Laughter of Independence

Today I am referred with varied adjectives like inspirational, independent and so on. This wasn’t the case always. Even I have gone through many melt down’s, sharing one such experience here, hoping you will read without any judgements.

Recently, I attended our neighbour’s wedding in a tier 2 city of Gujarat, along with my family. As you are aware, weddings in our community are grand and lavish too. As a result, a person like me is always the talk of the gossip. Wonder why? A lady decked up from head to toe, walking with a white cane, always makes people turn around 180 degrees and watch and discuss.  

As usual, my neighbours and our common relatives approached my sister and enquired about me, “Has she hurt her leg? Does she have any walking issues, as she is carrying a stick?”. My sister to my pride answered, “She can’t see.” We both just walked away, smiling and I forgot the incident with the very next step we took. But this wasn’t same more than a decade and a half ago.  

The story begins again with me attending a wedding. It was my first cousin’s wedding, the ‘Sangeet Party’ or musical dance party had just settled and the floor was open for dinner. As the food layout is super lavish in our community wedding, I received a plate served with a variety of it. I was eating, so was my mother, sister and everyone around me.

Suddenly I was left alone, as some went for dessert, others were socialising. I could hear them talking near me, hence carried on with filling myself. Post finishing the task at hand, I started to look for anyone around. I could still hear my mother talking clearly near me. I whispered so as to not create a scene but got no response. I waited a couple more minutes. I could hear kids playing around me, tried to talk with them, but the same got no response. Few more minutes passed, I stood up, placed the empty plate on the chair next to me and tried to move a little. Nevertheless neither did anyone see me, nor did they hear me. I was startled, as what’s going on? I can hear them, but why can’t they hear or see me? I tried extending my hand and realised that I was sitting just behind a huge pillar. Totally confused I sat there controlling all my emotions and thinking what should I do? I can’t scream, neither can I walk a few steps and seek some help. Waiting in that chair, hearing my mother and others talk for a few minutes was like the passing of an era for me. 

Sometime later, when the crowd dispersed, my mother came to me. The moment she spoke to me, all my bundled-up emotions started flowing out, without any obstacles. I even forgot where was I and let it all out. My mother tried to explain to me that I was just on the other side of the pillar, but for me, it was as if she had forgotten me. Tears rolled out from her eyes too. She kept on trying to console me but had no luck. Sobbing I told her that, “henceforth I am not going anywhere without my mobile phone and my stick, they bring independence to me.”

This episode is back then when me and my family had accepted my disability to some extent. I lost my eyesight post completing education, hence it was neither easy for me nor for my family to accept the disability.  They refrained me to carry my stick at family gatherings. Stating that they are there for my support and why do I need the stick. Even I accepted this thought and so, left it at home. They never wanted people to stare at me or ask awkward questions.  Coming to carrying my mobile phone, as I was not accustomed to carrying a purse, often had to handover my phone to someone in the family to carry for me. Which in turn started accompanying my stick at home too.

That day God made me learn a lesson in his own hard- taskmaster way that, I should carry my mobile phone and stick without any hesitation to where ever I go, irrespective of others liking or not. I can navigate independently, might seek assistance sometimes, carrying a white cane that gives me control over any situation.

Such as its said history repeats itself, a similar situation happened with me again. No, this time not for a wedding. It was a social club gathering, with lots of loud music playing. My mother left me alone again, to meet someone sitting a little ahead of us. When I realised that she isn’t around I stood and unfolded my stick so as to look out for her. She instantly came and with lots of concern and suspicion said that “I informed you before leaving, just went few rows ahead”. I told her smiling that it was perfectly okay and that she can carry on with her socialising. We both smiled at each other. Reaching home, we laughed together over both the incidents. A laughter of independence and dignity, isn’t it?  

Can Abilities Be Matched?

