Sixty-one-year-old Bashir Ahmed Bhatt lives in Baramulla, Jammu and Kashmir. He is a B.Sc. graduate who was successfully employed with the Indian Postal Service until a few years ago. At 48, Bashir lost his eyesight following an unfortunate accident, which rendered him incapable of carrying out his services.
He could no longer support his family including three daughters and a son. He felt helpless and hopeless. Sitting at home one day, he heard a program on Radio Kashmir where the Eyeway counselor talked about possibilities of life with blindness. Encouraged by this information, he contacted the helpdesk and shared his challenge with the counselor stationed in Srinagar.
For his immediate financial concerns, the helpdesk counselor put him in touch with organizations and individual donors who offered some assistance. But the larger issue is regarding Bashir’s rehabilitation so he can continue leading an independent life and make ends meet.
When the Eyeway counselor approached several organizations where Bashir could acquire mobility, digital and other life skills, he was turned down on grounds of his seniority. Most institutions don’t cater to people of Bashir’s age and focus primarily on children and young adults.
While there is no quick fix to this systemic issue when it comes to rehabilitative services for the blind, the counselor has been encouraging Bashir to attend open workshops in Srinagar where he had the chance to interact with other visually impaired people and learn about assistive technology and devices that enable persons with vision impairment to function independently.
Given his fluency in English communication, the Eyeway counselor also encouraged Bashir to prepare himself for potential job roles that require those skills. But before any of that, he needs proper training and access to devices, especially a smartphone.
Using a smartphone enabled with Talkback, he can learn to navigate on his own, read and write, browse for information, connect on social media with friends and family and so on. He can also access resources that are available on YouTube or similar opensource channels.
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