Vision-Aid’s Virtual spoken English Program 2020 Is Going on Full Steam Ahead

Teaching Spoken English skills to blind and visually impaired students is one of the core programs in the Vision-Aid model. Teaching English to the visually impaired requires special considerations. The primary one is that teachers cannot use “visual cues” to teach students. Most of the traditional Spoken English training relies heavily on visual cues (showing someone a picture of an object, place or person and using the picture as a teaching aid. Sighted students can also use reading and writing as a support to improve conversation and speaking.

 Teaching blind and visually impaired students’ needs special consideration – one can neither use visual cues nor can one rely on traditional reading and writing and instead use non visual teaching methods and braille where needed, to teach students how to speak.

Due to these challenges and several other factors, spoken English literacy is much lower in the blind and visually impaired population of students. This in turn becomes a barrier for employment and higher education.

When we first embarked to teach English to the visually impaired, the Vision-Aid team researched the market and education space extensively to come up largely empty. Very little had been done to teach English systematically at scale in this space, and so we had to embark on an ambitious project to develop training materials from the ground up.

We now have two comprehensive in-house courses – one for beginners – typically children ages 12 – 18, or adults who had absolutely no exposure to English, and the other program for intermediate speakers who have some basic knowledge but need to be more proficient and confident.

Prior to COVID, the beginner course was largely classroom based – taught in blind and special school settings? After COVID set in (from March on) the team scrambled to find alternatives to teach the beginners course virtually.

We’re happy to report that the first virtual all-India pilot got off the ground around 6 weeks ago and is progressing very well. We currently have 13 blind students from different parts of India (many from Telangana) ages 13 – 20 joining classes virtually each week (3 classes a week). The team has adapted the in-class model to a virtual model very successfully and is finding that despite some initial teething trouble with connectivity and audio issues, etc., the class has now reached a stable steady state and the students are making excellent progress.

 The team includes Ms. Suja Albert and Mr. Akash from Hyderabad who developed the curriculum and materials, Ms. Loubaiana from Boston who volunteers with QA and reviews, Ms. Sarah and Mr. Justin (a blind instructor from Bangalore) assisted by Ms. Pooja Harish a Teaching Assistant Intern from Bangalore . The team is finding that the students are very receptive to the new learning mode.

 For Vision-Aid developing a new virtual model for teaching English to the blind has been a silver lining in the COVID cloud. Once we get past this first pilot, a second pilot is already lined up with students waiting. Surely this will go on beyond COVID to become an important part of our portfolio.

 Mr. V.L.Narasimhan who heads the Vision-Aid India operations as member secretary reported “I am delighted to see classes with record attendance of over 95% from the students with a continuous sense of enthusiasm to learn the subject. I am sure that upon completion of the Program, students will emerge much more confident in interacting with all concerned in their communication.

 Ms. Jayanthi, Senior Program Manager overseeing all virtual programs reports “Internet connectivity issues are there. Still the kids don’t get disheartened and continue to participate in the class with all enthusiasm. This aspect is what motivates all of us to give our best to them”

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.

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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.