A Renaissance Man whose extraordinary vision lives on at the new Vision-Aid Center in Pune

It is said that “leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality” and thus was the life, journey and legacy of Dr. R.S.Ayyar, former Dean of IIT Bombay. Dr. R.S. Ayyar, passed away on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 in San Jose, CA. He was 87 years old. He is survived by his wife, Parvathy, daughters Ranjani and Jayashree, his sons-in-law, Anil Saigal and Ganapathy Kumar, and his three grandchildren, Amrita, Arun and Meena.

 Born in a very poor family, in a remote village in Kanyakumari District (Tamil Nadu, India) he overcame an incredible number of challenges including visual disability to achieve excellence in everything he aspired to achieve. He never used his disabilities or challenges as an excuse to not achieve his potential.

 Dr. Ayyar was the founding member of IIT Bombay. He joined the department of Civil Engineering in 1958. He held several administrative positions at IIT Bombay, including Dean of Academic Programs and Head of the Department of Civil Engineering. A beloved professor, an exceptional teacher, he was the favorite of so many students in the civil engineering department.

 “It is indeed a sad occasion to mark the passing of Professor R.S. Ayyar, a stalwart in the field of Structural Engineering and a remarkable human being” wrote his former students (the 1978 batch of Civil Engineering students from IIT Bombay) wrote about him – “We were just in awe of his indefatigable energy, boundless enthusiasm and love of subject. He was like a virtuoso violinist, delivering every lecture to perfection, flawlessly hitting all the right notes in perfect symphony, illustrating the greater principles while pointing out the subtle nuances. Professor Ayyar towers in our memories as one of the most gifted and respected professors from whom we had the gift of learning. Many of us regarded him as the single best professor we ever had, or our favorite faculty member — or both! Over time he became far more than a teacher to us. He was our guide, our mentor, an inspiring coach, and ultimately our friend, motivating us to achieve the most we could, to strive for great heights, and to excel, no matter which path we chose. And he did it all with grace and humor that we can only hope to emulate.

 Dr. Ayyar was a stalwart in the field of Structural Engineering. One of the first projects he worked in the final year of his college was to design the Gandhi Samadhi in Kanyakumari. He was tasked to ensure that the sunlight lights the Samadhi on Oct 2. He made significant contributions to the growth of Civil Engineering Department at IIT Bombay in its formative years. As Dean of Academic Programs, he was instrumental in introducing several far-reaching policies regarding the academic system of IIT Bombay. He was passionate about teaching and each student had a very special place in his heart. Students from IIT Bombay have had a transformational impact on the world at large and he felt fulfilled.

 A renaissance man, he felt strongly about empowering women through education. In the early 70s, he supported his wife, Smt. Parvathy Ayyar, who was only a high school graduate at the time of her marriage, to further her studies and helped her realize her ambition of becoming a professor of English. Despite his busy schedule at IIT and his deep commitment to his students, he always took a keen interest in his daughters’ and grandchildren’s education and encouraged them to study engineering. Passionate about the arts, he also encouraged his daughters to study music and dance.

 He helped guide the first Vision-Aid production of Ramayana, created by his daughter, Ranjani Saigal. A socially conscious teacher and researcher, he was also a gifted painter, poet and orator.

 Dr. Ayyar’s legacy lives on through Vision-Aid. 

His message – “Work hard, think positive and do not let anything stand in the way of attaining your God given potential, lives on today with the legacy created by his family in the form of a new Vision-Aid center in Pune, India in 2020. The family (Anil Saigal, Ranjani Saigal, Amrita Saigal, Arun Saigal, Parvathy Ayyar) said “We hope the gift we give in his name will allow many others who are visually challenged to unleash their unlimited potential.

 Mr. Puran Dang, Chairman of Vision-Aid reminisced fondly – ” When I entered IIT Kharagpur in 1955, Dr. Ayyar was a Lecturer there but soon after he moved to IIT Bombay. I wish I was his student. Later, we became very close to him and Ranjani’s mother. As and when they visited Boston, they made it a point to meet with me and Kamlesh. They gave us so much love and affection which always stays in our hearts. Dr. Ayyar is a shining example of courage and self-confidence. Despite his deficient eyesight, he rose to the high position of Dean of the Institute. What influenced us most about him was his Himalyan knowledge, deep learning and holistic view of life. During our discussions, we happily realized that this man of God had a spiritual awakening of rare sort. He and our Bahen Ji, Parvathy, produced two most amazing daughters, Ranjani and Jaishree. When I think of Dr. Ayyar, I fondly wish that more such persons are gifted to mankind so that this world may become the kindest ever known before. I deeply miss him. “

Vision-Aid centers like the new one in Pune follow the Vision-Aid model, which has 16 programs designed to enable, educate and empower the visually impaired. Visual impairment can range from low vision conditions to complete blindness.

Vision-Aid’s model offers a comprehensive range of programs ranging from early intervention services for infants and children to skills training programs for visually impaired adults including training in Computers, Spoken English, Mobile Technologies and over a dozen other programs, each customized to the specific needs and circumstances of the individual.

 The Vision-Aid team welcomed the launch of the new Pune Center with warmth and excitement. Syed Ali Rizvi, President of Vision-Aid said “‘Prof. Ayyar’s life is an inspiration. He gave back to society all his life. His rich legacy continues through this center dedicated in his name at Pune from our dear Ranjani Saigal and Anil Saigal, in the memory of Prof. Ayyar through Vision-Aid”. Vision-Aid Founders Revathy Ramakrishna and Ramakrishna Raju said “Dr. Ayyar and the entire Saigal family are an inspiration to us at many levels. We feel really blessed and delighted to have an opportunity to work on this new project at Vision-Aid.”

