India is home to world’s largest visually impaired population housing over 50 lakh people (according to the 2011 census). Our country also tops the chart for the largest population of corneal blind in the world.
We are a long way from ensuring an inclusive society for our visually challenged citizens because of taboos that exist around organ donation, leading to corrective surgeries still being a far-fetched reality.
However, a few individuals, organisations, NGOs, and voluntary groups are leading the way in setting exemplary standards of inclusion.
Here are five organisations that are enabling and empowering visually challenged individuals lead dignified lives:
Reviving the lost art of story-telling, Ajay Dasgupta’s The Kahani Project is making stories accessible to children across all nationalities and disabilities. Started on the eve of Children’s Day in 2012, the team at The Kahani Project has crowdsourced over 600 stories on it online repository, which has been accessed over one lakh times.
From folklore to fables, The Kahani Project’s open-sourced, online library has access to stories recorded in English, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, and Sindhi.
Using MP3 players, the team of Kahani Project works closely with special schools helping visually impaired children download and listen to various stories that they otherwise didn’t have access to.
Madhu Singhal and her non-profit Mitra Jyoti have been empowering visually impaired individuals with various programmes and material for over 26 years now. From humble beginnings in a garage to now housing South India’s first private Braille press, Mitra Jyoti has marked an incredible journey.
Mitra Jyoti’s famous ‘talking book library’ has a vast collection of around 3,800 books in CD/cassette formats. The trust also runs a full-fledged job placement cell that tries to bridge the gap between differently-abled job seekers and potential recruiters.
National Association for the Blind (Employment & Training) also known as Nabet is working towards providing job opportunities for the visually impaired with the help of a unique employment linked training programme in the IT sector that has resulted in a regular source of livelihood.
Over the past six years, Nabet India has found employment for over 500 people. It has received various recognitions, including the Washington DC’s ‘Global Good Fund’ 2017, and London’s ‘Queen’s Young Leader’, 2017 awards.
Twenty-seven-year-old Siddhant Shah is India’s first architect to render heritage projects and museums accessible to the visually impaired.
A heritage architect by profession, Siddhant set up Access for ALL in Mumbai in 2016 to push physical and social limits in spaces of cultural significance to create an inclusive experience for all visitors.
He created tactile surfaces and textures for visually impaired visitors, and published India and Pakistan’s first museum Braille publication with large fonts and tactile imagery to encourage partially sighted and blind audiences.
Sarthak Educational Trust is a holistic platform for providing skills and empowering the disabled.
Founded by Dr Jitender Aggarwal, a dentist who lost his vision due to macular degeneration, this organisation has so far placed nearly 10,000 disabled candidates in various sectors including retail, BPOs, IT, and hospitality, through its 13 skill development centres present across India.