This is the story of Vidhya Y, a second-year student of M.Sc. Digital Society from the International Institute of Information Technology (IIT), Bangalore. A meritorious student, she secured 95% in class 10 and 89% in class 12 for which she also received the Dhirubhai Ambani Scholarship. She secured 90% in junior grade Carnatic classical music conducted by Karnataka secondary education board and is now pursuing her senior level. She was also felicitated by Canara Bank, Syndicate Bank, and other institutions and was interviewed on TV.
Vidhya is blind, but that didn’t stop her from living her life.
She lost her eyesight at the time of birth due to medical complexities. Not giving in to the harsh surroundings, she kept on fighting against all odds and didn’t let others limit her progress. Her vision is to develop as many softwares as possible for the blind community, to help them participate in society and get equal opportunities. She has already hosted a radio show to teach the basics of science and technology to visually impaired children, who don’t get family support to take up such challenging subjects. Here’s her story in her own words:
Since I stayed in a village, and my parents hadn’t gone to college, it took a lot of time to find options available for the blind children, but still they did everything they could. At first, it was difficult for my family to cope with all the harsh statements that the villagers made due to their attitude and lack of awareness. Since all blind schools were located in the city, and travelling every day was not possible, my parents had to force themselves to leave me in a hostel. Till class 7, I studied in a school for blind children and got the basic education in ‘Braille’ (a script used by the visually challenged to read and write).
After class 7, when I wanted to join an integrated school, an international school refused admission giving many random excuses. I had to join a school in my town as my previous school offered education only till class 7. In school, since all subjects were taught using the blackboard, it was very difficult to understand my lessons. I took up mathematics and science as a challenge, even though blind students had an option of taking up other subjects like economics, political science, and music. I learned all diagrams using clay models and drawing them on a sheet of paper using rubber sheets so that I could touch and understand them.
I would work out all the problems using the ‘Tailor frame’ (used by blind students for primary mathematics). However, for high school math, I had to work out all problems orally as there were no options/devices to write math. Since I could not read textbooks and the blind students didn’t get math and science books in Braille, my cousin used to record all mathematical problems so that I could listen to them and learn.
After this, I had to work out big problems orally which was frustrating due to all the complexity. I was really happy that I could score 95% in spite of so many people telling me to change my stream to humanities as they believed that I could never do science and math. For class 11, I wanted the best education and so a friend and I decided to travel 58 kms by bus every day, to one of the best junior colleges in Bangalore, because my town did not have any good ones. Due to the practical nature of science, I had to study commerce in class 11 and class 12. However, I had maths as a subject, and I had to study math without any accessible textbooks, by listening to audio materials.
I worked out calculus and trigonometry orally. In class 12, I was the first blind student to take up math, and so I had to write several letters to the Karnataka government to approve my subject choice. I also to requested them to give me an extra hour to complete my final exam. I managed to score 89% after a lot of hard work, by trying to get materials recorded. As my passion was science, I decided to try computer science in graduation.
I studied programming and computer science with the help of many volunteers. In class, I took down all the notes using my laptop with the help of a ‘talking software’. For programming, as there are various symbols like #, ~ etc., it was not possible for anybody to read aloud the entire text for me to record and listen to afterwards. Therefore, I had to gather notes from various websites.
In the first and second semester, I found it very difficult to dictate programming to juniors in the exams, so I had to convince my college to allow me to write my own exams on a computer. I had to devise my own ways of learning math, science, and programming which are visual and were seldom taken up as subjects for graduation by visually impaired students. During exams, I had to dictate visual subjects to not so qualified people, and many times I could not score expected marks due to this challenge.
This is a story of hardships and struggles, optimism and perseverance, failures and success; a perfect example of how when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.
This story was first published on Internshala.