This is a story of hardships and struggles, optimism and perseverance, failures and success; a perfect example of how when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.
This is the story of Vidhya Y, a first-year student of M.Sc. Digital Society from IIIT, Bangalore. A meritorious student, she secured 95% in 10th and 89% in 12th class for which she also received Dhirubhai Ambani Scholarship. She secured 90% in junior grade Carnatic classical music conducted by Karnataka secondary education board and is now pursuing her senior level. She was also felicitated by Canara Bank, Syndicate Bank, and other institutions and was interviewed on TV.
She’s also blind.
She lost her eyesight at the time of birth due to some medical complexities. Not giving in to the harsh surroundings, she kept on fighting against all the odds and didn’t let others limit her progress. Her vision is to develop as many software as possible for the blind community to help them participate in the society and get equal opportunities. She has already hosted a Radio show to teach basics of Science and Technology to visually impaired children who don’t get family support to take up challenging subjects. Here’s her story in her own words:
Since I stayed in a village, and my parents hadn’t gone to college, it took a lot of time to find options available for the blind children but still they did everything they could. At first, it was difficult for my family to cope with all the harsh statements that the villagers made due to their attitude and lack of awareness. Since all blind schools were located in the city, and travelling every day was not possible, my parents had to force themselves to leave me in a hostel. Till 7th standard I studied in a school for blind children and got the basic education in ‘Braille’ (a script used by the visually challenged to read and Write). After my 7th standard, when I wanted to join an integrated school, an International school refused admission giving many random excuses. I had to join a school within my town as my previous school offered education only till 7th grade. In school, since all subjects were taught using the black board, it was very difficult to understand my lessons. I took up Mathematics and Science as a challenge even though blind students had an option of taking other subjects like Economics, Political Science, and Music. I learnt all diagrams using ‘Clay models’ and drawing them on a sheet of paper using rubber sheets so that I could touch and understand them. I would work out all the problems using ‘Tailor frame’ (used by the blind students for primary Mathematics). However, for high school Math I had to work out all problems orally as there were no options/devices to write Math. Since I could not read text books and the blind students didn’t get Math and Science books in Braille, my cousin used to record all mathematical problems so that I could listen to them and learn.
Then, I had to work out big problems orally which was frustrating due to all the complexity. I was really happy that I could score 95% in spite of so many people telling me to change my stream to Humanities as they believed that I could never do Science and Math. For 11th Grade, I wanted the best education and so I decided to travel 58 kms every day by bus, with my Friend, to one of the best junior colleges in Bangalore, because my town did not have any good ones. Due to practical nature of Science, I had to study Commerce in 11th and 12th Grade; however, I had Math as a subject, and I had to study math without any accessible textbooks only by listening audio materials.
I worked out Calculus and Trigonometry orally. In 12th Grade, I was the first blind Student to take up Math, and so I had to write several letters to Karnataka government to approve my subject and also to request them to give me an extra hour to complete my final exam. I managed to Score 89% after a lot of hard work trying to get materials audio recorded. As my passion was Science, I decided to try Computer Science in graduation. I Studied Programming and Computer science with the help from many volunteers. In class, I took down all the notes using my Laptop with the help of ‘talking software.’ For Programming, as there are various symbols like #, ~ etc., it was not possible for anybody to read aloud the entire text so that I can record and listen afterwards. So, I had to gather notes from various websites. In first and second semester I found it very difficult to dictate Programming to juniors in the exams, so I had to convince my college to allow me to write my own exams on computer. I had to device my own ways of learning Math, Science, and Programming which are visual and unheard of. During exams I had to dictate visual subjects to not so qualified people, and many times I could not score expected marks due to this challenge.
Thank you Vidhya for being such a huge inspiration for all of us. We admire your relentless fight to pursue your dreams and wish you all the best for your future endeavors. After all, “Your story may not have such a happy beginning but that does not make you what you are, it’s the rest of it – Who You Choose To Be!”