While organising our all India across disability matrimonial meet, we advertise in leading newspapers. We receive lots of enquiries from across India.
Around half of them begin this way:
“I have son/daughter for whom I am looking for a suitable match”.
When we enquire about candidate’s disability or inform them that this platform is especially focused towards disabled, few of the replies are:
“Disability… … ? ?”,
“What do you mean?”,
“Oh! no no no”.
“Why should one marry a disabled person?”
On the other hand, when a person with a disability or their family members call, the conversation begins like this:
“My son/daughter has a slight disability. S/he can manage everything on her/his own. No one will even come to know that my daughter or son is disabled.”
Then: “We are looking for someone with a lesser degree of disability”
Or: “We are looking for non-disabled partners; even someone from a lesser economic or educational background will be accepted.”
In the first scenario people look for suitability, whereas its reverse in the other scenario, they look for a lesser degree of disability.
A couple of years ago, one of our woman candidates asked me a very simple question “Men with complete blindness seeks bride with partial vision and whereas partially sighted men look for non-disabled or with another disability. Then where should a completely blind woman go? Do they even get an option of being wanted or to select a partner?”
This question still haunts me.
Each time I end a call from a non-disabled candidate or their family members, I feel “Why is it so important to match disabilities?”
“Why does one with disability behaves like a non-disabled person?”.
When we have accepted our own disability, have found solutions and have overcome our hurdles, and to an extent even feel proud about this, why can’t we accept someone else’s disability?
Each of us knows, feels and understands the fact that it’s easier for a person with a disability to understand them compared to non-disabled. But when we look for a life partner we look for someone who can read for us, drive our car or in simple words can perform the tasks which we can’t do.
Are we behaving rightly? Are we treating our community members equal or at par to ourselves? Don’t we need to get ourselves sensitised first?
Ponder about these when you’re looking for a partner for yourself of a loved one. And register for the across disability matrimonial event to be held in Mumbai on
Date: Saturday, 2nd February 2019
Time: 9 am to 3 pm
Register before 20 Jan at:

Can’t see. Will shop.

Why do we shop?
For some, shopping is about the process of buying something.

But for many, shopping is a stress reliever. It rejuvenates one’s mood & makes one happy.

While you may take the experience to shopping to be exciting, this is not same for person with visual impairment.

They can’t glance over the counter and pickup something that attracts the eyes. Neither can they just stroll in a shopping center or mall and take in all the beautifully displayed windows.

I know. I experience the huge difference of shopping with and without vision each time I shop alone; I could see once and took in everything, but now that I’m blind, the experience is distinctly different.

But this was made possible even for persons with visual impairment by Big Bazaar’s initiative named Looking Ahead on World Disability Day in Mumbai and six other cities parallelly.

We organized three unique workshops with Big Bazaar and NAB Delhi as part of this initiative.
The first was titled “Eye for Fashion”. Participants got to touch, feel, learn and admire different styles and types of attire. Palazzo, short or long kurta, multi layered dress or frock style kurta, cape or a shrug – they touched all of them. Learning about various types of festive pants, studded denim, ripped off denim, or low waist skinny fit denim enhanced their understanding of elements of fashion.

Volunteers enthusiastically explained various combinations of clothing, matching colour, tips on matching appropriate jewellery and footwear to each participant.
While I was demonstrating dungrees to participants individually, one of them said “is it something like a seat belt?” another said “OH! I never knew that a dungree looks like this.” Initially few of them found it complicated, but when they held the way it is worn they were thrilled to learn about it.

The experience of touching and understanding different types of ear rings, neck piece, bracelets and footwears was well appreciated. They got to learn the difference between casual, formal, party wear, etc.

One of the participants requested for an umbrella dress. The store employee promptly got one for her. The sparkle in her eyes and smile on her face was powerful enough to create multi fold ripple effect on everyone around. She even tried the same instantly and felt as one of her dream was fulfilled. Couple of other participants got to try dresses and got their beauty enhanced by a trained makeup artist and posed for pictures with utmost joy.

