India houses 20% of the world’s visually impaired population, and the largest number of blind children in any country. Experts from Orbis India and Sightsavers say that most of the blindness is preventable, especially in children and teenagers. On World Braille Day today, opening up the conversation around CSR for the visually impaired becomes all the more relevant. It has the potential to increase healthcare access for the rural and urban poor, thus decreasing the cases of preventable blindness. A small number of organizations are already running successful programmes to stop preventable blindness while others are making visually challenged persons more employable so they can live with dignity and independence.
Here are some of the top companies doing CSR for the visually impaired that have made an impact in India.
Over the past two decades, Amway has touched the lives of more than 2.50 lakh visually impaired Indians through its sustained efforts. Under its National Project for the visually impaired, the company has undertaken several initiatives to educate & empower the visually impaired people, thereby helping them lead an economically independent life. The CSR initiative has provided visually impaired individuals with Braille textbooks, digitized educational material, launched 33 Braille-cum-audio libraries across India, fully functional computer centres and music and dance academies among other initiatives.
Amway India recently launched Saksham, a new app for the visually impaired individuals in association with its NGO partner Saksham on the occasion of International Day of Persons with Disabilities in December 2020. The app will work as a one-stop solution for the visually impaired individuals as it provides them with all relevant information using talk back and voiceover facilities available on the mobile phone.
TCS (Tata Consultancy Services)
Tata Consultancy Services is empowering visually impaired individuals, by providing an Advanced Computer Training programme to enhance their employment opportunities. This CSR programme conducts two batches in a year, one at National Association for the Blind, Mumbai and the other at Mitra Jyothi, Bengaluru.
This training is a 45-day residential course where the participants get trained on various subjects like accessibility testing, website designing, software testing, networking, CCM tools, route cause analysis, structured problem solving, big data, etc. This CSR initiative, while improving the prospects of India’s visually impaired workforce, aims to redefine the perspectives of employers regarding their potential and versatility.
Eye diseases are one of the prime reasons for many rural household to be unemployed or unskilled and depriving them of their daily livelihood. Proper eye care check-up facility is not available in rural India and people have to travel a long way to nearby towns that offer the facilities. Fullerton India Jyoti-Save the Eye CSR initiative not only provides access to quality eye care at community’s doorstep, but also enhances awareness and addresses the incidences of ‘avoidable blindness’.
Fullerton India has partnered with various NGOs to establish 15 Vision Care Centers (VCC), which is a static setup for screening of patients for addressing the preliminary eye-related issues and to provide comprehensive primary eye care services to the patients in urban and rural areas. Most of the VCCs are equipped with tele-ophthalmology facilities which provide consultations with ophthalmologist based at the nearby base hospital. Each VCC also conducts specialty screening camps every week in adjoining villages wherein patients with cataract and other serious eye ailments are taken to base hospital for further treatment.
For example, Fullerton India funds and runs a permanent VCC in the town of Ravulapalem in Andhra Pradesh. Run in partnership with the Parmahansa Vision Hospital of Rajamundhry, the Vision Care Centre is manned by two eye care specialists and caters to the catchment of 600 sq. km around the town. The employees of the organisation’s local Gramshakti branch facilitate the running of the centre by creating awareness about eye care among the local population and helping people avail of the Centre’s facilities.
‘Be the Lite’ is a CSR initiative by the manufacturer of cinema projection screens, Galalite. From eye care camps to engaging the visually impaired in art workshops to raising awareness and training communities, Galalite has been conducting various activities and contributing largely to saving the eyesight of the impaired under Be the Lite.
The manufacturing business partnered with NGO Sightsavers to not only provide treatment to the visually impaired, but also to spread awareness on preventive blindness. Sightsavers is an international non-governmental organisation that works with partners in developing countries to treat and prevent avoidable blindness, and promote equality for people with visual impairments. The CSR campaign aimed at organising medical camps in rural districts in India to help assess and treat blindness.
Since 2006, Tech Mahindra CSR has been relentlessly working with diverse groups to cater to the needs of the visually impaired students through ARISE+ and SMART+ programmes. On the International Day of Education 2020, Tech Mahindra Foundation in association with Thinkerbell Labs installed Annie – the world’s first Braille literacy device across different locations in India. Annie is a revolutionary solution to the traditional teaching methods of Braille and the lack of special educators. It is a digital device that helps the visually impaired learn to read, write, and type in Braille, on their own through interactive audio-guided content.
Hindustan Zinc has been successfully conducting CSR programme Jeevan Tarang focusing on more than 800 children with special needs who have hearing/visual impairment or have special intellectual need. The objective is to make the children self-reliant through improved education opportunities including technology-based learning.