Disability – The Plastic Flower

 I was looking for better ways to spend my weekends rather than sitting idle like a Zen master and contemplating on world issues.  At that time I got introduced to Enableindia through the company I work for. I was particularly impressed with the radically different approach taken by Enableindia to deal with disability and people with disabilities. Enableindia has chosen the path of “Enabling” these differently abled people to lead a life of complete self-reliance filled with fulfillment, rather than portraying them as objects of sympathy thereby handicapping them for the rest of their lives. Since then I have tried my best to associate myself with some or the other of Enableindia’s activities.

 More than anything the disabled people should themselves believe that they can lead a very normal life just like others. I think this is the first step towards their rehabilitation. To make this possible, at Enableindia, these people are taught some basic but very essential skills for daily life, like withdrawing money from an ATM (imagine a visually impaired person doing this) or going to a post office or a courier office, etc.

 Then comes the employability of a disabled person. Getting disabled people employed is probably the biggest challenge faced by Enableindia. But people here are not the ones to lose heart. Their will to succeed and dedication is still greater. Many ingenious methods have been devised to arm the disabled people with skills which make them more employable. “Tactile Diagrams” is one such method through which the visually impaired people are taught MS-Office. Hard to believe, they are so good at it than most of us, at least better than me!! In addition to this people are trained in soft skills and interview skills according to their qualifications, with the help of volunteers.

 It is really heartening to see the hard work and dedication of the disabled people and the volunteers bear fruit. Every weekend one can see somebody or the other distributing sweets because he/she has got a job offer. There we see Enableindia has enabled one more disabled person for life. One more person will now make each moment of his life count, on his own.

 My personal experience with Enableindia has made me feel that all the disabled people at Enableindia together with the volunteers have rendered the word “Disability” meaningless. Now, it’s just like a plastic flower. Without any fragrance or life.
– Pradeep Ganapathi of HP

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Passing Thoughts

There are so many things that we grumble about in life. Right from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed, there are ample instances where we get irritated, scold others for creating problems and curse our ‘bad luck’. But, these things seem really immaterial and meager when compared to the kind of life that many people are living with. Just got a glimpse of the life outside the software world this weekend.

 Had been to “Enable India”. It’s a place which provides rehabilitation for the physically handicapped…especially the visually impaired. U should just see the amount of self confidence and the amount of determination and the desire they have to excel in life. Met a guy who is visually impaired. Was just amazed with the determination he has. He has finished his Graduation, wants to do his post graduation, wants to go to the US, help his kid sister who is now doing her schooling. He also gave us chocolates since it was his kid sister’s birthday. Had no words to say after listening to his aims in life.
There was another person whom we met. He is a computer instructor there. He is visually impaired too!!!!. He taught us the way they help the visually impaired to use computers. They use something called the ‘JAWS’ which acts as a narrator and reads out the display on the screen. What was really appealing about this guy is his ability to help people with the same disability and provide livelihood for such people.
There was another amazing thing that probably we all will be ashamed off. Met a person who was typing down all the words which he uses in his day to day conversation. Asked y?, he says he does not want to make spelling mistakes while typing. This was a thing that stuck me the most. I always take it for granted that we will get a red line when there is a spelling mistake and we can go and correct it. Never felt that there are so many people who really have the necessity to learn all the spellings and be accurate with it.
Overall it was a memorable experience and would like to thank my friend for taking me there.
– Archana Krishnan, Volunteer
This write up can be found in http://www.archanakrishnan.blogspot.com/ 

Larger view of life

You must have heard of the frog that used to live in a dark deep well and used to think that there was nothing else in the whole world other than it s home. My life was very similar to this. Wake up in the morning thinking about the day’s tasks ,work , deadlines , fearing what the boss would comment about my work, stress ,competition ,frustration …finally ,to realize, at the end of the day that i always fell short of my expectations. My life would start and end at my workplace , but not now!!
My visit to EnableIndia last saturday, has given me a larger view of life , I met an extraordinary set of people who are measured on a different scale altogether. People sympathise  about them, talk a few soothing words and just forget. But at EnableIndia, I saw  people who had set out to lead an independent ,dignified and happy life without any self pity and without  depressing thoughts. Some of them took  a step further and are now supporting their families. I know that some of them are more capable than i am, but dont get their fair share of respect and results ,mostly because of the lack of opportunities  and lack of exposure.

