MUMBAI—Sightsavers India, a global leading development organization, works in India towards social inclusion and inclusive education, along with their other initiatives. To support the initiative, Kabir Bedi, the honorary brand ambassador, breaking barriers, took six visually impaired teenager kids to iconic venues in Mumbai. They experienced the city through Bedi’s voice and their understanding of what they make of the mighty sea and the historic structures.
The young and bright kids have already been breaking stereotypes by attending regular government schools with the support they receive under this program.
The kids went to the iconic Gateway of India and also heard nuggets of history from him on the adjacent Taj Mahal Hotel and the Gateway. Thereafter, they went to a centre to learn about technological innovations for the visually impaired.
Sightsavers has been running its Inclusive Education Program for the past two decades. The program is being run in five states namely, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan, with a district as a unit of intervention.
Speaking at the event, Bedi said, “When you lose one sense, other senses become more active. During the visit, I narrated stories behind the history of these iconic places to the kids. How far the sea goes to the horizon, as they smile brightly, feel the sand under their feet, probably for the first time, and the sound of waves lapping on the shore. This feeling is something that we cannot put into words.”
He added, “The visually-challenged are often seen as separate citizens of society. The message that we are trying to convey through this initiative is that of social acceptance and inclusion along with creating an environment that is supportive for the learning of children with any form of disability.”
R.N. Mohanty, chief executive officer of Sightsavers India, said, “With this day- long activity for the children, Sightsavers aims to promote a positive and enabling environment in schools, families as well as communities to support the holistic education of children with visual impairment. Enablement is facilitated by the availability of assistive devices and accessible educational material, provision of compensatory skills training, infrastructure accessibility and building education management and leadership among others.”
Kiran, a 14-year-old visually impaired girl from a remote part of Jharkhand said, “This program has given me a platform wherein I can grow, learn and be more aware of the world that I live in. Nobody now questions my ability to study just because I am blind. I am very happy that I could also meet other blind kids from Rajasthan here. I had so much to learn and have lots of stories to tell my friends back home.”
Sightsavers has been working in India since 1966 to eliminate avoidable blindness and to ensure that people who are irreversibly blind are supported adequately to lead lives of independence and dignity. Today, it works with partner organizations across major states in India, bringing eye healthcare, educational support, training and leadership development to visually impaired people in some of the least served areas. It works sustainably for lasting change – by strengthening existing health systems, seeking to advocate with governments and by demonstrating best practices. Sightsavers believes in promoting indigenous technologies in eye healthcare to ensure a wider reach.