LEXINGTON, MA— Vision-Aid, a Lexington, MA-based non-profit organization that helps the visually impaired and blind to live with independence and dignity and to reach their full potential, is making a big difference in the lives of many visually impaired in India.
After completing several Vision-Aid programs and training, many alumni have gone on to rock the world, making waves in many areas. Whether it is music or machine learning, tennis or testing, getting admission into Stanford University or getting a job as a security analyst at Microsoft, nothing seems out of the reach of these individuals.
“Every one of them is charting their own course with their own commitment and hard work,” said Vision-Aid Founder and volunteer Executive Director Ramakrishna (Ram) Raju. “We are just fortunate and happy to be with them on their remarkable journeys.”
On behalf of Vision-Aid leadership team that includes Chairman Puran Dang, Co-Founder Revathy Ramakrishna and President Syed Ali Rizvi, Mr. Raju thanked several volunteers for helping achieve the goal and mission of Vision-Aid.
“I sincerely thank our power mentor Sonal Patel, our Senior Program Manager Mrs. L.R. Jayanthi, and our amazing volunteer from Chennai Mrs. Vaidehi Hariharan for compiling some of these stories,” said Mr. Raju. “Thanks to volunteer directors Rita Vachani and Y.V. Ramana also for their help, and last but not least our thanks to each student for allowing us to share their journey with Vision-Aid and all their volunteer mentors. It does take a village.”
Added Mr. Dang: “The training, care and support by Vision Aid Inc. has shown magical results. It has brought light of the eyes to the vision impaired children and adults, given them training in computer and soft skills and helped them to get gainful employment and live a dignified life. Some of them have taken high positions in major corporations of the world. I am very fortunate to play my humble role in carrying out the mission of Vision Aid.”
In addition to several physical locations throughout India, where over 16 different types of training and courses are offered to the visually impaired, many of whom are from under-privileged segments of Indian society, Vision-Aid also offers several programs online.
Starting out with simpler training programs in basic computer skills and Spoken English, Vision-Aid also provides several advanced training programs, including semester-long course in computer programming and digital accessibility testing as well as mentoring in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which open up a whole universe of learning opportunities from the best institutions world-wide.
Several Vision-Aid alumni have successfully completed these programs. They have also gone on to rock the world around the world, making waves in many areas, Vision-Aid said in a statement.
Vision-Aid students making waves
Aarush’s ideals in life recall to one’s mind Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
“We choose our next world through what we learn in this one. Learn nothing, and the next world is the same as this one, all the same limitations and lead weights to overcome… We can lift ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill.”
A student with visual impairment, Aarush has risen to this challenge in his life. Learning new skills to equip himself seems to be his passion as is evident from the long list of courses he has taken online in a short span of time. The recent videos he has uploaded on inclusiveness show his leadership qualities in seeking justice not only for himself, but for all those like him with impairment. He wants to establish the fact that people with impairment can also function as effectively as others in the mainstream and contribute, once they equip themselves for the task.
Aarush completed Xth grade CBSE with 90%. Interested in science and computers, and passionate about technology, especially Cyber Security and Artificial Intelligence, he plans to study these subjects in college abroad and later work in these fields.
Aarush joined Vision-Aid’s junior batch in 2018 and has been an active learner on MOOC platforms edX and Coursera. He scored above 90% in Introduction to Computer Science, and Programming with Python on edX and successfully completed Introduction to Computational Thinking and Data Science- part two of the same series, offered by MITX. He has also taken some CS 50 courses offered by Harvard and introduction to AI with Python. He has also completed the five available courses on Coursera in the Python for Everybody series. Has been a part of the ‘Young Computer Scientist’ program offered by InvestIN, an organization based in the UK, and plans to attend their summer internship program in August 2020.
He has been connected to Vision-Aid and I-Stem for more than two years and has attended several of their events, including the inclusive Hackathon. His story as an active MOOC learner was also published on the Vision-Aid website in 2019. He has also been part of the ‘Empower’ conference hosted by the AssisTech of IIT Delhi in Sonipat in 2018.
