Vision-Aid Board member, Dr. Bharti Gangwani, visited Vision-Aid partner Blind Peoples Association, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. BPA is a network of 26 blind schools in Gujarat with about 3000 children. BPA has about 220 students in their school in the main campus, which Bharti visited. The overall estimate of visual impairment is about 0.5% in general population in Ahmedabad.
Bharti met with Mr Bhushan Purnani, Executive secretary of BPA, an IIM-A graduate and Ranchod Soni, English teacher, technical teacher who is visually impaired along with Vidhi who is a helper to Mr. Ranchod Soni. Bharti said “I was very impressed with their passion and commitment to service.” All the Vision-Aid programs were discussed at length. Bharti provided a detailed report about various aspect of the partnership.
Vision-Aid Digital Magnifiers Program: As a pilot Vision-Aid had sent 30 low-cost digital magnifiers as a trial to see if they would be effective. BPA have given it to their students. They reported that students find it to be very helpful owing to its features of being able to change contrast and magnification. They would be interested in getting more magnifiers. Mr Purnani said that ideally they would like all their students to have the magnifier since it is such a helpful tool to the visually impaired for their education and in their daily life. Most of their students are very poor and cannot afford it even though Vision-Aid offers it at a highly subsidized price. It should be noted that comparable models available in the market can cost 10 to 20 times more than the pricing Vision-Aid offers. BPA agreed to pay for the first 200 magnifiers for their students. In an ideal scenario they were hoping that a donor could pay for the magnifiers. Eventually, they would like to provide one device to each student who can use it throughout the state.
Orbit Braille Devices: The Vision-Aid planned pilot was discussed. According to the plan, Vision-Aid will send 10 Orbit Braille devices to BPA so that they can have 1 device per class for training in 4 classes. The remaining 6 devices would be made available in the library for the students to borrow and use. BPA are excited about this program since the future potential across the state is immense. These devices will help blind students realize braille literacy and improve their overall learning and development skills with modern refreshable digital technology. Vision-Aid partners with Orbit to offer this hi-tech solution to Vision-Aid partners. Vision-Aid is also looking into raising funding for these devices.
Spoken English: A plan for starting spoken English classes,run by Vision-Aid, at BPA was discussed . Ranchod himself is an English teachers. He has Masters degree in English despite being visually impaired. Bharti explained the Vision-Aid teaching model of part virtual and part local. They identified the English teacher who would be involved. Her name is Anju Gulati . BPA agreed this was a very useful skill for their beneficiaries to have, especially young adults and youth who are seeking jobs.
Scholarship Program: BPA currently has a computer training program in collaboration with Tania computer for a duration of 4 months. They want to expand this program to follow a model similar to Vision-Aid scholarship. They are interested in visiting Vision-Aid’s Vizag centre and reviewing the program schedule to learn more.
Bharti learned that Dr Purnani is an advisor to VoSAP, Voice of specifically abled people, a global organization that wants to redefine the idea of a disabled person.
Bharti thinks BPA is a commendable organization and a great partner for Vision-Aid. Together, the two organizations could do a lot to serve the visually impaired in Gujarat.