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Volume 1, Issue 8, November-December 2012

Score Foundation is a New Delhi based not-for-profit organisation that runs the project Eyeway—a single stop knowledge resource for living life with blindness.

Merry Christmas!
Welcome to a special pre-Christmas edition of Scoreboard! In this edition we’ll aim to get you into the Christmas spirit with the latest comings and goings from Score Foundation, photos of our latest activity, interviews and appeals. This month we’ve been advocating for disability rights in court, speaking at a TED event in Bangalore, educating more ophthalmologists, and much more.
Corpus Fund
We've also been busy trying to mobilise our supporters to put us on a more sustainable financial footing. As an organization we've been moving from strength to strength thanks to strong project partners and a history of effective delivery for our stakeholders. However the project-cycle based funding we rely on rarely supports the costs of our workforce on a sustainable basis and instead forces us to live project-to-project. This uncertainty makes it difficult to recruit and retain good staff and puts a dampener on our large ambitions. For this reason we’re starting a 5 Crores Corpus Fund, the interest of which will be used to support the core of our workforce. An ambitious target itself, we’ll need some help. So if you or anyone you know might be interested in helping to take Score Foundation and its impact to the next level, then please get in touch! Details in the footer of this newsletter.

Advocacy Success!
For some time Score Foundation has been battling hard for the introduction of Uniform Guidelines for Examinations taken by visually impaired students throughout India. It is quite disappointing to believe that over 16 years have elapsed since the Person with Disabilities Act 1995 has come into force and the country still doesn't have any standardized examination guidelines for the disabled as was mandated. As the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MOSJE) Department of Disability Affairs is the Nodal department for coordination and implementation of the legislation, Score took their case against them to the Court of the Chief Commissioner of Disabilities (CCPD).
In support of its case Score Foundation along with a coalition of NGOs had produced its own Guidelines to address the continual difficulty and hardship student’s face when trying to sit their exams. Sympathetic to the argument, the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disability directed the Department of Disability Affairs to issue a set of guidelines ready to be implemented by the 20th of January.

A fair result, we will be keeping a close eye on the guidelines the Department produces to make sure that they are in fact fair and comprehensive and to monitor the implementation to ensure that disabled and visually impaired students throughout India are able to undertake examinations on an equal footing as their peers.

Ophthalmologist workshops
Our mission to educate and sensitize ophthalmologists about the possibilities of life with blindness continues to charge on with a further two workshops in November and December. On November 18th we travelled to Aligarh to present at the U.P. State Ophthalmic Society meet. And on 7th December we travelled to Noida to present at Eyecare Noida. 


Eyeway SMS channel

To reach out to more people with blindness/low-vision, their families and disability professionals with the latest news on all aspects of life with blineness,in April 2009 we tapped the cheapest & widely used digital media, the SMS. People who do not use internet and are not well networked benefited the most with subscribers getting timely alerts of useful information which was otherwise scattered and inaccessible.
We used the free Google SMS channels, where neither we paid nor our subscribers. The service increased queries on our helpdesk by 20%, alerted people about our upcoming radio shows, and what’s new on the knowledge portal  Till date we sent 1800+ messages to around 3000 people.
However, the free service of Google had its limitations. So we began researching how to acquire our own SMS platform. Shortly after volunteers began developing it we learnt that the rates of bulk sms shot up steeply by 10 to 15 times. What would have costed us Rs.60, 000 to 80,000 annually @ 2 paise per sms, now costs us Rs. 8lakhs to 10 lakhs @22 paise per sms. Due to this even Google, our current host, paused its service indefinitely mid November leading to many calls from our helpdesk asking when the service will resume.

Our sms platform would be ready to use by early January and will have none of the limitations of the Google service. However with SMS costs so high without funding this highly valuable software will lie redundant. We are therefore asking friends of Score Foundation to come forward and help us make the most of this amazing opportunity. Just  Rs.2,200 will allow us to send 10,000 invaluable messages to our clients, giving them the information they need to move forward with their lives. For details on how, see the footer of this newsletter.

Staff interview - Nikita Jain (Assistant Radio Programmer)
What is your role at Score and for how long have you been here?
At present I am the Assistant Radio Programmer. When I joined Score in 2010 my job involved supporting the then Program Manager in the recording and more technical sides of the show. Nowadays my role is much broader and involves coordination, research, preparing content, interviewing, recording and editing with oversight from our CEO. You’ll also hear my voice on the airwaves now and then but our anchor does most of the talking.
You have just completed Semester 1 of your Diploma on Community Media at TISS: How was the experience?
The experience was very good. However as a low vision person there were definitely challenges. My eyesight is not as good as it was at school so for the first time I knew compensations had to be made. Fortunately the teachers and staff were very helpful, practically and emotionally.
What do you feel you have learned that you can bring back to the radio show ‘Eyeway Ye Hai Roshni Ka Karawan'’ 
I’m definitely more systematic in my way of working, better at multi-tasking and organizing. I also feel I’ve become more creative when it comes to problem solving, the exposure to other production processes and ways of working has definitely helped!
What do we have in store for series 9 of the Radio Show, anything different?
Yes we have lots in store. We’re trying to keep in interesting. For example our latest dramatisation will be based on the real story with someone connected to our organisation and will involve this person reflecting on her experience intermittently throughout the piece. We hope the new format will give it more depth and realism. I’ve also been busy researching the impact of visual impairment on body image, a new topic for us and one we’re looking forward to bringing out in the next series. I’m also looking forward to introducing new collaborations to the show, so watch this space!

