World Sight Day: A salute to the 'vision' of visually impaired

On World Sight Day today, a time when we must celebrate the inclusion of the visually impaired into the mainstream, here’s looking at a member of the disabled community who has managed to breach discrimination, thanks to resolve and an unwavering belief in himself

Part of the digi age, too

Today, on World Sight Day, it is business as usual for Mumbai entrepreneur Murtaza Hamid (40), founder of web portal ‘sastabhada.com’. This portal enables people who wish to hire a truck for instance, to book the vehicle online.

Visually impaired students of the NAB Rehabilitation Centre in Mumbai, take advantage of a rare empty stretch of road at Mahalaxmi to cross. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Visually impaired students of the NAB Rehabilitation Centre in Mumbai, take advantage of a rare empty stretch of road at Mahalaxmi to cross. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

The Sewri resident says, “I suffer from retina pigmentosa due to which I can only see the shadow of a person. The portal started in April this year. The problems I faced running my family business lead me to launch this portal.”

Kids at the Kamla Mehta  School for the Blind at Dadar. Pic/Tushar Satam
Kids at the Kamla Mehta School for the Blind at Dadar. Pic/Tushar Satam

People, says Hamid, cheated him when he was running the busines of transportation and entailed cash transactions. People would slip in less money or a Rs 50 note instead of a R100 between cash wads. Since it was difficult for Hamid to count, he would be easily swindled.

Visually impaired Murtaza Hamid, who started the website sastabhada.com at his office in Sewri. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Visually impaired Murtaza Hamid, who started the website sastabhada.com at his office in Sewri. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Now, that the business is online, transactions are undertaken digitally, money goes directly to his account and cash transactions are eliminated. Says Hamid, “The portal works on an amalgamation of a traditional business model and new technology.”

Adversity is part of this entrepreneur’s life. Earlier, it was changing schools frequently while growing up. “I could not see the blackboard and hence had to listen very carefully in class. I have changed at least five schools, as schools; they would throw me out frequently. I never learnt Braille as I felt it was de-motivating.”

The Commerce graduate dug deep down for motivation and was steadfast with belief in himself. As India catapults into the digital age, spurred by the hi-tech push of the globetrotting PM Narendra Modi and with entrepreneurship as the buzzword, the visually impaired too are making their place in new India.

About World Sight Day
>> An annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October, to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment. 
>> This year, World Sight Day (WSD) is on October 8, 2015.
>> WSD is co-ordinated by the International Association for Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) under the VISION 2020 Global Initiative.
>> The call to action this year is ‘Eye care for all’.
>> It was first observed in the year 2000.

Number crunching
>> Approximately 285 million people worldwide live with low vision and blindness. 
>> 90 per cent of blind people live in low-income countries. 
>> Yet 80 per cent of visual impairment is avoidable - i.e. readily treatable and/or preventable.
>> Restorations of sight and blindness prevention strategies are among the most cost-effective interventions in health care. 
>> An estimated 19 million children are visually impaired. 
>> Increasing elderly populations in many countries mean that more people will be at risk of age-related visual impairment.

Source: http://www.iapb.org

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