- Surjeet Panigrahi,Swadhin Acharya,Shiba Prasad Mohanto
- India is home to a third of the world’s blind population. The country has about 12 million individuals with visual impairment as against the global total of 39 million according to a report published by the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB).
- Only 29.16 percent of the blind in India are part of the education system as per a survey conducted by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).
- The same survey points out that only 6.86 percent of schools have access to braille books and audio content.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) says some of the major causes of blindness are cataract and refractive errors, which are preventable 80 percent of the times but lack of awareness and poor access to eye care in India make the situation tough."Sightsavers", a global organisation, is leaving no stone unturned in eliminating avoidable blindness and supporting the irreversibly blind to lead a life of dignity in India. Over the last five decades, they have touched the lives of 55 million people across 100 districts in eight states.
- While many tools have been introduced to help address these problems using computer vision and other sensors (talking OCR, GPS, radar canes, etc.), their capabilities are dictated as much by the state-of-the-art in technology as they are by real human problems.
- Internet, the treasure trove of information and reading materials, too is mostly inaccessible for the blind people. Even though a blind person can use screen reading software but it does not make the surfing experience very smooth if the sites are not designed accordingly.
- Nearly everyone faces hardships and difficulties at one time or another. But for people with disabilities, barriers can be more frequent and have greater impact.Blindness is one of the most, if not the most, misunderstood type of disability.
- Blind people confront a number of visual challenges every day – from reading the label on a frozen dinner to figuring out if they’re at the right bus stop.
- The biggest challenge for a blind person, especially the one with the complete loss of vision, is to navigate around places. Obviously, blind people roam easily around their house without any help because they know the position of everything in the house.Getting places is always a challenge, especially when they live in a rural area.
- The most valuable thing for a disabled person is gaining independence. A blind person can lead an independent life with some specifically designed adaptive things for them.
- Everyone faces challenges in their life… blind people face a lot more. They too, just like any individual, take up life’s challenges and live a normal life, even if it does not seem normal to the sighted individuals.
By Surjeet Panigrahi
As I live in city,the little I "knew" about blind people was that they were illiterates on the street or beggars on train,bus or in public places till I shifted to Bhubaneswar and met Mr Subhas Chandra Sahoo my neighbor.He is a born blind person of age 20.Subhas is one of the most inspiring ,intelligent,lovable,helpful person I have met in my life.I learnt a lot from him during 1 year as my neighbor,one of which is you can live a purpose fulfilled of life even with a disability.
I have been wanting to blog about my dear friend for a while now but didn't know where to start as there is so much to write about him so I decided to interview him.I was chuffed when he agreed to let us into his world. Thank you Subhas!!!!
A bit of warning- this is a long read but I assure you totally worth it.
Enjoy the interview......
Tell us a bit about yourself..
I was born in Bhubaneswar, on 10 November 1999. Shortly after birth, it was discovered that my eyesight was not good as expected. From then, my parents began the search, through ophthalmologists, educational institutions and friends, to ensure that I received the best education and care possible.
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 also have cataracts, which the doctors in Bhubaneswar advice I should not remove, because it would make no material difference.
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.
What are the 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. Other times, there's a psychological need to know what's happening around you. I once spoke to a girl, who spent the entire period exchanging written notes with her companion. It felt to me that those notes were about me. 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 one occasion, I was being guided in Fair and fell into a gutter. Like the fact that there are so many different types of people in the world, 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 respond to 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.
Ok Subhas I know you like to travel a lot and you travel alone frequently, how do you find your way around and what are the problems you faced?
You're right, I love travelling and have visited many locations in India. The great thing about travelling is that I can call on assistance from staff if I inform them in advance. There's usually someone to meet me at the airport to direct me to my next point, taxi, local transport, whatever.But at time of emergency they charged high amount for assist as It was difficult to find such a patientfull person,who will guide you all the day long.Explain all sorts of things around you. I've done some travelling by myself during that period I also got heavily Injured due to improper Traffic system,I sometimes cannot recognize the speedy vehicles approaching towards me,street cattles,loud noise,etc.At times I felt helpless and uneasy so this hobby was also soon lost..