By Kapil Kumar:
Being visually impaired does not mean that a person is senseless, emotionless, or lacking in ability. People with visual disability have their own individuality, self-respect, aspirations, identities and also have their own points of view. They have hobbies just like others. They enjoy their lives just like others. They have their own likes and dislikes. They make their own choices. Despite their disability, they enjoy their lives in their own way. They have their potentialities and capacities. Therefore, like others, they also have worth and dignity.
In the era of scientific revolutions, every now and then new innovations take place. These innovations aim to find alternatives to the existing resources or to ensure the survival of human beings on Earth. These inventions have raised standards of living. Therefore, they are regarded as boons to the society. On the other hand, these innovations bring with them potential dangers to the survival of human beings. Therefore, some also consider them a bane.
For the last several centuries, living standards and the lifestyle of the people have changed dramatically. Not only utilities for daily use but, also, modes of communication have changed. In the wider phenomenon of change, a small section of the population, which is that of visually impaired persons, has benefited a lot. These innovations have brought a radical change in their lives.
Barely two to three decades back, blind persons were totally dependent on the Braille script. They pursued their education using either Braille slates or ‘braillers’ (typewriters for typing in the Braille script). At that time, reading and writing activities were tedious and used to consume a lot of time. But, with the help of technology, this situation has changed to a great extent. Now, sophisticated machinery and advanced technology has changed the scenario and has assisted in making the environment more accessible for the visually impaired.
If I may share my own experience after the loss of my vision, when I took admission at a special school in Dehradun in the year 1997, devices like tape recorders assisted me a lot in my studies. I also lost one of my hands (unfortunately, my right, and dominant, hand) in an accident in the year 1995. I could no longer manage to read and write in the Braille script smoothly. Ultimately, I was compelled to totally depend on audio devices. As I was not efficient in writing in the Braille script now, I used to take my examination verbally. Another, facility which helped me a lot during those days in my studies was the reader facility.
With the development of technology, a new type of recorder, which was known by the name of ‘pocket recorder’ for recording purposes, was developed. This device assisted me in my studies up to the time when I reached graduation. Slowly and gradually, with advancement in technology, certain screen reading software for computers, mp3 devices for recording purposes, scanners and so on have been innovated which have met my educational requirements to a great extent.
One need not look any further than three to four decades back to discover that there were no such accessible platforms and applications available such as Facebook or WhatsApp. These social media today have provided spaces and tools to visually impaired persons which they can use to express their views and easily connect with one another. Not only is it now easier to maintain contacts but, also, with the developments in technology, the educational and employment needs of visually impaired individuals have been met to a great extent.
Today, a computer with screen reading software has made the life of a disabled person less dependent and more comfortable. There was also a time when pursuing higher education was possible only for a handful of visually impaired persons. Moreover, the accessibility of reading material was also a big issue. Availability of computers equipped with screen reading software and scanners at affordable costs has made it possible for thousands of blind persons to attain higher education.
At the end, it could be safely concluded that each phenomenon has its pros and cons. It totally depends on how one uses or misuses it. In the midst of all the debates over the ‘scientific revolution’, whether it’s a boon or a bane, technology has brought a radical change in the lives of the visually impaired. It has helped in making their lives less dependent and more productive.