City’s visually impaired stay connected online- Hindustan Times – By Reetika Subramanian
Perched on a couch in front of her computer, Anuja Sankhe, 25, discusses the Indo-Pak diplomatic relations, shares news reports and audio files with her friends in Karachi.
Sankhe, a resident of Boisar, who has never met her cross-border friends in person, befriended them on www.inclusiveplanet.com, a social networking website for the visually impaired a month ago and today has 15 friends online. “Using screen reading software, we have very interesting discussions on socio-political issues and share ideas through our blog posts,” added Sankhe, who has been blind since birth.
Like Sankhe, several others, who are visually impaired in Mumbai, are adept at using online measures to stay connected with friends. With its simple navigation techniques, audio software and options in font size and colour, such portals are useful for people who have low or zero vision.
“Portals such as these help us create an identity and a world of our own with users becoming more open about sharing their thoughts online. From matrimonials to job vacancies, online counselling centres to support groups, we also play catalysts for visually-impaired students who seek writers and readers for exams,” said Sushmeetha Bubna, founder of www.voicevision.in
On December 3, Bubna – lost sight at the age of 24 – will receive a National Award for the best accessible website among public sector bodies from President Pratibha Patil. The award is part of the National Awards for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities 2011. (See Box)
“Unlike countries such as the United Kingdom, user-friendly software for the blind is still catching up in India,” said Sriram Parthasarthy, 25, who downloads e-books and games from www.blindsea.com.
For Mukti Yadav, 23, the online websites have helped overcome her inhibitions. “When we are online, people judge us for our thoughts, not for our disability,” said Yadav.
Referring to these social portals in the context of “need for change”, Ritika Sahni, founder of the Trinayani Welfare Trust, a non-profit organisation that works for the disabled, said, “It is quite heartening to note that people are now asking questions about their lives and livelihood using such mediums.”