 The new Pune resource center which was slated to begin its first phase of operations in April 2020, had to hit the pause button due to COVID, but will resume as soon as the situation returns to normalcy.

Vision-Aid India Relaunches its Website

The launch of this new website gives us renewed hope that India will see more lives of the visually impaired being transformed.

Vision-Aid Newsletter

Vision-Aid Course Catalog

Vision-Aid Model

A Digital Accessibility Testing Testimonial | Nibin Mathews

Nibin Mathews’ journey is a testament to resilience and determination. Despite facing

significant visual impairment challenges since birth, Nibin pursued education with unwavering determination. Losing sight in one eye due to a cricket ball stroke in 6th grade and later losing vision in the other eye to glaucoma didn’t deter him. He completed his Bachelor’s in English and even secured a job with Indian Railways. Yet, his thirst for knowledge led him to pursue computer programming, which he found through Vision-Aid. With their specialized training, he mastered coding and digital accessibility testing. With their financial support, he pursued a Master’s degree. Now, as the Accessibility Lead at Bosch Global Software Technologies, he’s excelling professionally. But Nibin’s achievements don’t stop there; he’s also an international tennis champion and a skilled violinist. He attributes much of his success to Vision-Aid, acknowledging their pivotal role in his journey. His story is not just one of personal triumph but also a testament to the impact of support systems in overcoming challenges and inspiring others.

A Job Coaching for Banking and other exams Testimonial | Gautam Gulati

Meet Gautam, a remarkable individual based in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, whose life story is a testament to resilience, determination, and the transformative power of organizations like Vision-Aid India.

Gautam’s life commenced with the diagnosis of Retinist Pigmentosa. Despite experiencing a 40% loss of sight, he persevered through attending a regular school, successfully completing his education and earning a B Com degree. His world took an unexpected turn after graduation, when, he had the major sight loss. Faced with the challenges of navigating everyday activities like driving, reading, writing print, and mobility etc. Yet, rather than allowing these obstacles to define him, he chose a path of resilience and determination. Undeterred by his circumstances, Gautam turned to technology, becoming dependent on tools designed for visually impaired individuals, including screen readers. His quest for independence led him to explore new technologies with the support of various NGOs. Through his social networks, Gautam discovered Vision-Aid India, an organization dedicated to empowering the visually impaired. Recognizing the potential for growth, he enrolled in Vision-Aid’s IBPS banking crash course, specifically tailored for visually impaired individuals, in April 2022.

Determined to enhance his skills further, Gautam pursued an additional course in mobile technology. This commitment to personal and professional growth showcased his unwavering spirit and determination.

Armed with newfound knowledge, Gautam faced the Bank of India Credit Officer exam after completing the IBPS crash course. His hard work, coupled with the right guidance from Vision-Aid, resulted in success. In 2023, Gautam proudly joined Bank of India as a Credit Officer, marking a significant milestone in his journey.

Gautam attributes his success and newfound independence to Vision-Aid India. With deep gratitude, he acknowledges the organization’s role in providing IBPS coaching and shaping his path towards independence.

A Python Testimonial

Tejas

Tejas, born with visual impairment in Mumbai, pursued his education at a Blind School. After school, he graduated from St. Xavier’s College in 2007. His quest for technology education led him to NIIT Bangalore, but job challenges followed. He worked as an HR Recruiter at Thomson Reuters but continued his search for software engineering opportunities. Tejas found his path at Vision-Aid India, where he gained certifications in JavaScript, CSS, HTML, Python, and Digital Accessibility Testing. Vision-Aid then helped him secure a role as an Associate Software Engineer at Pristine InfoTech Inc. He’s deeply grateful to Vision-Aid for enabling visually impaired individuals to learn software languages and work independently as software engineers.

Bindhu Sri

Meet Bindu, from Hyderabad. Who began her life with the gift of perfect vision? She embarked on her educational journey in a conventional school, but at the tender age of 9, her world dimmed as Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) impacted her sight. Loosing major of her vision with lot of challenges she still could complete her graduate degree in 2020 and her post-graduate degree in 2022. Being interested to pursue her career in computer programming she discovered Vision-Aid India, a beacon of hope and opportunity. Enrolling in their online certification programs, Bindu successfully completed both Python and SQL languages. Armed with these newfound skills, she opened doors to her career, securing a position as a Data Engineer at RX Data Science, a renowned company.

“All of this was made possible through the invaluable support and guidance provided by Vision-Aid India” She Says.

A HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and ARIA Fundamentals for Accessible Web Development Testimonial

Tejas

Tejas, born with visual impairment in Mumbai, pursued his education at a Blind School. After school, he graduated from St. Xavier’s College in 2007. His quest for technology education led him to NIIT Bangalore, but job challenges followed. He worked as an HR Recruiter at Thomson Reuters but continued his search for software engineering opportunities. Tejas found his path at Vision-Aid India, where he gained certifications in JavaScript, CSS, HTML, Python, and Digital Accessibility Testing. Vision-Aid then helped him secure a role as an Associate Software Engineer at Pristine InfoTech Inc. He’s deeply grateful to Vision-Aid for enabling visually impaired individuals to learn software languages and work independently as software engineers.