Post this, we held the “You Look Beautiful” beauty workshop. Here, participants got to learn about cosmetics and body care. They were made aware about different types of hair shampoo & conditioners, hair oils, body lotions, creams etc. They learnt to be aware about their own hair, skin type and ways to take care of themselves along with tips to consider while shopping appropriately. Mobile apps like “eye d”, “Seeing AI” were demonstrated to read the bottle labels, identify colours as part of the workshop.

Then came the makeup empowering section. While preparing for the workshop and over various conference calls even I learnt about primer, concealer etc. This was totally new for most of us. Learning about cleanser, toner, moisturising creams, applications & importance was highly knowledgeable. We touched and felt the unique texture of compact.

Participants got hands-on in applying kajal and lipstick & practiced techniques for the same. During this they learnt about various types of lipsticks, tips on choosing appropriate shade for themselves. Each of them got their choice lipstick as a gift from Big Bazaar.

On the next day, we held the “Cooking with Looking” workshop. This was flagged off with learning about various sections in a kitchen, safety, hygiene, importance and methods of being organised for the visually impaired.

Various electronic kitchen appliances were demonstrated. Each participant got an opportunity to touch, feel and get oriented to appliances like rice cooker, multipurpose kettle, induction cook top with appropriate utensil, sandwich maker and most appreciated product chopper.

Many of the participants were seeing these products for the first time. They were scared to use them practically. We made them understand a simple concept that one can’t learnt riding bicycle without falling from it. Similarly risk of getting burnt does prevail while cooking but can be avoided by being more cautious and organised. Also using all our other senses to its fullest enhances our ability of cooking.

Small information such as only the centre circle of an induction cook top gets heated or the rice cooker turns off automatically as rice is cooked were highlights of learning. Groups of participants even got hands on live cooking practice. One group made carrot halwa using a rice cooker another boiled milk and prepared tea using induction cook top. Yet another group learnt how easily they could chop onions and other vegetables using the chopper, using which they prepared vegetable sandwich.

Big Bazaar team, along with participants and volunteers tasted the cooked food. Everyone cherished and enjoyed each moment of the workshop from orienting to cooking to tasting.

Big Bazaar team introduced and gifted each participant a running “Tether”. A band used by visually impaired runners in Paralympics or marathons. Volunteers teamed up with participants and demonstrated usage of Tether. Learning about it added new avenues to each participants excitement.

The experience for me as a trainer was overwhelming. Participants were unwilling to leave the training area. Everyone requested to conduct more such workshops. Many of them shopped using the accessible shopping assistance provided by Big Bazaar and shared their positive experiences.

Big Bazaar created an independent, dignified, inclusive, sensitised atmosphere enabling visually impaired to shop alone. I am sure this will create a new era in lives of visually impaired and bring an attitude paradigm shift in the retail industry.

Letter by DGCA to CEO’s of all airlines.

Great news!

Following the case where a visually impaired passenger was denied boarding by a reputed airline, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued a circular dated 13th June 2011.

This circular states that “no airline shall refuse to carry persons with disability or persons with reduced mobility. All the airlines are directed to formulate a detailed policy for carriage of disabled persons or persons with reduced mobility including blind and publish the same on their respective website. All the airlines are also directed to make the same available at different airports and also sensitize their employees in this regard.”

If anyone needs the original pdf copy of this circular, please feel free to contact us.

Find the text version below.

Visually impaired handling a person at the time of heart attack!

After my final exams, I went to my bachelor uncle’s house in Chennai for few days. He’s a very fun loving person and enjoys eating. He stays alone and have little acidity and indigestion problem. One night all of a sudden, I heard some noise of difficult breathing, as I am a visually impaired, I followed the voice and found uncle is having tremendous breathing problem and was perspiring too much.
He was trying to say something through indications, because he was unable to speak, I also could not make out his facial expressions. I could not understand, whether he was having convulsions or not? I tried to give him some water to drink, but he could not take it in! I was suspecting a case of choking some food stuff. Found myself helpless to be of any help, because neither the doctor’s phone number was with me nor I was in a position to go out and call the neighbours due to the language issue and lay out of the area.
I was extremely confused and tensed,, fear of something unexpected, really made me more stressful.

