Disabled, Differentially Abled, Abled?

Posted on August 30, 2006


Its been a happy week at work! I am finally making friends, it finally makes Enable India one of the spaces I call my own. The people I would say responsible for this are Shiva and Vidya.

Shiva and Vidya are Computer Trainers for the visually impaired. They handle two batches simultaneously with so much panache that one would be awestruck to see them in action. The brilliant analogies, the focus, the simplicity in dealing with students and the humane way in which they deal with their students are some of the qualities that will first come into our field of attention upon meeting them…

Shiva, a seemingly quiet guy, with the politeness that makes one adore him and at the same time feel the distance crackling in the air 🙂 that is until you break through his defences and one of the ways to do that is by calling him “uncle”, he now fondly calls me “ajji”. Shiva takes his time to get to know people, but once he does, he relaxes his oh-so-cool demeanour and just gets into the mode of playing the fool. Shiva has but a PUC (10th grade) degree, and he did his basic computer training from Enable India. Now, besides being a computer trainer for the visually impaired, he is also the Information Systems manager. There is a joke we have at Enable India, we don’t know where Shiva learnt his Computers, it sure as hell wasn’t here. Shiva loves to fiddle with computers and the amount of details he knows about the machine is probably second to the one who invented it!

On a more serious note, Shiva is slowly becoming a force to reckon with at Enable India and soon he is going to be doing the “work place solution” and on-the-job training for the already employed visually impaired across sectors…I am glad to have made his acquaintence. We have a cool masti-filled relationship where we do not get personal, but do have that comfort level to pull each other’s leg. I am sure as hell glad that finally he has warmed to me; when I first joined, he only replied to my goodmornings and goodbyes, and the rest of the time he tolreated my insolent laughter…now he joins me and it makes me happy…he has made me take a hard look at myself and my goals in life, Shiva is a true achiever…as a person, trainer and employee…Hats off Uncle!

Vidya…now where do I begin…she is the complete opposite of Shiva. She has the widest smile and the toothiest grin. She is fondly (and respectfully and also sometimes with fear) called Vidya Ma’am. Her typing speed is just fantastic, I thought I was fast, she is the lightening that strikes before you even realise it…She loves to make documents, and she makes them in a jiffy!

She has an activist in her, somewhere deeply hidden behind the persona of a trainer, but she peeks out every now and then…her indignance at the case of a girl who lost her eyesight because someone threw acid on her, was what made me take notice of this quality, and she was adamant that we do something to help that girl!

Vidya is 28, but she may come across as overly mature for her age, that is until you can nudge the gawky teenager in her…I played with her hair today…and made her tie a ponytail and it was amusing and amazing to see her revel in the sheer pleasure of shaking her head from side to side like a 16-yr old would when she walks down a busy street…and it shocked everyone around us, but Vidya, she continued to sway and laugh uncontrollably! The most amazing thing about Vidya is that she has braved all odds to marry a man of her choice…she waited for many years for both their parents to finally agree to let them marry and that I think is the sign of resilience and determination to live life on her terms. I love to hug Vidya, and I make sure that I do that at least once a day…for some of her positivity to rub off on me…I love you Vidya Ma’am! Vidya is someone everyone looks upto for advice, information and plainly for inspiration and yet, she is still firmly grounded and focused. She could be wherever she chooses to be, and it makes it even more special for us, that she chooses to be here…

What can I say about the camaraderie that has been jamming in the office since the last two days, there is running around in glee and there is passing funny sarcastic comments, there is playing catch around the office and the assigning of nick names…it is a fun filled atmosphere, and I am finally home I think…

…and you know what, I forgot to mention…Vidya and Shiva are both visually impaired. But somehow when you meet them, interact with them, get to know them, make friends with them, you will never think of vision impairment even once…and I think that is what “differently abled” actually means…they have an ability to make us all look at them as people beyond their physical appearances, most of us cannot do that, and this is the only reason I would use that detestable term for them!

Before I end, I would like to say that Vidya and Shiva, both use, JAWS screenreading software which makes the computer a talking computer. They use a scanner to convert all hard copy printed material into soft copies and thereafter “hear” it with the help of JAWS. They are adept at handling all communication including email and internet browsing. Both of them are mobile and go galvanting all around the country side for a joy ride. They smile and laugh like any one of us and cry when they are hurt. They have hopes, dreams and ambitions and the drive to fulfill all of that! They are responsible for breaking of the stereptypes that I had in my mind. They can do any job that I can do…with the help of a “work place solution” which means that I may do my job using my eyes, and they do their job using technology…either ways, we are reaching the same goal…

For more information on disabilities and career options pls email me on ekta1681@gmail.com or visit our website: www.enable-india.org

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