Srikanth Bolla — a 19-year-old sophomore [In the United States, a sophomore is a student in the second year of study at high school or college] who is blind — recently realised a dream when he travelled to Hyderabad, India, to develop a computer-training centre for visually challenged students.
“If we train the blind to get computer skills, they will excel independently and be able to get good jobs,” he says.
Last year, Bolla shared his dream to create the centre with staff at MIT’s Public Service Center, which provided Bolla with a fellowship and the know-how to make his dream come true. http://spectrum.mit.edu/articles/living-his-dream/
First, he created a curriculum, then with additional grants, he bought five computers, rented a building, hired a faculty member, and began 10-week computer classes. The centre now trains 30 blind high school students each year, but with more funding, he hopes to add more computers and more students.
“The best way to narrow the gap between the visually-challenged and others is education,” says this management student, who plans one day to launch a company that develops advanced technologies for multi-disabled people. (He has already launched a company
(These excerpts are from an old article.)
Blind since birth, Bolla was raised in a tiny Indian village, where illiteracy is rampant. “Villagers told my parents: ‘He cannot see. Let him die.’; My grandmother said, ‘No. One day he may be useful to our family.’”
“I spent my childhood in loneliness,” he says, adding that he wanted to play sports and games with other children, but they gave him no attention. At age seven, an uncle urged him to enrol in a school for the blind in Hyderabad, a city 250 miles away. Homesick and unhappy, he tried to run away. His uncle asked him gently: “What kind of life will you have at home?”
Soon after, Bolla made a commitment to excel. “I worked hard, and I never looked back.” First, he learned Braille, then English, then how to use a computer. He won awards in debating, creative writing, chess, and blind cricket. He became the school’s top student.
Bolla loved science, but blind students in India were allowed to study only the arts.
He and a teacher fought his case before the school board and won. Now, thanks to his efforts, all blind students in India can study science beyond grade 10. “I refused to let my disability interfere with my dreams,” he says.
Bolla, who now stars on a blind baseball team in Cambridge, is working with the Board of Education in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh to get his computer-training course accredited. His other goals include expanding the computer centre to several locations in India, finding jobs for trained students, and raising money to educate more young people.
“My lifetime ambition is to become the President of India,” says Bolla, who was a member of Lead India 2020, a national movement to train youth in leadership, human values, and employment skills. The idea is that the transformed 540 million youth would lead India to become a developed nation by 2020. In 2010, Bolla received an excellence award from that organisation from the former President of India.
“I want to dedicate my life to community and social service,” he says.
“I want a place in society where people look up to me as a role model and great leader.”
Srikanth became the first visually challenged student in the country permitted to study science beyond grade 10, after a lot of struggle with the authorities. He went on to start Bollant Industries, an organisation that employs uneducated disabled employees to manufacture eco-friendly disposable consumer products and packaging solutions.
BOLLANT INDUSTRIES PVT LTD.
CORPORATE OFFICE :
FLAT NO. 203, NORTH BLOCK,
VAMSI APARTMENTS, MAYURI MARG,
BEGUMPET, HYDERABAD – 500 016,
TELANGANA STATE, INDIA.
MANUFACTURING UNIT :
PLAT NO. A/28/1/1,
NACHARAM IDA, ROAD NO. 14,
HYDERABAD – 500 076,
TELANGANA STATE, INDIA.
Children born with congenital disabilities caused due to the exposure of their parents to gas leakage in Union Carbide gas leak disaster, light candles to pay homage to the people killed in the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy in Bhopal.
Arbena, 14, a physically disabled child jumps on a trampoline on her birthday at the Association of People with Disability run school on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, in Bangalore. According to the United Nations, over one billion people, or approximately 15 percent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability.
(L) The Role Model Mental Retardation/Mental Illness of Autism (Female) award was presented to Rini Das of West Bengal while (R) President Pranab Mukherjee presented Best Creative Child with Disabilities (Boy) to Master Tuhin Dey of West Bengal during the National Awards for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities-2013 function in New Delhi
President Pranab Mukherjee along with Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Kumari Selja, Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah and awardees posing for photographs during the National Awards for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities 2013, at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi
I sincerely wish and hope, individuals who are differently abled (especially those with a high degree of disability), and those who are visually impaired, should be given employment on a permanent basis in departments and wards of hospitals and offices, especially the ones that deal with children and adults who are terminally ill, and patients with chronic debilitating diseases.
It would serve many purposes.
- These individuals would act as a source of inspiration and motivation for patients and other employees.
- As per my experience and close observation, differently-abled are extremely diligent and hard working.
- It would make hospitals friendlier and happier.
- It would provide employment to the differently abled.
National Policy for Persons with Disability:
The National Policy recognises that Persons with Disabilities as a valuable human resource for the country and seeks to create an environment that country and seeks to create an environment that provides them equal opportunities, protection of their rights and full participation in society.
The focus of the policy is on (a) Prevention of Disabilities and (b) Rehabilitation Measures.
The salient features of the National Policy are:
- Physical Rehabilitation, which includes early detection and intervention, which includes early detection and intervention, counselling & medical interventions and provision of aids & appliances.
- Education Rehabilitation including vocational training and
- Economic Rehabilitation for a dignified life in society.
Realising the importance of education in empowering the visually challenged, Indian Association for the Blind (IAB) provides free education to students from low socio-economic groups. The students at IAB prove the fact that they have skills and capabilities that are at par with sighted students. Since 1995, the school has achieved almost 100 % results in the class X and XII board exams.
The implementation of Persons with Disability Act 1995 which mandates 1 percent of jobs for people with visual disability in government and public sectors has paved the way for the visually challenged. With its specialised training initiatives that back the visually challenged with skills, several Indian Association for the Blind (IAB) alumni is gainfully employed in the government sector in sectors like teaching, railways and banking. Since 1991 several IAB alumni are employed in the government sector. The implementation of Persons with Disability Act 1995 which mandates 1 percent of jobs for people with visual disability has boosted employment opportunity for visually challenged in government and public sectors.
This farsighted intervention has enabled several thousands of visually challenged people to be employed in services like teaching, railways and banks.
“People were more likely to give alms to a blind person. There was no awareness of the potentialities of such people and their need to be treated with dignity and respect.”
—- Mr.S.M.A.Jinnah Source
“My goal has always been equality of opportunities and experience for people with visual disabilities. People need to be sensitised to the potentials and problems of the visually impaired. They are no different from others. Typically society tends to overestimate the disability and underestimate the potentials of people with disabilities.”