Friends what should be the immediate action and correct measures to deal with these kind of situations, share your thoughts from a visually impaired person’s view. Simultaneously suggest what necessary remedies, uncle could have taken to make my job easier in giving him first aid and providing him comfort fast?

How birth blind children can learn and understand their surroundings.

When children are young they are learning to identify and label the world. Blind children are no different. They need to become familiar with the world,
too. Familiarization develops orientation. For the sighted child, vision puts them in the action. For the blind child touch, sound, and movement puts them
in the action, too. You cannot label the world for a blind child by touching it for him. To be meaningful the experience must come from the child’s own action.
When there is a blind child in a family, parents and other members close to the child should give the appropriate information and concepts, that sighted children naturally acquire by visual observation. Parents are the primary educators for their child; therefore they need to give additional time and attention to their special child.
Appropriate information include- (which things are around the child, who are there in the room or house, what coloured dress is the child wearing, what type of food is been given to the child etc.
Concepts of day and night, light and darkness, different colours and difference between shapes, structures and sizes should be cleared.

For children who cannot see, sound, touch and smell are the only three ways to learn the surrounding and various objects around them.
Parents should interact much from the beginning with the child to help in understanding the environment better. Telling them about those things which they cannot see and touch, like- (sky, sun, stars, moon, trees, birds, flowers and other animals etc, can be explained by models with proper descriptions. Children spend a lot of time in playing while seeing the ceiling fans or lights or pictures, calendars on the wall, colourful toys and other objects etc, with blind child parents have to compensate that time.
Blind children recognize people or things by their voice, sense of touch and smell. Gradually they start responding to familiar voices and sounds, which they listen regularly. Smell of perfumes or few other fragrances also helps the baby to recognize familiar people and food items. Different sounds of various toys, animals etc are very easily distinguished by them, they also recognize the common voices and touch of people, who attend them regularly and They feel safe and secured with them only. They easily identify the voices of strangers handling or attending them by their touch and voice. They identify people, especially ladies by their accessories, like- watches, bangles, ear rings, finger rings etc. Males are mostly identified by watches or if they have any specific extraordinary thing. They also can recognize the familiar objects which they touch regularly, like- the common toys they play with, [ soft or hard toy it is, whether it is big or small, even the shapes also, they can easily make out the difference between a new and old objects. They recognize them by the texture, shape and size. Parents should be very alert while keeping the child on beds or chairs etc, because they would not be able to judge the edges and might fell and hurt themselves. There are several techniques to teach the child about all these. A large portion of the child’s waking time is playtime and toys are skill-enhancing instruments. During playing the child is introduced to objects in the world.
Parents have to be very careful in the toy selection, because due to many hard toys, there is a possibility for the child to get hurt. Sharp toys should be avoided.

How First-Aid training saved my life

Sometimes, the most innocuous of events have unexpected consequences. A couple of days ago, I was having my regular dosage of medicine. I didn’t think much of it: I popped a pill in as I had done hundreds of times ago. After all, how complicated can swallowing medicine get?

To my horror, I realized it can go horribly wrong. A tablet I swallowed got stuck in my windpipe. Suddenly, I was choking for life. I couldn’t breathe. I kept coughing, but the tablet was fixed tight. I couldn’t speak. All i could do was gasp.

My family members rushed to my aid, but no one knew what to do.

At that moment, I remembered what Dr. Percy Bharucha had told us during the session on First aid training at Voice Vision.

At Voice Vision, I have constantly been exploring ways to enable the visually impaired. Last year, I had arranged for a session on first aid on April 15. Dr. Percy Bharucha of the Lifesupporters with his team of 40 doctors addressed around 64 participants and taught them various first aid techniques. Little did I know that one of these very techniques – also called the Heimlich maneuver – would help me one day.