World Disability Day Celebration at Five Metro cities
Café Coffee Day and Trinayani

On the occasion of World Disability Day, an initiative took place to engage people from different walks of life with persons with disability, a section of society they may have had little contact with. Organized by Trinayani and Café Coffee Day across five different metro cities (Delhi, Kolkatta, Chennai, Banglore and Mumbai) the 3 day event was designed to coincide with the celebration of World Disability Day on the 3rd of December. Score Foundation was there to support the event being organised in Delhi.

Examples of our intervention
  • Medhansh Soni
Mrs. Ramta Kapil Soni from Sirsa district of Haryana got in touch with us in June 2012 when she landed up on our website while doing online research on good schools for her 2 year old son Medhansh who was born blind. Before connecting with us, Mrs Ramta had heard of several bitter experiences about placing a child disability in a mainstream school. Unsurprisingly she therefore had apprehensions about going down the mainstream school route.
We set to work easing that apprehension by giving her a balanced perspective on the options available to her. We apprised her that the progressive thought world over is to make systems inclusive for all persons, with the advantage that they learn early to live with society in general and face mainstream competition. Moreover, nowadays teachers are sensitive to people with disabilities and their curriculum trains them to recognize their needs. To further help her make up her mind we connected her with a few parents of children in inclusive education, with Saksham Daksh, a Delhi based NGO as well as explained the non-discriminatory laws and rules for inclusive education in India.
After getting all this information from us, Ramta decided to start looking for regular schools for Medhansh and finally found a school in Sirsa which agreed to admit her son. In December she told us that she is still in constant touch with the contacts we gave her and is thankful to the Helpdesk for giving her the information she needed to make this important decision. 
  • Kavita Poojari
A post graduate in Commerce, Kavita quit herself her 7 year job in a private life insurance company as an officer when reading, writing and outdoor mobility became very difficult for her due to her degenerative eye disorder.
When she first got in touch with us in January 2012, she told us she felt like she was the only person with eye problem and that people around her couldn’t understand her situation. We connected her with other visually impaired people, especially girls doing well in their lives, and through that she was able to learn from others and share experiences which helped her to accept her situation and move on with her life.
Kavita told us she was an avid reader but that lately reading books and newspapers had become impossible. We suggested other options like using computers and the internet for newspapers and e-books, and audio books for her other reading. We put her in touch with Enable India in Bangalore and Blind Peoples’ Association in Ahmedabad who would be able to support her in using a computer using Jaws screen reader. We also motivated her to think about using a white cane whenever she feels stuck and dependent in going out, the training for which she can get from the two organizations.
Now Kavita regularly reads Times of India on the internet on her computer, downloads ebooks from internet, and gets audio books from organisations like Saksham and BPA.
When we last spoke to her in December 2012 she had acquired IT skills, mobility training, had built a network of other self-reliant people and had been selected in State Bank of India and her confidence in herself and that of her parents was increasing. She was thankful to helpdesk for talking to her about her life in such detail and giving her the information and support that allowed her the courage to move forward and take control of her life. She says, “I have learned one thing from my experiences in the past few months, that problems can be solved only by facing them not by ignoring them.”

Our Helpdesk and SMS alert service
In every scoreboard, we share such anecdotes of the positive impact of the Helpdesk in the lives of the visually impaired people. Since 2006, the Helpdesk has answered 7000+ queries on different aspects of life with blindness and currently receives 200 – 250 queries every month. However since April 2011, the Helpdesk has been running without any financial support making its future sustainability uncertain. Hence, we take this opportunity to appeal to all our readers to come forward and make a contribution to keep this useful project running. For further information on how, see the bottom of this newsletter.
News in Brief
Eyeway Audio Health Magazine – The second issue of our audio health magazine is now available on YouTube. Listen to parts 1-8 here

George Abraham our CEO
  • World Disability Day on 3rd December saw George speak at a ‘Inclusion Summit 2012’ a seminar facilitated by SAP labs in Bangalore 
  • George also joined an illustrious body of speakers at TED events throughout the world. TEDX at Christ University Bangalore was held on 10th November 2012 and ran a 'Daring to Dream' theme. George spoke about his time establishing the World Blind Cricket Council as well as his Score Foundation journey to date.
  • Again in Bangalore in December, George was honoured for his contribution to Blind Cricket at the T-20 Blind Cricket World Cup organised by Samarthanam Trust

Drew Ritchie another of our VSO volunteers from Scotland leaves the organisation this month after completing his placement with Score Foundation. As a Research Associate Drew was involved in a number of activities including research with ophthalmologists and their clients as well as helping to strengthen our information and knowledge gathering processes. We wish Drew the best of luck in the future.

Score Foundation now has its very own intranet system. The intranet will be available to Eyeway staff across India and will be a valuable tool allowing the organisation to better create and store knowledge, streamline internal processes and generate better employee engagement.

On the 18th of December Score Foundation was honoured for its work in disability by Tech Mahindra Foundation on their celebration at the Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi.

- Don’t forget to watch our documentary film on YouTube ‘Life Does not Stop Here!’

Score Foundation’s mission is to inform, inspire and empower all persons with visual impairment in India to live independent and successful lives with equal access to opportunity and services. We gather and disseminate knowledge and information on life with blindness through project ‘Eyeway’ which encompasses our radio show, our helpdesk (+91-11-46070380), our SMS alerts and our website. In doing so we reach the blind and visually impaired throughout India, serving them with information and advice while also working to overcome discrimination and empower communities through both our grassroots and institutionally targeted advocacy activities.

We are in great need of your support. If you can please donate and help us continue the great work we do. 
Cheques to be made payable to Score Foundation and sent to 17/107 l.g.f, Vikram Vihar, Lajpat Nagar IV, New Delhi 110024. A bank transfer can also be sent. For details please contact - donations are exempt of tax under section 80G of the Income Tax Act. Thank you!

Copyright © 2012 Score Foundation, All rights reserved.