Eighteen-year-old Shabir Ahmed Bhat was born blind to a poor family in Pattan, Kashmir. Shocked and unprepared to raise a child with vision impairment, his parents found it hard to cope with Shabir in addition to their five children. The surrounding community saw him as a mere liability.
However, some elderly residents of the village coaxed Shabir’s parents into sending him to a special school for the blind in Baramulla. He studied up to Class 8 in this school with the help of assistive aids and devices. He also picked up a few mobility skills at the school.
But later when he went to a regular government school, he was forced to choose Home Science and Music as his primary subjects against his preference for Math and Science. Visually impaired students are assumed to face difficulty in studying complex subjects like Math and Science, therefore teachers discourage them to pursue those in higher education.
To keep up with his class, Shabir taped his lectures using a recorder. When that suddenly stopped working, he had to rely on his sighted friends which was turning impractical increasingly. He connected with the Eyeway seeking help in acquiring a smartphone for education purposes.
Access to a smartphone would reduce his dependency on sighted peers and enable him to read and browse study material online. It would additionally connect him to the outside world with internet and social media platforms.
Eyeway Helpdesk counselor reached out to several organizations on behalf of Shabir and he was finally selected by Bookshare under a special initiative where they handed out smartphones to 12 visually impaired students.
The counselor then trained Shabir on using Talkback and other accessibility features on his new android phone. He was taught to access emails, browse the internet, read textbooks and other material available on online libraries and more.
Despite his challenges, Shabir is determined to complete his education to attain economic independence so that he can become a contributing member of his family.