Despite many great advances in eye care, Vision Impairment cannot be eliminated but with concerted efforts, we can wage a war on the disability caused by it, to bring a ray of light and hope, where darkness and despair prevailed before.
Vision-Aid, the Lexington, MA based non-profit helps to bring independence and dignity to those afflicted with low vision or blindness in under-served regions. While continuing and expanding its existing programs in Southern India (Visakhapatnam), Vision Aid found a pressing need to extend the services to the Eastern part of India and selected an organization in Kolkata, West Bengal, with a proven track record of eye care delivery to the under-privileged. This new initiative will help to bring hope and concrete positive changes in the lives of many visually impaired persons living in under-served regions of West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
The WHO estimates that over 300 million people worldwide are visually impaired and over 40 million are blind. A shocking 90% of the world’s blind live in developing countries like India. While great strides have been made in recent years in the fields of preventive eye care, refraction and surgery, there are still an unfortunate many who have terminal vision conditions that cannot be treated by optical, medical or surgical procedures. Eye diseases like Macular Degeneration, Retinitis Pigmentosa, Optic Nerve Disorders or certain types of Glaucoma, lead to progressive vision loss, robbing the affected individual of not only their vision, but their independence, dignity, hope and happiness. For these individuals, loss of vision is the first stage in a descending spiral of depression, poverty and deep despair.
Rehabilitation of the visually impaired is a time-consuming and expensive process, that needs to be customized to each individual, depending on their age, need and degree of vision impairment. Often the affected population is poor and cannot afford to pay for expensive services or devices. Little surprise, therefore, that this is one of the most neglected area in the eye care spectrum, identified by the WHO Vision 2020 program as one of the priority areas of need world-wide.
Vision-Aid provides expertise and grants to partner organizations that offer vision rehabilitation programs in under-served regions. These programs start with basic eye screening camps where persons with special vision needs are identified and helped with special devices and training, leading to more advanced rehabilitation programs where students are taught skills that can help them to find employment and live with independence and dignity. The rehabilitation program includes very comprehensive one-on-one Computer Training designed especially for people with vision impairment, using modern Assistive Speech Driven Technologies.
This past year has been a great one for Vision-Aid. In addition to programs that have helped in the training of many blind and low vision persons and achieving job placement of several of these students in rewarding careers, Vision-Aid programs also began the creation of a cadre of teachers who can train the Vision Impaired so that these programs can spread, grow and scale. In December 2009, India’s National Society for Equal Opportunities for Handicapped and its annual awards committee of prominent Indians unanimously selected Vision Aid's Indian partner for its prestigious annual award the BJModi award and commending its Outstanding Service to Disabled in India in 2009 India’s best-selling news magazine India Today carried a special feature in April 2010 that highlighted Vision Aid's work in the field of innovating devices that help Vision Impaired
More importantly, the lives of many visually impaired individuals have been transformed forever. Take the case of K. V. Suresh, a blind young man who came to the Vision-Aid supported Computer program. Despite a University degree and musical talent he was unable to get any job because his communication was only by Braille. In 2009 Suresh enrolled at Vision Aid Computer Training Institute Visakhapatnam and in just over 6 months became computer savvy capable of working comfortably in Word, Excel and Internet Equally importantly, Suresh regained his self-confidence. Early this year he could compete at the test and interview of Indian Railway Recruitment Board under special category and got selected for an Assistant's job. In a letter to Vision-Aid, Suresh wrote, “I am proud to say that I am selected in the Railway. The training certificate from VISION-AID helped me a lot to attain this job”.
Founder, Executive Director