His range of interests is varied. He participated in the space camp on a scholarship by SIVIS where his team got special recognition for showing extraordinary team work skills. He is interested in sound design and music productions. An avid reader, he also takes interest in writing stories of all genres as well as writing about many serious social issues, and three of his articles – on right to education, equality for women and about Nelson Mandela – were published in his school magazine. He has also taken part in the India Season Writing Challenge. He also meditates and follows Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism which says that through inner transformation one can contribute to a better and more peaceful world.
Tomorrow’s world truly belongs to people of his kind.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change the things I can” -so goes the prayer.
Aditi Shah, hailing from Mumbai, India, diagnosed with a degenerative eye disorder at the age of 11 which left her completely blind at 15, did just that. She mastered the technique of going from painful anxiety to an active, problem solving framework, and re-oriented herself. With the help of assistive devices and audio tapes, she scored 92% in her tenth board exams. Equipped with various assistive technologies and screen reading software, she went on to graduate and even do her Masters in Information Technology from the University of Mumbai and worked at an IT firm for 5 years.
Vision-Aid was instrumental in introducing her to online learning platforms and python programming in 2017. Mentored by Sonal Patel from the Vision-Aid team, she studied on various MOOC platforms – edX and Coursera – and also provided valuable feedback about improving accessibility of these sites. She impressed everyone in the Hackathon conducted in IIIT Bangalore in 2018.
She joined Georgia Institute of Technology in 2018 for a Masters in Cyber Security, supported by her Research Assistantship, with Vision-Aid Board member Santosh Vempala as her mentor. In October 2018, she participated in an accessibility conference organized by Vision-Aid in Boston. In the summer of 2019, she did an internship at Microsoft, and after her Masters, she joined Microsoft in March 2020.
Vision-Aid was her stepping stone to success, and resolved to make others like her succeed, she logs in volunteer hours to help Vision-Aid through the Microsoft Giving Program,. She is a generous donor/sponsor of Vision-Aid, and wishes to use these funds to help the really poor and disadvantaged visually challenged in India.
She leads an independent life in Redmond, continuing her good work – a shining model of success and courage indeed.
Ankit Deb, from Kolkata, India, comes across as a person with an indomitable will.
A vision impaired student with 75% blindness, he studied in a mainstream school and scored 78% in Standard X. He was however refused admission in the science stream by his school. Undeterred, and fighting against all odds, he finally persuaded one of the school heads to admit him in the science stream. He bore with grit and determination all discouraging remarks, and with single-minded devotion, gave his best and scored 73% in the XIIth Board Exam.
He again short circuited all negative messages and went on to crack the Joint Entrance Exam and got admission in a central University, GGU Bilashpur, with a B.Tech. in Computer Science, proving that it is interest and perseverance that counts.
Ankit joined Vision-Aid in February 2019 for the Python programming course and completed it in record time. He participated in and won the 3rd prize in the Hackathon competition in January 2020. He is very committed, hardworking and has tremendous initiative, and has the support of his mother.
Participating in and proving his merit by attempting different activities boosts his morale and so does appreciation from the community. For instance, he participated in a 4.2 km marathon in Bangalore organized by TCS, finishing within time and winning a medal; he received an award from the Vice Chancellor of his university for winning third position in Inclusive Stem Hackathon in January 2020; an article about him and the project he worked on was published in a Hindi language local newspaper; his blog on the employment of visually impaired persons was selected among the top three, and was promoted on their website, by the organizers of the blog writing competition Indic AI , and moreover, he won prize money of Rs 1000; such gestures of appreciation keep him motivated .
He has been offered an internship in Kapslock.in on 15 June 2020 for 8 to 12 weeks as a software engineering intern. His responsibility is back-end development with Java script and Firebase.
His message is a strong one to the community at large – The people with impairment need empathy, not sympathy and their self-respect should not be debilitated by discouraging remarks, or by underestimating their strength.
His life has a message to people with impairment too – ‘Make this the frame of reference for your life –a picture of you at your best. What your mind can conceive, you can do. Keep stretching. Believe in yourself.’
Aruna, from Bangalore, has excellent communication skills. She has a Master’s degree, and worked in customer support with Cisco.
In 2019, it was ‘the worst of times’ for her as she had lost her job and was facing a financial crisis. She had applied for Vision-Aid’s Digital Accessibility Training Program, and was selected for the first batch, but was unable to pay even the stipulated refundable deposit of Rs. 2500.
