Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, June 11
Head held high with a gregarious demeanour, a confident Tiffany Brar walks into the room with a white cane in a hand, guided through her inner light.
In a world where visually impaired are dependent on others, this 30-year-old woman, who lost her eyesight six months after birth due to an overdose of oxygen, is changing the notion by proving herself as an asset to the society. She says, “Hold my hand, not my shoulders, for I can walk myself.”
In an interview with The Tribune, she says, “In our country, visually impaired people are considered a curse for their parents and society. Not only this, people say they were disabled due to the sins committed in the previous birth.”
She confronted a number of hurdles in her school life, from facing rejection to not been provided Braille books. As a child in Britain, she was not prejudiced but as she moved to India, she was confronted with discrimination at her school.
At the tender age of five, she flew back to Kerela. “I faced discrimination and was thrown out of my class for giving the right answer. I was given Braille books only two days before the exam.”
Brar recalls, “On the first day, the teacher asked us to open page number 121 of the book and see an illustration. That was the moment when everybody realised I was blind.”
At a time when Brar was just beginning to see the world through her inner light, she lost her mother. She was 12 then. “I was sad that I lost my mother, but I never lost the will to overcome life challenges. A little voice inside me told me that I have to move forward and that’s exactly what my mother had taught me.”
During a field trip, Brar found that roads were not visually impaired-friendly. “There were stones and the roads were slippery. I have met people who could walk but stopped going out as the world believed they deserved to be tied to the bed rather than venturing out independently.”
Startled at the state of affairs, Brar conceived the idea of starting a mobile school for visually impaired children. “It was as simple as that. If children cannot come to school, we made the school walk to them.”
Brar is a social worker and founder of Jyothirgamaya Foundation, a Kerela-based NGO for the visually impaired. Jyothirgamaya means leading to light.
“A 28-year-old visually impaired man contacted me through radio and came on board with us. Now, he is efficient than me. He works as a computer trainer and earns for his family,” she shared.
She is helping thousands of visually impaired through her NGO that empowers the blind in all possible spheres of life, through need-based individualised training in necessary skills paving the way for sharpening their personalities and enabling them to get suitable employment.
She vouches for public-friendly transport, bus passes for differently abled and trains equipped with ramps.
Aiming high, Brar shares her future vision. She says she wants to start a preschool for visually impaired to get them education at a young age itself. “These days, visually challenged students are taught till the seventh standard and they are still lost. I will provide them a conducive environment, right from childhood. We will provide them audio-visual kits.”
I lost my mother, but I never lost the will to overcome life challenges. A little voice inside me told me that I have to move on and that’s exactly what my mother had taught me. — Tiffany Brar, founder of Jyothirgamaya