Hackathon for the visually impaired at IIT Chennai – A truly magical event!

January 2nd, 2017 was a date which many of us @Vision-Aid had etched in our minds since August, when IIT Madras first approached Vision-Aid to help them train visually impaired students for a very unique event – a hackathon for the visually impaired as part of IIT’s annual Shaastra summit.  A team of 6 volunteer teachers in the US, 6 teaching assistants from IIT and 15 visually impaired students – adults and children, began an amazing and ambitious journey – to show the world that the differently abled can scale the most difficult heights with the help of a little technology, and with a little love and support.

Even to the most optimistic amongst us, it seemed like a difficult mission – with an uncertain trajectory. The goal was lofty. Teach a group of visually impaired students programming, helping them to learn a new language (Python) and develop a finished product they could show case at IIT on Jan 2nd – all this in just 3 short months of training, with most of them having absolutely no prior programming experience.

It all came together at the Shaastra summit at IIT on Jan 2nd. The enthusiasm and magic was palpable. Earnest ad smiling faces, full of optimism, groups of students huddled around in the morning as they put the finishing touches and the grand finale at the presentations in auditorium the afternoon.

The morning began in IIT’s center for innovation – where a bright, and energetic team of IIT volunteers greeted us, and all the participants at ~ 9:30am. We settled in, and the students began practicing and preparing for the big show in the afternoon.  One round table with adult students, and another table with the children from Devnar Blind School. Hunched shoulders, fingers pounding away at laptops and braille slates, animated discussions, and a sense of anticipation filled the room.

IIT student volunteers scurried around cheerfully, helping students along, and doing their best to ensure all of us were comfortable. We pulled away students briefly – as individuals or teams to interview them and to hear their inspiring personal stories and what they had experienced. Some really powerful and moving moments – captured on video – which we’ll share soon – please stay tuned! The theme over and over, was that of optimism, excitement and gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity, and  gratitude to their teachers and TA’s who worked with them so patiently over the past 3 months.

Post-lunch we moved to the auditorium – a relatively small but cozy  theater which lent itself nicely to a more intimate setting for the presentations.

IIT had invited 5 teams to present in the coding section– of which 3 had worked with Vision-Aid – and two had come in independently. The Devnar school kids were the first to go in for the VA segment. Each of the 6 kids showed off the program they had written and confidently engaged the audience in an interactive presentation. One of them asked the audience members for their name and showed how their program could generated a lucky day for that name. One of them showed how to convert temperature from degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit.  And so on. The audience loved it. The kids really enjoyed showing off what they had learned. Lots of clapping, cheering and smiling. Pushpalatha – Vision-Aid teacher was a great cheerleader on stage.

Next up was the (famous) “Bangalore team” – 3 blind students from Bangalore who had been lovingly mentored by their US teachers and IIT TA’s for 3 months. They confidently explained the game hey had built and showed how it worked. After the seemingly inevitable “technical glitch” in such events where the audio did now work initially, things got sorted out and went very smoothly and everyone loved the demo of the maze game. Bhargav, Sivapriya, Shailesh did an awesome job – presenting with confidence, energy and excitement.

Next, Ravi Teja – a visually impaired student from IIT presented his own game – Tic Tac Toe and everyone had a lot of fun in an interactive demo – trying to beat the computer.

Two other presenters (independent of Vision-Aid) showcased a novel “talking ATM” app and an inspired presentation by Kartik Sawhney (a blind student from Stanford) and his team that showcased a very novel search bot for the blind.

The event concluded with handing out of certificates and awards. Each participant got an IIT certificate, a Vision-aid certificate and a token gift  from Vision-Aid.

The Shaastra team – student volunteers from IIT did an amazing job and were rightly proud ad delighted at what they had pulled off.

Overall – a joyous and satisfying day for all. Congratulations and thanks to everyone who participated and contributed to this great event. What a great way to ring in the new year!

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.