However, it was also ‘the best of times’ for her, for Vision-Aid came into her life. The Vision-Aid management decided to waive the fee for her as she stood out as a competent and promising candidate. This timely support by Vision-Aid, and the encouragement of her truly caring Vision-Aid mentor, Jayanthi, boosted her self confidence. In her own words, “the approachable sociability, friendliness and receptivity of everyone” put her at ease. Visio -Aid organized guest lectures, and webinars on mobile accessibility and she found the learning process ‘fun-filled’.
Committed and studious, she did very well and successfully completed the course. Successful completion of the course is not the primary goal of Vision-Aid’s programs. The aim is placement. Pointers were given to build a strong resume, job portal links were shared which helped her create a CV with project experience. She has now landed a job as Accessibility Consultant for Infosys, supporting a reputed client.
Vision-Aid has thus impacted her life in a big way and wishes her all the best in her job.
“Knowledge always desires increase; it is like fire, which must be first kindled by some external agent, but which will afterwards propagate itself” – Johnson
Learning is a life-long passion for Bharathan, a B.E. Computer science student from Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda. An enthusiastic learner, Bharathan is grateful to Vision-Aid for introducing him to the world of MOOCs and online learning and supporting his progress through it. Losing 85% of vision at the age of five, and raised by a single mother, who is a school teacher, Bharathan relied on assistive devices to access his study materials. He was one of the first batch of students of Vision-Aid in 2017 to take up online learning under the mentorship of Sonal Patel. Since then, he has not looked back.
He took many advanced classes from MIT and Stanford in computer science on various MOOC platforms like edX and Coursera and successfully completed them. He is also an AI enthusiast wherein he has spent most of his time with Deep Learning and Reinforcement Learning and their applications. He recently completed Deep Learning Specialization, a five-part series of courses, from Stanford University. He firmly believes in the power of AI to enhance user experience and increasing the productivity of a system. He really enjoys coding. He likes to learn new skills and working on mini projects to solidify those concepts. “I relish the satisfaction I get by building something from scratch and seeing it work as expected after putting in hours of work writing the code and debugging over and over till it works.” A perfectionist indeed! He loves solving puzzles like Rubix cube cuboids and Megaminx, to name a few. He loves to read books on varied topics. He also pens beautiful poems in Hindi.
He is closely associated with Vision-Aid, especially serving as a Teaching Assistant to Sonal Patel, and is ever ready to mentor students and help them learn programming concepts and give advice on online courses on several MOOC platforms. His solutions to problem sets are being used by all teachers, even now. He has participated in two inclusive Hackathons organized by Vision-Aid. In 2020, he was selected to be an I-STEM fellow by Vision–Aid’s partner organization I–STEM.
Vision-Aid wishes him all the best for a future career towards creating inclusive technology solutions and help create a better world for the visually challenged through his passion for programming and data science, using his skills in Machine Learning and Deep Learning.
“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality”.
Bhargav Vaghasiya’s mission in life is living proof of this. Hailing from Gujarat, he moved to Bangalore after completing his Bachelor’s degree. Starting from 6th grade until his Bachelor’s degree, he struggled with blindness. This only made him more determined not only to equip and empower himself, but also to help others with vision impairment to lead life with self-confidence. He realized that there are very limited opportunities for the vision impaired for education and jobs. He was very focused and knew what he wanted to do in the future. ‘Education is the methodical creation of the habit of thinking’, and Bhargav is constantly thinking of ways to improve the techniques of educating the blind by making it more accessible to all. After connecting with Vision-Aid, he found the similarity between his personal goal and the Vision-Aid model. Ever since, he has been actively involved and working hand in hand with Vision-Aid.
He joined as a student in Python programming in Vision-Aid’s pilot batch, mentored by Sonal Patel. He got introduced to MOOCs and has completed Python course offered by MIT on edX, and Python for everybody on Coursera offered by Michigan University. He has hands on experience in various assistive technologies such as screen readers, Braille display and speech recognition and Accessibility evaluation tools. He is a Deque certified web and Document accessibility specialist and worked in web and mobile accessibility auditing. He has good experience in Windows, Android and iOS. He works closely with design and development teams and helps to bring the best products in terms of both usability and accessibility. He has the ability to communicate the requirements and make the various stakeholders of SDLC understand the accessibility requirements.
