Learn what you can & get ahead - My Take by Tiffany Brar, founder of mobile schools for the blind
This week on My Take, the amazing Tiffany Brar, founder of Jyotirgamaya Foundation, the organisation that has started mobile schools for the blind in Kerala. Just 28 years old, Tiffany, who is blind, is a teacher, entrepreneur and motivational speaker.
At Jyothirgamaya Foundation, our mission is to empower the blind in all aspects of life. We have two ongoing projects - one is a mobile school that we started in 2012, primarily for those who are not able to attend school. We also have training center, where we offer life skills and training based on their needs.
Focus on both basic education and vocational training
We don't just focus on children, but also on adults at the training centres. Often we get calls regarding blind adults, who are just sitting at home and not doing anything with their time or skills. We get them to the center and train them. There are some who are not able to come to us, in which case we go to their homes and train them.
Our main focus is on backward communities because it is here that the marginalisation faced by the disabled is most widespread.
"There is a lot of stigma here. But we have also come across this attitude among educated NRIs like doctors. There feel shame and fear that their child is blind."
Stigma towards blind children prevalent in homes and schools
This stigma is our biggest challenge. Parents of blind children are unwilling to let them out, even when they are 30 years old! We have to break that mindset. We have to teach many blind children personal hygiene, as they have not been told about it. So a major part of our efforts lie in creating awareness among parents' and society as a whole. Even schools tend to look at blind children as a burden.
I do feel that in some places attitudes are changing. We have started accessibility campaigns but things take time. Throughout my life, I have fought discrimination and sympathy thrown at me because I am blind. I lost my mother when I was very young and this has made me a determined person. I also faced discrimination in school because I was blind, but I learned to fight back.
"I feel the challenges are more when it comes to girls. They lead more restricted lives. Some won't use a white cane, as they fear they won't get partners. For any girl in India, blind or sighted, life is a challenge.
I believe that the blind have to take the initiative and work towards becoming independent. My motto is - Don't stop. Don't give up. Learn what you can learn and go ahead.