By Kabir Sharma:
Beno Zephine is set to become India’s first 100 percent visually challenged IFS officer.
Beno, who is currently pursuing a PhD in English Literature as well as working as a probationary officer at SBI, is extremely proud to have achieved her dream.
She cleared the civil services exam last year but her posting was pending. “IFS had not been given to any 100 per cent visually challenged person so far. It was given only to low vision candidates. So, basically, they had to frame rules…The ministry of DoPT, the Ministry of External Affairs and the whole government itself was really helpful to me. The waiting was not really painful. But I was very happy that efforts were going on in order to enable me to reach what I wanted to.” Beno said.
She went beyond the dependence on Braille books by switching to the Job Access With Speech (JAWS) software that allows the visually challenged to read from a computer screen.
Her father, Luke Anthony Charles, a railways employee, and mother Mary Padmaja, a homemaker, have been huge sources of inspiration for her. “Parents, especially mother, read a lot of books and newspapers to me,” she said. “I thank my teachers and coaches at the state training institute and several IAS academies.”
Since the news broke, she has been on her toes, giving motivational lectures at schools and colleges across Chennai, where she lives, as well as answering hundreds of phone calls.
When asked by CNN IBN what message she would like to give to the other blind youth of the country, she said her message for everyone, blind or not, would be, “There is nothing called impossible in the world. If you believe in yourself and understand what yours strengths are, we will automatically strengthen our strengths and weaken our weaknesses.”
Her success is sure to be inspiring to all, and is a huge milestone for the aspirations of millions. It is also a major step forward from Ajit Kumar Yadav’s six year struggle to get his IAS appointment letter – owing to the same disability – which ended only last year. It should mean the beginning of an era of greater encouragement, equality and inclusivity for our country.
“This is nothing short of a revolutionary decision as many promising people lost out for lacking 20:20 vision,” T. P. Sreenivasan, former diplomat, said.
On the subject of the difficulties blind people face in preparing for exams, she feels, “Somewhere down the line, we have to make books available for visually challenged people in accessible formats…it is really not possible to scan every single page of the book and then put it in the computer and read when you’re preparing for civil services, because you have to read loads and loads of stuff. I think books have to be prepared in accessible formats, both braille and audio.”
Beno, who says she has no role models but believes in her individuality, is extremely keen to begin her dream career and delighted it will give her opportunities to be heard. “I like talking a lot and was active through school and college in debates and extempore competitions,” she said.
Her voice will only get stronger, and be heard more and more now.