He has prepared user guide to use programming tools like eclipse/VS code with screen reader.
He participated in the Hackathon in IIT Chennai in 2017, and was the main developer in the team, and developed a beautiful maze game. He started his first job as an Accessibility engineer/tester at TEK Systems and is working very productively there. In 2018, he participated in another Hackathon with Inclusive STEM group in Bangalore. Since then he has been actively involved in spreading accessibility related education and awareness at various levels. He conducted a very successful workshop on Navigation and Orientation on MOOCs for vision impaired, with Sonal Patel.
He became a mentor in Python programming training, helping Vision-Aid students with installation /set up of the Python environment to write and execute scripts. He is a co instructor in DAT training and built tools to conduct the exam for DAT training. He has introduced and implemented Google classroom tool in DAT 2 for students and trainers to maintain all the assignments in a professional way. He has demystified MOOCs in a demystification series video, which can be a great resource to those who would like to start learning online and get an education from the world’s best universities. He is taking the lead role in accessibility testing of VOA- Vision-Aid’s Online Academy portal. He represented Vision-Aid in last year’s Python conference at IIT Chennai and came back with a lot of appreciation for being sponsored to participate.
“Much still needs to be done, but we are moving in the right direction’, is his observation. He truly exemplifies how to be successful by helping others succeed.
‘Limits exist only in your mind. Find your limits and exceed them.’
Bhavya Shah, despite his loss of vision at a tender age, keeps proving that when one can face a disability with courage and perseverance, and if one has the right support system, great possibilities can unfold.
He scored 98% in CBSE Science/Math stream. His interests are varied and many: seeking out sightless astronomy, he even attended a space camp in Huntsville, Alabama.
An ace debater, he qualified to be part of ‘Team India’ and won the top award in the grand final. He became the first visually impaired speaker to be part of the world school debate championship grand finals and was individually ranked 6th best speaker in the world. He was awarded a scholarship by Cornell University for an international debate camp, and received several top prizes.
Bhavya participated in Vision-Aid’s Python programming course in 2017 and his mentor, Sonal Patel, helped him pursue higher studies on MOOC platforms, edX and Coursera. He also participated in the 2018 Hackathon at IIIT, Bangalore.
He has created some videos on accessible Math education, with concepts and methods that can be clearly understood by people without sight. He has also posted videos on technology, on debating and on the college application process in the U.S. which are small ways in which he is giving back to society, helping people with visual impairment by sharing his experiences. He has recently secured admission at Stanford University.
He has proved that when enthusiasm is sky-high, no distance is too far.
Bhuvika, from Mumbai, is a bright and intelligent student of class X, and one of the junior students of Vision-Aid. She adapted to e-learning early with JAWS and NVDA, and Aditi Shah helped her to enhance her skills further. Vision-Aid and Sonal Patel gave her exposure to Python and she enjoyed learning programming. She participated in the Hackathon in Bangalore in 2019, and with the immense support of Vision-Aid and Sonal along with her group, developed an assisted version of the Hangman 4 e game, which is available on play store and which won the first prize at the event. She is keen to learn more on mobile designing and take it up as a career option.
She is a good orator and has participated in many events in her school and outside. She has taken up initial lessons in Karate and Roller skating. Another very interesting fact about Bhuvika is her special talent, right from childhood, to do mental calculations of large numbers. Her mother recalls that at a very young age, she could say out the alphabets in reverse order, i.e., from Z to A in the same breath or spell out a word in reverse after listening to the original spelling once. She can even figure out the day of the week, given a date and year!
‘‘It is because we are different that each of us is special. Your opportunity is in yourself, wrapped in your own personality. Your success must be an unfoldment, an expression of yourself”
The Vision-Aid team wishes Bhuvika all the best to live her own life and follow her own star.
Life has been a challenge for Gayatri from Hyderabad, India. A young, single mother of a six-year-old, she has a B.E. in Computer Science, and was selected by a multinational company as a software engineer. Unfortunately, her eyesight was affected by a medicine reaction, and she lost her job. It was a dark day for her – she lost her eyesight, her job, ambitions and dreams of a career and her love for computers and learning programming languages and technology.
‘When one door is closed, God opens a window through which you will receive many a blessing’.
