. I asked God, and He showed me so much. He showed me that what I’ve learned as a blind person, I couldn’t have learned any other way. Like the fact that there are so many different types of people in the world, like empathy, like the need to be outgoing and friendly, even the independence of recognizing that I can’t always expect someone to be there for me.
How do you face the negative reaction to your visual impairment?
I believe that negative reaction is two way. It’s also a result of ignorance. Not many blind people really know how sighted people are, and there is a lot of stereotyping both ways. I like to tell people about visual impairment and to encourage them to explore my world. I also try to be as independent as possible. This worries my family, but I have to keep reminding them that if I asked people to do everything for me, they’ll get tired. I also try to learn about the world of sighted people.
Does new emerging technologies contributed to your daily life ?
It’s wonderful to be able to report that I can do anything on the phone and computer. You need to understand the improvement that represents. Before the technologies came on board, all the books available to others had to be converted to Braille. Can you imagine a bookshop and all the books in it? Even now, only about 5% of books get converted to an alternative format. But if it’s on computer, I have it. Or imagine all the letters we get everyday from banks, utility companies and so on. I can get all via email now. There are software available for VI people named as“TALKS” which has been installed on my mobile as well as on my computer , it gives an audio output correspondingly to the function which I perform
Where do you see Haridas in 10 years time?
I wish I could say, taking a rest. I hope that by then, I’d have more recognition, that the causes I espouse will be better known and most important, that I would be associated with excellence in what I do. But more than the professional aspirations, I hope that at the end of each day, god gives me another day to see
What keeps you going?
Faith, dreams, the certainty that things are getting better and the fear of being stagnant. Usually, I look back on an event and wonder how I managed to pull through it. I’ve pioneered so many things already. I never know I’m doing it until it’s done. I can only thank God , Maybe that’s why God doesn’t show me those things until it’s done.
A word of advice to a visually impaired young person living , what would it be?
It’s tough, but you’re tougher. Keep trying to persuade your friends and the government that you can do it, but you’ll never persuade anyone if you don’t believe it yourself.
Last but not the least how you feel working with NAB ?
I have worked with lots of blind association school but NAB has a state of the art training equipments and a very good standard of syllabus . There are different course available according to the person choice . Initially everyone must have cleared his/her 10th grade . We have different section right from making of Paper bags , Door mats and even plastic wire seats for chair . There is a special training on workshop as well which is a 2 yr course and for this one has to qualify the basic test on mobility , utility and he/she must be 16+ of age .Once the candidate are done with the 2yr course they will placed in the leading organization.NAB have a clear vision on what they do thereby they attain their goal and I am very much happy that i play an important role in their growth
Now let my picture speak ..!