Visually impaired people can become active, contributing citizens of the country if they get equal access to opportunities of employment. A lot of times, barriers in physical and digital access prevent them from accessing these opportunities. It’s also the societal mindset towards disability that renders a majority of them dependent.
Private sector has only recently started opening up jobs for persons with vision impairment. But there aren’t too many options available for a vast blind population. Similarly, self-employment is a challenge because of a handful of financial welfare schemes available and those too fall prey to the lack of implementation. The next best choice is government jobs and those are also hard to get as the competition is high and the reserved seats are a mere 1% for the entire population of blind and low vision.
But whatever number of vacancies open up, blind applicants face their fair share of hurdles starting from accessing information, to submitting forms online or appearing for the competitive entrance examination. Eyeway is often witness to several such accounts from all parts of India. Visually impaired callers reach out for help usually in a state of panic, thinking they might miss the bus.
In 2019, Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) announced a mega recruitment drive for the post of Multi-Tasking Staff in Group D category. But the pandemic put a halt to the process and it was only in 2022 that RRB announced the entrance exam dates.
Basvant Waghmare, a thirty-three-year-old visually impaired person from Nanded, Maharashtra also applied for the post in 2019. After a wait of two long years, Basvant was eager to pursue the process. But he couldn’t find the hard copy of his application and was unable to access it through email in the absence of a computer or a smartphone.
Thirty-year-old Dilip Dhage from Washim district had been seeking a government job for several years. He also faced similar issues in accessing the online form for verification. Thirty-three-year-old Mushialam Shaikh repeatedly called the Eyeway Helpdesk, unsure of when and how RRB would provide him with an admit card for the entrance exam.
In each of these cases, the Eyeway counselor provided adequate support to the callers, either by personally making the enquiries with the official department. Or, helping them access links and documents online. In some cases, the counselor also guided the visually impaired candidates to seek help from their local cybercafé, often intervening and explaining directly to the sighted person.
Unaffordability of devices, lack of internet access or the skills to use technology platforms often comes in the way of availing opportunities. Authorities need to be made aware of such perils faced by the average blind person who aspires to gain independent living with dignity.