Gayatri acknowledges this gratefully, for Vision-Aid came to her rescue. Vision-Aid mentor Jayanthi , guided her to enroll in the course ‘Python for Everybody ‘ offered by the University of Michigan on the Coursera platform.With grit, courage and perseverance, and while working a 9 to 5 job, she successfully completed one certification; enrolled for ‘ Python Data Structures’ on Coursera and also finished Digital Accessibility Testing Training from Vision-Aid very successfully. Soon after the COVID lockdown she lost her job. And again, Vision-Aid came to her rescue.
Vision-Aid created opportunities for her to become a Teaching Assisstant in DAT program and gave her a temporary job on a client project, enabling her to earn her livelihood. Vision-Aid also gave her a digital magnifier to enable her to take care of her son’s homework. DAT Trainer Ashwin, is working towards a placement for Gayatri in Infosys, Hyderabad. She has performed well in the first level interview. Vision-Aid wishes her all the best of luck.
Gayatri’s message is to live each day with positivity, and she acknowledges with gratitude that Vison-Aid has been a beacon of hope for her.
‘We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own’.
Laxmisagar‘s journey that started with being a student of Vision-Aid, has now grown into being a volunteer for its Python course. The skills and experience he gained at Vision-Aid, have now landed him with a job that is close to his heart, as a Data Analyst at a company active in the retail space in Northern America and Western Europe.
He gratefully acknowledges that his mentors in Vision-Aid went beyond the course curriculum of introducing Python, and helped him gain skills in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Data analysis techniques in Python. Vision-Aid also gave him the opportunity to intern for its introductory Python course to help students understand concepts, making use of his knowledge, administer and manage tests, weekly reports, and become the point of connection between the organization and the students. Vision-Aid also gave him the opportunity to represent his skills in a Hackathon organized at IIIT Bangalore. He sincerely believes that it is due to the skills he learned at Vision-Aid and the network that he could build there, that he has been able to get a job of his interest today.
His mentors, in turn, appreciate his sense of participation and giving back to Vision-Aid. Says Jayanthi, his mentor, “he is a ‘go-to-guy’ and anything we request him to do, he does it willingly, interpreting his role very correctly and always delivers more than asked for. It is a great pleasure to work with him.” An admirable trait indeed. The Vision-Aid team wishes him all the very best for his future career.
‘Even in darkness, Light dawns for those who believe’ is the message Megha Patangi conveys to the world.
Hailing from Kolkata, presently residing and working in Bangalore, Megha is a young lady with visual impairment. She is a very intelligent, smart young lady with excellent communication skills in spoken as well as written English. It is best to let her speak of her experiences.
“Success for me, is not a one-time achievement or a one-time event. I achieved success on the day I qualified as a company secretary after multiple attempts and struggle of six years… Without knowing about any opportunity for visually impaired people, with a single ray of hope, I completed screen reader training and got placed for the first job. Later, I decided to take a shift in career towards Accessibility Testing and am presently working in an IT company providing web accessibility testing, and also providing training to others for the same.”
“For achieving all these, at every point of time, along with my dedication and belief, there has been a positive energy walking along with me, in one or form or another. Firstly, my family who stood by me in the painful transformation phase from a sighted child to a visually impaired student, especially during my CS education. Then the NGO who held my hand, collected all broken pieces of me and made me a confident individual. Then a mentor, Pranay sir, who molded my personality, guided me, exposed me to different industry opportunities and enlightened me. Then it was Vision-Aid, who enhanced and empowered my knowledge of Accessibility, and also gave me an opportunity to spread my learnings to others, as a Trainer intern for two consecutive DAT batches. Thus, with blessings and shelter of positive energy, having belief in myself, my successful experiences will keep on accelerating. I wish the same for all”
Very sincere and committed, Megha is also giving back by volunteering for audio recording passages for Vision-Aid’s spoken English programme.
‘Success in life does not consist in holding a good hand, but in playing any hand we hold, well.’
Nibin Mathews’ accomplishments demonstrate this.
