Vision-Aid In Spotlight For Bringing Innovation To The Visually Impaired
Vision-Aid, a non-profit based in Lexington, MA is in the spotlight again for its innovative approaches to serving the visually disadvantaged in under-served regions. In December 2010, Vision-Aid’s primary partner in Visakhapatnam, India (VACS) was one of only three All-India finalists for the prestigious NASSCOM Foundation 2011 "ICT led Innovation by Non – Profit Organizations" Honors for its innovative programs. In its Honors citation listing the finalists, NASSCOM Foundation noted the unique technologies such as the “Camera Mouse” (an affordable electronic magnifier and Information and Communications Technology tool) and the effective training programs in Computer Technologies for blind and low vision persons using Access Technologies. This results-oriented training designed by Vision-Aid incorporates a 4 level intensive one-to-one coaching program designed to take visually impaired students to high levels of proficiency in Touch Typing, MS Office, Excel, Email Internet browsing and other applications, thereby helping them to cross the digital divide to independence and dignity. Many students are able to use these skills to pursue higher education or employment.
This is not the first time Vision-Aid has been in the spotlight. In September 2010, VACS, Visakhapatnam won the prestigious Resource Alliance Rockefeller Regional Award as the best NGO in South India and in August 2010, VACS President Mr.M.S.Raju won the MPhasis Universal Design Award.
Awards aside, the results speak for themselves. Take the case of Bharathi, a young blind Vision-Aid student who is making waves. Bharathi who completed the Diploma in Computer and Internet applications course, secured a well-paying job as Railway Mail Sorter with the Indian Postal Department. The Indian Postal Department was looking for sorters with computer skills. There was a 3% reservation for disabled individuals, which had not been filled for a long time due to the shortage of qualified individuals. The tests included keyboard speed typing for dictated passages. To pass the test, candidates were required to correctly type a 3-minute passage. The requirement was 250 words for most candidates and 150 words by persons with disabilities. Bharathi scored a record 300 correct words using her knowledge of Access Technologies, and overtook even some of the sighted candidates. Bharathi who is now 20 years old, lost vision in one eye due to Retinal Detachment at age 10 followed by 90% vision loss in second eye due to nerve damage. She was determined not to let her vision impairment get in the way. At age 19, she had already cleared Bachelor of Science Home Science college degree using a scribe.
In June 2010 she attended a seminar lecture by Vision Aid at VMS Madhurawada. She was very enthusiastic and enrolled for the fast track course at Vizag main center. A quick learner, she quickly mastered touch-typing and Internet in just 4 months. Bharathi comes from an economically disadvantaged family and was worried that she may become a burden for her parents. No longer! Said Bharathi, her eyes filling with tears when she rushed into the VisonAid Center to break the good news to her teachers - "My parents are almost in Heaven with joy. I can even support them now. I owe a lot to them but I owe much more to you. Thank you". It is moments like these that inspire the enthusiasm of the Vision-Aid team to scale even greater heights.
Bharathi is not the only recent success story. In November 2010 alone, three more Vision-Aid students got job placements. They include Ms. Vijaya, a blind student, who was hired as a Teacher by the Government Elementary School in Yellamanchili village, Andhra Pradesh. Ms.Kantamma, another blind student who was hired as a Teacher at the Government Elementary School in Pendurthi village and Mr Saisudha, a low-vision student who was selected by the L.V.Prasad Eye Institute Hyderabad as Demonstrator cum Instructor in their Training Center.
Vision-Aid’s new center launched in 2010 at Kolkata, West Bengal, in partnership with Susrut Eye Foundation, is also making great strides. This center celebrated "World Disability Day" in December 2010 by running a special vision camp for identifying and assisting visually impaired children from under-privileged backgrounds
For more information about Vision-Aid please visit: www.VisionAid.org
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