When you say that you are a specially abled person , some companies take it for granted that it s not worth hiring them ,(for the reasons only they can justify ) so their chances of employment narrow down. Sandesh (visually impaired) works on computers as easily as we do.”Once they get used to the computer , they can send about 5 to 6 mails in 2 minutes “, Subbaiah (visually impaired management trainee at Enable India) tells us , with a proud smile on his face. Met another friend, who is a graduate , but feels sorry that he did not do his graduation in English(Telugu medium) .But now he speaks English as good as you and I speak , he has learnt it in less than a month .Do you want a better example of determination and hardwork! Its a small little world ,were everyone seems to be very happy , cracking jokes , besides,working
tirelessly. Each one is inspiration personified. Their confidant eyes seem to challenge life. Surely they deserve a lot more than what they have got and the least we could do is to just help them in this process. Nothing else to be said. EnableIndia , keep  up the good work !! 
– Ranjitha.S (HP), Volunteer

Free your mind and the rest will follow

At Enable India, one of the things we emphasize for the visually impaired is mobility. We want all our visually impaired to travel independently anywhere without fear because this is a step towards their economic independence. When a company wants to hire them, they may hesitate if they feel the person cannot travel independently.

I remember an incident a couple of years back which happened with one of our visually impaired students, Hema. She is a bright lady who works in a leading bank as a telephone operator. She is around 30 years old and has a daughter who is sighted. She used to come for our weekend computer classes with either her mother or sister. When I realized that she does not travel independently on her own to any place, I was worried. As a woman, mother and a working person, she should rely only on herself for travel- what if her kid falls sick and nobody is at home and she has to be taken to the hospital? Definitely people may help but there is no subsitute for standing on your own feet.
Visually impaired travel is about using your other senses to the maximum, not worring about the consequences of the dangers of travel, asking for help at the right times, not getting fazed when people ignore you or are rude to you, being careful and confident every step of the way. This is easy to say but extremely extremely difficult to practice. “Free your mind and the rest will follow…”

We urged her to start traveling on her own. Many other visually impaired students shared their travel stories about being scared in the beginning and facing problems and mishaps all the time  .. falling into ditches, getting hit by autos, trucks, cows and what-not, attitude of people (“you people should sit at home and not come out!).

Despite all these and more issues, each one of them knew that there is no other way to live one’s life except being mobile and independent. She heard everything and was motivated, encouraged but still paralyzed with fear. We encouraged, cajoled, coaxed, pleaded, begged but to no avail. I knew she was intelligent, logical and understood why she needs to do it. Then why does the human brain behave this way? “Free your mind and the rest will follow…”

I told her that she did not need to learn to travel on her own immediately. I told her to take TWENTY YEARS (yes you read it right!) TWENTY YEARS to become completely independent. I told her that for the first five years, she should just hold her mother’s hand and her cane in the other hand. After the fifth year, she should  “use her cane” while holding her mother’s hand. After the tenth year, she should walk beside her mother with her cane but not hold her mother’s hand. After the fifteenth year, her mother should walk behind her at arms distance so that if there is any danger that she perceives, she can protect Hema. After the twentieth year, I told her that she could go on her own. Basically, the gist of my conversation was that – she should take her time but her time to START IS NOW!

The next day, I was looking out of the window waiting for a couple of students to arrive and I suddenly saw an auto pulling up near the institute and Hema GETTING OUT OF IT, ALONE! WITH A CANE! She paid the auto driver with a smile on her face. Her face spoke of freedom. I broke into a run and just hugged her. There was pandemonium in the class – everybody congratulated her – everybody was overjoyed that she had taken this step and HOW! No gradual steps for this lady – no holding hand for FIVE years etc etc… She was on step 3 already! Her mind was free. Did all the risks that she was worried about go away?? No. Would she face issues when she travels? Yes. Then how did she go to step 3…?

The saying is true – Free your mind and the rest will follow!!! WOW! Can we remember this every time we face a challenge?                                                                — Shanti Raghavan, Founder and Managing Trustee, Enable India