Born in a Malayalee farmer family in Wayanad, Kerala, and coming from a financially weak background, Nibin, from the age of two, grew up as a partially blind child. He became completely vision impaired due to Glaucoma, when he was in the 12th Standard. However, his handicap did not deter him from pursuing his higher studies as well as his hobbies – sports, music and interest in scientific experiments. He participated and won in several district and state Science Fair competitions with sighted students. He learnt to play the piano and played in church choirs. Denied admission in the science stream, he graduated in commerce, and was the state vice president of the student forum of Kerala Federation of the Blind. He joined the Central Railway in 2016 in Mumbai and learned to live and learn independently.
2018 was a turning point in his life. He joined as a Vision-Aid student to learn Python programming, and successfully completed the course on time. He was given the opportunity to participate in the Hackathon in 2019 on behalf of Vision-Aid, which opened the windows to a wider world, meeting and collaborating with other young talented minds of Vision-Aid.
He, with his friends Raju and Aswathy, all from Vision-Aid, organized workshops on technical assistance and shared the opportunities of STEM education, MOOCs, and spread the message of self-independence with the help of technology. He gave training to 50 Resource teachers in Wayanad district on assistive technology for education.
Vision-Aid thus opened up new opportunities and he succeeded in getting admission for M.S course in Digital Society, an inter disciplinary Masters programme at IIIT Bangalore. Vision-Aid supported him by paying the 1st. semester fee of Rs. 1.75 lakhs received from a donor. In his 3rd semester now, and maintaining his grades, he is also a national level player of Tennis championships for the blind. He had learned to play at a workshop for tennis for the blind, while in Mumbai. He won the National championship, and has qualified for the International Blind Tennis championship. IIIT Bangalore encourages and helps him to pursue his passion.
Music is his other interest and he has achieved grade 3 for western classic violin practicals under Trinity College, London in 2019.
By being alert to chances, he has not only empowered himself, but tries to share his experience and extend service to people of every background.
Nisha, from Mumbai, is a vision impaired young girl of sixteen, who was singularly fortunate to have the full support of not only family but more importantly, her school, St. John’s Universal school, Mumbai, throughout her school years.
Her school truly applied the principles of inclusive education, and the Principal and staff provided her with a holistic environment to nurture her talents, and make her a confident individual, capable to face competition in all walks of life in spite of her visual disability. She participated in and won many competitions in singing, elocution, quiz and creative writing and also represented the school at inter school singing competitions. She learnt to use the computer in grade 3, and with accessible technology, she was able to study. She later used a laptop from grade six onwards, to take notes and also answer her exams. Despite her visual disability, she scored 99/100 in Math and 95.8% in Chemistry in the ICSE Board exams.
She is one of the junior batch students of the Vision-Aid’s online learning programme and is grateful for all the support and education she has received from the Vision-Aid community. She has also completed some courses in Python programming on Coursera and plans to register for some more.
She feels proud to have received a scholarship from SCIVIS for participating in the space camp in Alabama, USA, which was an incredible experience and a great chance to meet other visually challenged students from different countries of the world.
Music is, of course, not only a stress buster for her, but her passion, and she has given two music exams with outstanding results in the grade 5 keyboard and a merit in grade 1 of violin. She received the best student award in 2019 at the Gyan Ashram Music Academy. She sang a beautiful rap song at the 2019 inclusive Hackathon at Bangalore. She would love to study music in future.
In her own words, “I continuously challenge my capabilities to prove that challenges are my stepping stones to success “, and has set her mind to work hard towards achieving her goals. Vision-Aid team wishes her all the best in her musical journey and endeavors.
‘We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.’
Pinky’s attitude sets her apart. Self-sufficient and independent, confident, chirpy and enthusiastic about everything around, she is clear and assertive and has very good communication skills.
She joined Vision-Aid to learn Python programming, at the end of which she became a part of the Vision-Aid family. She was associated with the DAT program as a teaching assistant and handled the role well, actively keeping the class cheerful and engaged. Pinky is an all-rounder. She participated actively in a skit that was produced to explain the Accessibility issues in a novel way for Hackathon 2020. She is a person who loves to learn new things and keep herself updated.
Vison-Aid can depend on Pinky whenever the need is seen and Pinky is sure to step in. The Vision-Aid team wishes her all success in her endeavors.
Pranav is the youngest student of Vision-Aid. At 14, his enthusiasm is sky high.
