What makes a blind person all that different from the ones who have been blessed with the gift of sight?
Think of it in this way—if you were on a telephonic call with a sales representative, would you ever know that the person on the other side is visually impaired?
A disability, be it sensory or psychological, should be no barrier when it comes to chasing dreams and aspirations. However, the reality is quite far away.
People from the differently-abled community continue to be viewed through a single-shaded perspective—that their shortcomings would never let them be productive enough like a ‘regular’ person.
But if a person is never even given the opportunity to know what he or she is capable of, it is unfitting on our part as a society to thrust the ‘disabled’ tag without even batting an eyelid.
Home to over 12 million people with varying degrees of visual impairment, India has the largest blind population in the world.
That is a huge number! Imagine the amount of immensely talented individuals who could emerge from the spectrum, if only their talents are given the required attention and nurturing.
Fortunately, things have begun to look up in recent years with organisations and institutions opening up the scope of employment opportunities, vocational training and even sports for the visually challenged.
One such organisation in Kochi has been instrumental in changing the employment landscape for the blind and is helping them become earning members of their families since 2002.
The Society for Rehabilitation of the Visually Challenged (SRVC) is the brainchild of like-minded people who came together to make a difference in the lives of the visually challenged.
Led by Professor VJ Pappu, the organisation has been providing training in areas that one would generally not associate with a visually impaired person through optimal utilisation of technology.
“We have undertaken projects where training has been provided in areas like orchestration, data entry, telemarketing, medical transcription, call centre jobs, physiotherapy, counselling, foreign language assistance, tea tasting, wine and tasting,” Sunil Mathew, an IT professional who serves as the secretary of SRVC, told The Better India.
Through the organisation, a Vodafone telesales centre has been set up in the city last year, which is completely run by visually challenged folks.
“In 2008, we had kickstarted a resource centre at the Infopark premises in Kochi, with a goal of training and empowering the community by exposing them to the world of computers and preparing them for jobs in various stages through an 8-month course. So far, 9 batches comprising 10 students each have successfully graduated with about 65 per cent being placed at different firms,” Sunil proudly mentions.
One of the major accomplishments of SRVC however is ‘Heart2Heart’ – an exclusive orchestra comprising a talented group of musicians from across the state.
The team has performed over 200 shows till date, out of which five shows were showcased abroad.
The incredibility of the orchestra is that all the musicians practice their pieces through memory, since they can’t read the notes.
“When it comes to music, the state of being unable to see often acts as an advantage. Visually impaired musicians are often said to have elevated sensory skills, which help them grasp music better than others,” explains Sunil.
The organisation has also opened up sporting avenues for the visually challenged. Starting with blind cricket and other blind sports like athletics and powerlifting, SRVC teamed up with the Indian Blind Sports Association (IBSA) and Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) in 2013 to promote blind football across the country and eventually set up a national team.
In case you didn’t know, India’s blind football team is currently ranked 23rd in the global rankings. “This happened through constant practice and dedication of the players in a short span of two years,” adds Sunil.
The best news is that India will soon have its first and exclusive blind football academy, thanks to the organisation’s unfaltering commitment to the cause.
“In the initial years, it was difficult to pursue the sport since no place was equipped enough for the visually challenged to play safely. Also, the equipment for the sport was quite expensive too. With the launch of the academy, the players, who have been handpicked from across the country will not just be trained for the sport but given vocational training as well through which they can earn a living too,” he says.
The academy is slated for inauguration on September 15, which will have Ulrich Pfisterer, who is the chairman of International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) and the coach of the German blind football teach, gracing the event.
The dedication with which SRVC has been trying to make society a lot more inclusive gives testimony to the idea that no disability is a barrier when it comes to chasing dreams.