Visually Impaired NRI shows Blind the gateway into cyberspace- Blind Welfare- By Pravin C. Dandia
Many people utilize the internet and the World Wide Web these days, but only those who have technical knowledge know how to manipulate it. In a special two-week workshop held at Voice Vision in Goregaon, Mumbai that took place from 30Nov to 14Dec, 3 visually impaired individuals learned how to navigate the internet and create their personal websites. With the help of a talking software package known as JAWS(Job access with speech), developed by the American company Henter-Joyce, these students became the first blind graduates of a Web Designing class in India. Taught by an American of Indian descent who also happens to be blind, the 3 individuals learned to incorporate words such as “hyperlink”, “address book” and “E-shopping” into their everyday vocabularies. In conceiving this course, Rajiv Shah, who is currently employed as a computer trainer for the blind in Washington, D.C., feels that the work of assisting other visually impaired persons to acquire the skills for becoming productive individuals transcends all class and cultural boundaries. ” I feel that one should not limit himself to his comfort zone when it comes to making a palpable difference in another’s life. Although my home is in the United States, I have always felt a strong desire to give back to my country of origin from which my parents emigrated 25 years ago. By bringing such a project to fruition in India, I feel that I am returning the nurturing and care my family provided me.” Shah was inspired by the experience he acquired at his current job as a computer trainer at the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind. He never tires of expounding on the importance of computer literacy in today’s employment world and how he has seen blind students become an integral part of that picture. “One day while at work, a visually impaired housewife phoned me asking for instructions in utilizing her E-mail . After I finished explaining how to send and receive messages, she commented, ‘Now I have something to do before my kids and husband come home .’ I feel that this is a telling example of how a computer education can make a difference in someone’s life.” Shah’s blindness was caused by a high dose of oxygen at birth, which destroyed his retina. He has never allowed his ” visual inconvenience ” to stop him from fulfilling his endeavours. It is the first time Shah has done a project of this kind . He has done it solely to improve the lives of others. At the conclusion of the course, therefore, it seemed only logical to have a final prize. In this case, the hardest working of the bunch, Ahtesham Sheikh from Nalla Sopara, received a laptop computer.
Two months after the completion of these classes, Sheikh has noticed a marked improvement in his own life. He uses the laptop at his work at Tanzeem Enterprises and at home. He is able to access information in ways he would previously never have imagined. ” Man is forward- looking if he chooses to glance upward”.