Born with a congenital disorder that left him blind, with the support given by his parents, teachers and friends at school, he finds that his blindness has not stopped him in any way from doing what he loves. In 2018, he got interested in Information Technology, when Vision-Aid helped him to get into his first Python programming course. It exposed him to a wonderful community of mentors like Sonal Patel, and other students from whom he has learned, and continues to learn, a lot of things about computers and also about other interests. He has made wonderful friends like Aarush, Nisha and Bhuvika, and has never felt that he was in the dark, but was learning something new every day.
Pranav kept taking courses, earning certificates, kept learning trying to help others. Apart from coding, he has other interests like playing the tabla and even singing. At school, he plays the drums and tries to develop his interest in music. He is also learning to skate and cycle, constantly on the go, learning new skills.
He is grateful for the support not only of his parents, but also of the Vision-Aid team who continue to teach so much about computer science, and more importantly, ha vegiven him a community from which he can learn and be inspired. “I can’t wait to see what the next challenge or happy moment is,” he says.
“Everyday is a new adventure never lived before. Fresh experience awaits you, new things lie in store. You can start your life again for you can be reborn – Every time unto the world, God sends another dawn” The Vision-Aid family wishes him a wonderful future.
God always sends an angel to help those who are willing to give their best. It came in the form of the Vision-Aid Maskati scholarship to Reddy Krishna. This Scholarship Training Program of six months, is a comprehensive program which includes intensive instruction in computer operation, spoken English, Mobile applications, and coaching for competitive exams.
Reddy Krishna, about 25 years of age, is a vision impaired young man, hailing from Vijayanagaram, a suburb of Vishakapatnam. He has a Bachelors degree in social work. He was also a student of Vision-Aid’s Python programming course.
Staying at a hostel, he pursued STP sincerely for six months and scored an average of above 74% in all streams of the STP.
He has received a job offer as an Agent with Vindhya InfoTech at Begumpet, Hyderabad. His job responsibilities include adding channels to packages, package changes of Videocon dish antenna customers through software application.
His hard work and sincerity have led him to achieve this, and he is appreciative of all the timely help he has received from Vision-Aid.
‘Life leaps like a geyser to those who drill through the rock of inertia.’
Ronak, as his name implies, believes firmly in spreading radiance to brighten the lives of those vision impaired like him with the aid of technology, and in empowering himself to serve them better.
Hailing from Mumbai, India, he has been visually challenged since the age of six. With 25% peripheral vision, he studied in a mainstream school. A heavy screen reader and magnifier user, he believed in being self-reliant and independent and went on to complete Xth Standard. Despite proving his capabilities and determination, he was denied admission in the science stream. He re-oriented himself to reach his goals and got admission in St. Xaviers College, Mumbai to complete arts programme with Math and Information technology in junior college and became the first visually challenged to opt for the Bsc. IT programme in the same college.
He graduated in 2018 with distinction in the field of IT with all the regular subjects, practical exams and a Bachelors thesis with a working project in the field of cyber security. He landed a job in the esteemed Tata Consultancy Services as a software developer. Currently pursuing a Masters degree in the field of technology, he has co-authored a book on cyber security and published a research paper on Blockchain with Springer Publications.
He got in touch with Vision -Aid through Sonal Patel in 2019. Impressed by the enthusiasm and the level of work the team Vision-Aid had set out to do in the field of empowering the vision impaired, he determined to be a part of this family and contribute his best to achieve the mission statement. Encouraged by Vision-Aid, he equipped himself with a lot of online courses from Harvard, MIT , University of London, Automating Python offered by Google on Coursera and a course in behavioral economics offered by University of Toronto on edX. . He successfully completed more than 60 courses on LinkedIn learning in software skills, technology and math. He has completed a project preparing a patient management system for a client along with a fellow Vision-Aid student assistant.
In short, an aspiring technologist, constant learner, a volunteer mentor with a problem-solving approach and innovative ideas. To him, the sky is the limit.
‘Courage is being able to look to yourself and find what needs to be done to solve your problem.’
On the Learner Story on edX , Sagar explains how he went about improving his conversation and career skills. “Conversation is one of the most important skills in today’s digital era. I have had very low vision since I was born, so it is difficult for me to travel out of my hometown, a place in Gujarat, India, where people barely speak English. Though I learned to comprehend English conversations, I found it really hard to converse in English, thus limiting my opportunities to connect with people beyond my immediate surroundings”. In 2017, he found edX through a friend, and was excited to find a category on communication and conversational English skills and signed up for the course. Taking this unique course has transformed his life. Everyone associated with me has remarked on the drastic improvement in my soft skills. “Learning on edX has thus not just helped me to be productive from the comforts of my home but has made me more confident to interact with team mates and others.” There has been no looking back since then.
