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How Technology Has Made Life More Productive For Me As A Visually Impaired Person

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By Kapil Kumar:

A visually impaired girl holds a model of Intex Vision, a mobile phone designed for the visually impaired, during its launch in New Delhi April 19, 2011. The phone has a large Braille keypad to facilitate the recognition of digits. India has the world's largest blind population and the phone is designed to enhance the quality of life of visually impaired people, a media release said. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi (INDIA - Tags: BUSINESS SCI TECH SOCIETY) - RTR2LE83
Image credit: Reuters/Adnan Abidi.

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.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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