What issue are you trying to solve?
Out of the total disabled population in India, 19% of the population are visually impaired says the disability census of India, 2016. These blind people are living in the same society that we live in. However, do we see them out in the busy streets rushing to work and school unaided? Do we include them in mainstream society? The answer is no. They are not allowed to venture out and parents are still stuck to the age-old beliefs that they are blind due to some sin they created in their last birth. This needs to stop. A change is needed and with immediate effect. Extreme overprotection on the one hand and ignorance, lack of awareness and negligence on the other. This is the issue we try addressing through Jyothirgamaya Foundation. The team tirelessly works to bring the blind to the forefront in the field of employment and education, through latest forms of technology, and also by sensitizing the government, schools, and companies regarding these issues and urging them to include blind people in decision making and in all necessary things that a normal citizen performs. We work towards the solution of two important goals of inclusion of the blind people:
- To elucidate blindness and remove all the societal barriers like sympathy and embarrassment into an inclusive platform.
- Remove the stereotypic thoughts and make sighted people instigate and volunteer and thereby opening the eyes of the society towards complete accessibility and acceptance of the blind people in India.
What is your approach to change this undesired situation?
Jyothirgamaya Foundation, a pioneering effort started in 2015, with a vision of empowering the blind in India. Though there are acts and legislations conferring equal rights for persons with disabilities, in practice they are far from implementation. We strive for inclusion. We bring them out of their confinements, empower them, and drill it out of their minds that they are useless, and in turn enable them to derive the feeling that they are assets, not liabilities. We train them in access technology, mobility, life skills, and adapted physical education. They are taken on adventure trips, enabling them to explore every aspect of life from tandem cycling to Yoga, rope riding, which in India is considered myths for such people. Our pre-school adopts innovative approach through play-way method, learning by doing and inclusion. We have a mobile blind school, which follows the motto, “if the blind can’t go to school, let the school go to them!”
What is the potential impact of your initiative
- We are an activist organization who raises our voice against infringement of the rights of persons with disabilities, not only in our state Kerala but across the country. We have worked for inclusive accessible elections which took place in 2019; we have lobbied with the government to create accessible currency notes, conducting sensitization workshops with the reserve bank of India, as well as through district-level protests. We have conducted intensive sensitization programs,
enlightening companies about the accessibility needs of blind people and urging them to employ them.
- Life transformation: 29-year-old Vinod, who had never seen the threshold of a classroom, with no hope at all, after training became proficient in access technology and mobility and is now an android instructor and a sound editor. Hanna, a timid girl in class five when our founder first encountered her, after training, is now proficient in computers, writes her exams online, is a motivational speaker and composes her own music. There are many examples of life transformation.
- We mainstream young blind kids through our preparatory school.
- Women with wings are yet another project which has proven to provide an opportunity to many blind women, who were tucked away in closed rooms, to fly out! They can now use Android phones, operate bank accounts, defend themselves from opponents through our self-defence training, and are made aware of their rights.