As I struggled to breathe, I took my sister-in-law’s arms around my waist, knotted it into a fist that was placed just above the stomach and below the ribs, and asked her to squeeze hard.

This made me cough out, and the tablet dislodged from my windpipe immediately. I spat it out, gasping for breath.

The first-aid knowledge saved my life. I could instruct my relatives to help me appropriately, thanks to this. This also validated my belief that training for the visually impaired can make them self-sufficient and confident to tackle challenges life throws up at them.

I thank the entire team of Dr. Percy Bharucha for the amazing First-aid training for the visually impaired, which could bring the difference.

Click Here to read more about the First Aid Training.

Shopping Experience with and without eyesight

Shopping and Women are two synonym words. Most women enjoy both shopping &window shopping.
Even I enjoy shopping. For me shopping is not just buying stuff, it has more to do with relaxing myself, unwinding my stress, networking, building new rapport and much more.
With vision shopping was always fun and enjoying. As I thought of shopping, next moment I just picked my bag, hopped in a autorikshaw and reached the desired shop. Glanced on the varieties, picked up whatever my eyes indicated as good and my shopping was through.
After losing my eyesight to a great extent, I thought “Can I shop now anymore?” I accepted that it’s ok with whatever my family members shopped & bought for me. Many a times I went along with my Mother to pick up clothes and other stuff. She used to explain me the colour combination, design and I started exploring the embroidery and fabric by touch. This new way of shopping was also good for me.
Soon there were instances when I needed to buy some stuff and none of my family members were free to come along with me. This got me thinking, “Can someone blind shop on her own? What & how can one be independent in this and important aspect of life?”
I started observing my visually impaired friends. Few never thought of shopping. Few couldn’t accept wearing or using stuff without seeing on their own. One of them (late Blind) said “Why should I wear clothes of someone else’s choice? Why should I see the world from someone else’s eyes?”
For me it was ok that someone shopped on my behalf. But I was still looking for a solution to shop independently. One of my friends in a informal conversation mentioned about the ways she manages shopping. I understood that with few work around one can surely shop.
To try out the same I started with small & simple shopping. The work around was to trust people, ask help when required, ask the shopkeeper or the salesman or girl to help me decide. They suggested me that which one looks smarter and good for me. I bought the same.
Many times the products purchased by me were very flashy in colour, my mother used to explain me the mistakes. I took this opportunity as another chance to shop and correct myself, more over improve my asking skills.
Learnt to ask specific questions as what’s the colour, which colours would it match with, is it sober to gel with my personality. Relied more on my touch sense to feel the shapes, size, design etc. Slowly with practice, I developed the knack of shopping.
Today I not only purchase things for my own use but also purchase for my mother, sister and to gift my niece, nephew, friends or relatives.
Few points that help me while shopping are:
1. Being clear about what to shop & from where. Example if I have to buy outfit or dresses, I will go to a shop which has huge collection. Similarly to buy my footwear, I will visit a shop where sales executive will be able to describe and understand my explanation.
2. Selecting the time of shopping. Means visiting the desired shop in a time which is less crowded, so that can get little personal attention from the shopkeeper or sales executives.
3. Asking specific questions as the colour, looks, brand, post sale support available, warranty or guarantee, etc. Is this item fast selling product etc.
4. Trusting the person suggesting a product. Example while purchasing a cosmetic product, I asked the sales girl to suggest me which one looks more elegant and if she had to buy, which one she will select. This trust on the executive always helped me to buy proper stuff. In few occasions the executive even told me not to buy the article as it is not proper.
5. With prior permission touching the product, trying to feel its shape, design, size, aesthetic and trying to visualize it.
6. Being very descriptive and simple in explaining the requirement.
7. Being polite, calm & sensitive about the person escorting or helping me in shopping. For example, many times the staff in the stores are not very educated or descriptive or unable to explain a particular product. In such situations I seek support from other nearby shoppers.
8. Above all the points being confident and believing in myself, this helps me a lot.

Even today shopping for me is fun, relaxing & recharging!

