The Nandini Voice for The Deprived, based in Chennai ,India organized a debate competition for visually challenged women at Shastri Nagar, Adyar , Chennai on 26.11.2011 on the following subject, on the eve of the forthcoming World Disabled Day
“How society and government can alleviate the problems of visually challenged women ?”
(November 28, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) The objective of organizing the programme was to give an opportunity to the visually challenged women to present their views and sensitise the society and the government about the issues faced by them.
22 visually challenged women consisting of employed women, college students, school students and house wives participated and presented their views on the subject.
Considering the quality of presentations, the judges decided to award prizes to all the participants. Cash awards and braile watches and gift coupons were distributed .
The highlights of the observations made by the visually challenged women are given below.
Dealing with the banks
Though the regulations of the nationalized banks have been considerate towards the visually challenged persons, visually challenged persons face considerable problems in practice.
Several bank managers do not seem to be adequately aware of the regulations themselves and are often dismissive when visually challenged persons particularly women, approach them with any issues. Some of them even refuse to meet them and insist that they should discuss only with clerical staff who say that they do not have powers. Several instances of difficulties encountered in opening accounts, in getting loans particularly for starting tiny self employment activities were cited with instances.
Bank managers should be sensitized and must be told not to be harsh towards visually challenged women, who face multiple problems.
Hostel Facilities :
90% of the visually challenged women belong to lower income group and face very insecured conditions due to lack of family support , particularly since the family members cannot afford to support them.
They desperately need accommodation to live with dignity and in safe conditions. Many women said that they are often teased when moving in public places and some times face even molestation conditions helplessly. The government and the society have the responsibility to ensure that all the visually challenged women, who need accommodation are provided the same. Nominal charges can be collected depending on the economic status of the visually challenged women.
Cellphones for self protection of visually challenged women:
The physical insecurity problem for visually challenged women being what it is , it was said that all visually challenged women should be given a cellphone by the government connecting them to all police stations. On receiving a distress call from them, police can rush to their aid immediately.
Government Committees :
There are many committees constituted by the government relating to various welfare schemes at the state, district and village levels.
But, there is no policy about giving representation to visually challenged women in such committees so that their voices can be heard. Many of such committees have failed to address the concern and the problems of the visually challenged women in the past.
Guidance cell in bus and railway stations :
Visually challenged women find it extremely difficult to commute and desperately need assistance and guidance particularly in important bus stands and railway stations. A guidance counter for visually challenged persons will be of great help.
Marriage assistance :
Government has a scheme to encourage the normal persons to marry visually challenged persons and is providing them one time allowance. Instead of allowance, one of them can be given job in the government according to the merits. This will ensure that such marriages remain stable.
Representation in the State Assemblies and Parliament:
The government is considering proposal to provide 33% reservation for women in assemblies and parliament and some states have already done at panchayat level.
However, there is no particular proposal for reservation for visually challenged women under women’s quota, which is very necessary.
A qualified carnatic musician said that she has been waiting for job as a music teacher in government schools for more than five years .
In such cases, the government should insist that job for such visually challenged music teachers should be given in private schools, as teaching music by visually challenged woman can be as good as normal teachers.
Braile Books :
At school level, only one braile book is given for five to seven students and they have to share the same. At college level, braile books are not given to students. and they have to depend on audio cassettes and readers.
When the government takes care to distribute dark glass and stick to the visually challenged persons, is it not equally important that the visually challenged students should be given braile books immediately?
Lack of awareness in rural areas:
In rural areas , there is little awareness about the support schemes for visually challenged women. This is very much necessary , particularly amongst the parents who have to guide and motivate the visually challenged children..
In rural areas, visually challenged girls are rarely allowed to move outside the homes freely by the parents due to the concern for their security.
Helpful modern gadgets for visually challenged persons:
With the development of several user friendly computer software programmes, the ability of the visually challenged persons in discharging their duties in jobs such as in banks and commercial establishments have vastly improved.
The employers should recognize this fact and view the visually challenged persons as equally competent as those of the normal persons.
Scribes for visually challenged students
Visually challenged students find it extremely difficult to get readers to help them in preparing for their studies and scribes for writing their examinations.
The government should appoint readers and scribes for this purpose , which is now done entirely by NGOs. While the NGOs do this with great commitment, their efforts are still not adequate.
Lack of data in the government departments:
The statistics and data about the visually challenged persons maintained in the concerned government department are often found to be not adequate and often out dated and unreliable.
Therefore, many of the government schemes formulated on the basis of the data available to the government are found to be wanting in several respects.
Visually challenged women as advisors
There is separate department for physically challenged persons in the government with offices in all district headquarters. But, one suspects that the department officials lack adequate knowledge about the problems of the visually challenged women.
Such department at the state and district level should appoint visually challenged women as advisors.
Lack of sensitivity of the average members of society:
Visually challenged women regretted that they are often not considered as normal persons by the average member of the society, who either look at them with sympathy or with contempt but not as equals.
It was stressed repeatedly by several speakers that what they need is understanding and respect from the society and not sympathy and charity.
Many college students said that they are in no way inferior and visually challenged women have repeatedly proved their competence at various levels but still this is not being recognized by the society and highlighted by the media adequately.