Devaka and Samadhan. (Students)
A few friends, and I, had got together last month to attempt something different, for the differently-abed, the visually impaired (blind).
Also thanks to my acquaintance in the UK, Herminder Kaur, I found out this week that unequal access to information technology (computers and the internet) and the online world brings about unequal participation of the differently abled and the visually impaired. A computer literacy certification program, particularly one recognized by the government of India, can certainly help the less privileged in our country, especially the visually impaired (blind), have some more power over their perceived shortcomings, circumstances, disabilities.
I pondered, first, they only needed help to live in their immediate surroundings. Now, the differently abled need our assistance to even access even the online-world. So, the need for more equal access to the internet, the world online, is becoming more and more important for differently abled people who are already facing challenges of social exclusion and the issue is being treated as ‘a civil rights issue’ in the developed and developing world.
Adds Herminder Kaur, “In the West, as more and more services move online, there is a need to recognise how people with disabilities are unable to access or use these services and therefore how this results in double exclusion – offline and online. By recognising the issue as a right – we can appreciate that it is essential for service and technology providers and regulators to do more to ensure every citizen is an equal participant/user of the medium.”
I think, by helping the differently abled, however tiny be our ways of assistance, we will understand better not just their needs but also help us understand abled humans, social life and our world in which digital technology is going to play a bigger and bigger role. And so, our role in the lives of the differently abled should increase correspondingly.
To begin with, my nine friends and I decided to assist two visually impaired adults achieve ‘computers and online-world literacy’ by paying their course fees for the same. We hope to assist two more students when their next batch begins after three months, for one year from Nov 2107 to 18.
We are simply hoping the tiny assistance we are providing them will help them secure better livelihood opportunities, including more secure jobs with the government that offers provident fund, pension etc. Also, it will give them the sense of ‘…. someone cares for us.’- that by itself is a big motivator.
Samadhan and Devaka, both are children of farmers from Maharashtra. Samadhan lost his father when he was a child and he became visually impaired thereafter.
I asked them both, “If you were to get your sight back, what would you want to see first and most?” They replied, Samadhan said “Nature. I have a clear memory of nature, as I became blind when I was six or seven….” And Devaka replied, “I would first like to see my family, all those who love me.”
Thank you Akshita, Ankita, Priyanka, Ishani, Suman, Ritu, Amit Priyanka, Dr Niraj, Minnie, and myself; (Ameya, Laila will join us from the next quarter.) This is possible because you all are part of it.
(The three months short course in computer literacy is conducted by the Victoria Memorial School for the Blind, Tardeo, Mumbai. http://www.mkcl.org/mscit )