After taking this course, he also completed Introduction to Computer Science and Programming using Python from Mix and earned a verified certificate. This course helped him to develop aptitude for solving problems and he managed to successfully apply the skills he gained to land a remote internship. He was a Vision-Aid student in the Fall of 2017 along with Aditi and Bhavya. He went on to take various technology courses on different MOOC platforms. He helped to mentor Bhavya when he was taking a MIT class on edX. He helps out with Vision-Aid projects.
Currently, he is looking for a Government job and is studying for various entrance exams. The Vision-Aid team wishes him all the best to achieve his goals.
Dreams and dedication are a powerful combination.
Samira Silveira from Goa, wanted to be an Engineer, but could not do so due to visual impairment. After 12th grade, she had to re-orient herself to save whatever vision she had. She completed a one-year diploma in secretarial skills since it was a less stressful job than Engineering studies. She worked as a sales representative and personal assistant for 5 years in a small-scale industry. This gave her an exposure to the outside world. The turning point took place when she came to Bangalore to learn screen reader at an NGO and learnt how to use it on computer and mobile devices. She joined the same NGO as trainer to teach other visually impaired students the same concepts that she learnt during her learning phase. Later, she joined CISCO as project coordinator and was able to complete her graduation in Bachelor of Computer Application.
She heard about Vision-Aid from friends and learnt Python programming under the mentorship of Giri and assistance of Jayanthi. She continued on her own to do advanced Python programming concepts. She got an opportunity to attend the Hackathon in 2019 and got an experience of vision impaired people doing coding. “I think that by doing this I can gain my engineering dream back” she says. She participated in workshop activity demonstrating a project by Bhargav during Hackathon 2020.
Samira is very hardworking and passionate about whatever she is doing. An ever-willing volunteer to participate in Vision-Aid activities, her performance is commendable as teaching assistant to Python students of Vision-Aid. Vision-Aid can depend on her for assistance and participation in any activity anywhere, The Vision-Aid team wishes her all success in achieving her dreams.
Aishwarya and Satya
“Dare to step out of your comfort zone “, is the message we get from Satya and Aishwarya, hailing from rural communities in Andhra Pradesh.
Jayanthi noted and understood the concern of parents while she was interacting with all the applicants for the Maskati- Vision – Aid scholarship training program in its pilot program in Vishakapatnam. The parents did not want to send their daughters out of their sight to live in hostels, and could not appreciate the value add that the STP program could provide.
Satya and Aishwarya convinced their parents to let them apply to the program, relocated to Vizag for 7 months, stayed in hostels, and completed the course with determination, courage and will power.
But for COVID, Vision-Aid might have been able to find placements for them. Just before COVID, Satya attended a job fair in Chennai, passed the first level of screening, and when normalcy gets restored, further processing will take place. They should be able to make a difference as the STP ‘s aim is to make the students self-sustainable by changing attitudes towards disability and helping them participate in the society on an equal footing.
Vision-Aid was a beacon of hope for them, and the Vision-Aid team hopes for the best and wishes them well in their lives.
Vision-Aid’s Council of Ambassadors
In 2020, Vision-Aid announced a new body – the Council of Ambassadors. The council is co-chaired by Sonal Patel, Jeyanthi Ghatraju and Dr. Arun Kumar. The council will bring together many of the highly successful Vision-Aid students and alumni, along with community youth leaders from the general community and young eye-health professionals to provide advocacy and program support for Vision-Aid.
Jeyanthi Ghatraju, co-chair of the Council summed it when she said “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, bring others along!”. Co-chair Sonal Patel added “‘You succeed, when you help others succeed – This is my principle to live by and i convey to my students in the very first meeting!”
Vision-Aid team in the United States is currently gearing up for their mega fundraising event, going online for the first time this year – Shakthi – the Essence of Empowered women will be held on Sunday August 2nd, 2020 at 4 PM. For tickets and more details visit www.VisionAid.org.