Marriage Proposal Through A Friend

While working for the disabled community, I generally come across various real life stories. I have shared one of such case study below, which is very common in our disabled community. To secure the individuals identity, I have changed the names.

Suman is blind and is not working anywhere Being of a marriageable age, her family is worried about her getting married. Once in a casual talk Suman revealed her interest in marriage to her friend with whom she shared a close bond.
A few years later, her friend’s family brought a marriage proposal for her. They told Suman’s parents that the guy is very good, has a lot of self respect but is not financially sound as his luck has never favored him. Her parents and Suman agreed to meet the guy.
Prem along with the friend came to Suman’s house for the first meeting. He was handsome, tall and also of the same caste as Suman. Firstly Suman’s father posed few questions to Prem. He enquired about his family details and their financial condition. Prem answered calmly that he isn’t working anywhere, wishes to start his business or is waiting for a better job opportunity. He has quit a lot of jobs, mainly the reason being lack of growth or sometimes due to discomfort.
Then came the time where both the prospects were asked to interact. They both discussed about their interests and hobbies.
Suman asked Prem “Are you aware about blindness?”
Prem said “No.”
She then told him that how moving anything from its place can cause huge discomfort for her. She has average mobility and uses her white cane to move around. While walking with her life partner she will be carrying her cane & also holding his hand. She told him that people around will have eyes popping out of the sockets. Also they will make him feel that he has ruined his life by marrying to a visually impaired female. Suman also told Prem that while going out for movies she would ask him to describe the visual scenes.
Listening to Suman’s limitations, Prem said “It’s ok for me”. Further during the discussion on job & business opportunities Prem told Suman “To start a business I need Rs. 18 lakhs”. Their conversation ended with Suman telling Prem “If required we can meet again & discuss how can we together earn our living”.
The friend meanwhile spoke to Suman’s parents that they should buy them a house. Help them in setting up the kitchen, provide a servant. Also parents should help the guy to start a business. Friends family even mentioned that Suman will be his lady of luck & he is smart enough to stabilize their financial condition. The meeting ended with Suman’s parents telling Prem to share his feedback and they would do the same.
A couple of days later, the friend shared the somewhat overheard discussion between the prospects to Suman’s sister, “How could the would-be bride talk so many things to the guy? She should have told him all this after they were engaged. After listening to all the adjustments the guy cried a lot. Suman has scared the guy.”
Everyone in Suman’s family felt that she should marry Prem. What’s the harm if he isn’t earning.
Both of them post marriage would work out a solution.

Post this incident, Suman was upset with her life. Even the friends family who were as good as Suman’s extended family, stopped talking with her and had not even wished her on her birthday.
My personal view is that a man who isn’t stable in his professional career, quits without any tangible reasons or securing another job seeks his would be wife to be his lady luck, depends on his in-laws to improve his own life and is ready to marry a disabled lady to achieve all may not be the best choice.
Before arriving at a conclusion they both need to meet couple of time & understand that whether their values, thinking and outlook towards life meet. Without which just agreeing to marry will not lead both of them anywhere.
What would you suggest to Suman & Prem?
1. Should Suman marry the guy?
2. Is it a marriage or a deal?
3. Was the information on blindness shared by Suman was it appropriate?
4. Was it not necessary for the girl to sensitise the guy with the disability prior to any conclusion?
5. Finding solutions post marriage is appropriate or one needs to discuss out the same prior to marriage or even engagement?
6. Is the behavior of the friend in line with the situation?
7. What is the solution to such a situation for a disabled woman?

Your suggestions and guidance will not only help Suman & Prem, but I am sure will help many others in a similar situation.
So take a minute and share your views on the above points.
*Name changed to Suman & Prem

Vision of Voice Vision

Vision to host this brand new website is to bring all the NGO’s, Reader Writer’s, Parents, Students, Mailing List Members under one roof & thread each pearl in a single necklace.
This is only possible with all of your cooperation, We welcome you all & seek your full support to create this vision into reality.