Fifteen-year-old Bhakti Yadav lives with her family in Satara district of Maharashtra. Her father is a government employee and totally blind. Her mother is a homemaker and partially blind. Born with partial vision impairment, Bhakti still managed to study in a local school up till Class V.
When the pandemic hit, all education shifted online, and Bhakti had to attend her classes on a mobile phone. Staring closely at a small screen for long hours had an adverse effect on her cornea. She had to undergo eye surgery which didn’t prove successful, in fact, it further deteriorated her vision.
When she returned to school after a gap, the teachers and authorities seemed unaware of coping with a visually impaired student. Bhakti’s parents were pressurized by the school to seek admission in a special school for the blind, which they refused to do.
Instead they sought help from the Panchayat office, knowing well that blind students have an equal right to study in mainstream schools, if provided with certain facilities to aid learning. When their complaints went unheeded, Bhakti’s father wrote a letter to the Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) stating the denial of right to education.
Within two weeks, CCPD issued a letter to Bhakti’s school, following which a caretaker and a Braille teacher was provided to the girl. But before providing a solution, the school didn’t consult the family about the needs of the child. She required someone to help her write exams, and a teacher who could offer support outside of the classroom, in ways that were accessible and comprehendible.
At this point, they contacted the Eyeway Helpdesk for support. Bhakti’s parents also shared how her Braille teacher who was supposed to help her keep up, was teaching her Class V Maths as opposed to Class VIII syllabus. Foremost, the counselor advised them to arrange for a scribe externally and not rely on the school authorities.
Next, Bhakti was put in touch with a mathematics teacher who was visually impaired, and could relate to the girl’s challenges. The teacher shared audio recordings of study material that would help her understand the basic principles well.
The Eyeway counselor also advised the family to file an application with the school to permit usage of a computer or a smartphone which could enable her to take online lessons, over and above the regular classes.
The inclusive education policy as well as the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 propagate for assistance and reasonable accommodation so that no child loses out on the opportunity of education on grounds of disability. If Bhakti learns to use computer with the aid of screen reading software, she can adjust herself to a mainstream classroom, with little help from her teachers and peers. The surrounding environment can either disable her further, or enable her to grow into an independent woman.