50-year-old Abu Gawere was a welder for the Indian Army, and was afraid he would lose his job when his eyesight began to decline. According to Section 47 of the Disability Act, a person cannot be fired due to his disability, but Gawere knew that the Indian Army was exempted from this. Not knowing what to do next, he turned to Eyeway.org, who did a little research of their own; and found out that civilians employed by the Indian Army cannot be fired due to disability. Thanks to the efforts of the team at Eyeway.org, Abu Gawere continued in a secure job.
“I have often been asked by companies if their employees can visit people who are visually disabled, distribute sweets, and spend some time with them. I find such ideas of CSR initiatives amusing.
“Discrimination towards the visually challenged still exists. Even today, those who are blind are not allowed to hold bank accounts, of their own. They are asked to open joint accounts instead. Those who are visually disabled are as much a part of India as anybody else. Even in terms of education, if a fresher says he wants to do his MBA, it is encouraged, but if a visually challenged person wants to take up higher education, it is immediately shunned. Why is that?!”- says George Abraham, founder of the Score Foundation, who has been visually impaired since he was ten months old.
Statistics show that less than 15% of visually impaired people in developing countries like India have access to vision enhancement or vision rehabilitation services, much less job opportunities. Countries like Brazil, China and Oman have managed to integrate eye care service provision into their primary health care framework, while India has made eye care service provisions only for the poorest at a district level.
Eyeway.org is an online information and support platform set up in 2002 for Indians with visual impairment and disability. It is a brainchild of the Score foundation. The website is aimed at creating a knowledge base that can build people’s awareness and offer information about acts and provisions for those with such disabilities, eye health, personal stories and more. Eyeway.org sources its information by filing RTIs, from government officials who can offer updates on future policies, independent contributors and credible online sources.
In 2005, Eyeway.org managed to expand its reach by setting up a radio show, ‘Eyeway: Yeh Hai Roshni ka Karwan’. Soon the show began to receive frequent calls on air, which led to the creation of the Eyeway Helpdesk to supplement efforts with the website.
Along with providing information, Eyeway.org aids those who aren’t offered jobs or discriminated against due to their disabilities, through the advocacy of policies. “We speak to authorities, and help draft guidelines for organisations, on how they can include visually disabled people in their activities and in society,” says George.
Raghava Satish Peri, a visually impaired marketer at IBM states, “Eyeway is definitely a source of inspiration. It offers information that is eye-opening and helps change mindsets when it comes to visual disabilities.”
But all of Team Eyeway’s achievements are merely a drop in the ocean as far as founding-member George is concerned. “India isn’t just made up of cities like Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore, etc. There are several towns and villages that need a change when it comes to attitudes towards people with disabilities. What our country needs at the moment is a paradigm shift, people everywhere must be open to accept and include those who are visually challenged.”
Source: Chai with Lakshmi