Sound Vision for Blind Students
Savita Narayan 27 April 2010

Savita Narayan writes about an NGO creating audio books for the visually-impaired

In 1998, when Veena Sahasrabuddhe moved to Nashik, little did she know how events would move her life in an unforeseen direction. As a student, Veena had excelled in extra-curricular activities while maintaining high academic standards but could not complete her education. Later, she concentrated on her family. As her sons and husband got busier with their studies and career, a sense of frustration engulfed her.

One morning, Veena was at a busy traffic junction. Nearby stood a visually impaired man requesting passers-by, without success, for assistance in safely crossing the road. Veena asked if he would accept her help instead. With the simple, humane gesture of guiding him across, Veena helped herself overcome the self-doubt that had begun to mar her life.

“That day, God heard me,” Veena says. “The man was a teacher at a school for the visually impaired, two doors away from my house. His self-confidence, in spite of his lack of sight, impressed me.” As they walked to the school, Veena learnt what it was like for the visually impaired to be in a learning environment as a teacher or a student with different needs—readers and writers are essential here. Veena felt an opportunity to help others beckoning her. “Forget any light in their lives, these children could not even reach the candle. As the wise say, everyone needs a guru,” she says. “That teacher was my guru. He guided me completely in what was a very new field to me.” Truly an instance of cometh the hour, cometh the man.

Today, Veena runs the Third Eye Association with her aseem parivar (boundless family) of friends and well-wishers. The team comprises 50 people.

Government-run schools for the blind, with books in Braille, are only up to the 10th Std. For students wanting to pursue higher studies, accessing textbooks is a very real hurdle. Third Eye offers recordings of any textbook prescribed by any university and for all competitive exams.

Veena began with a recording of a textbook on an audio cassette for a girl in high school. By 2003-04, the demand was so high that Veena was reading and recording for 10 hours everyday.

A turning point in her endeavours was a visit by noted Marathi author, Praveen Dawane, on 27 December 2004. He wrote about her work in his column in the daily Sakal. The result was telephone calls from all over Maharashtra with enquiries, recognition and help. Well-known Marathi authors gave permission for the recording of their books.

Funding began with a donation from one Mr Pendse in 2004 which facilitated the purchase of a dubbing machine to record a master cassette to make copies. The Rotary Club donated a tape-recorder. The sponsorship of an adjoining flat offered the much-needed space for more equipment and helpers.

Blank audio cassettes are sourced in bulk. Veena has eight computers which are audio-operated, a Braille printer and an audio book-reader on which 60 hours of recordings can be loaded. Saksham Nagpur, an RSS project, had donated CDs. Next on the wish-list is the screen reader Jaws. All this without ever having charged a rupee from any student!

Third Eye has concentrated on academic tomes so far. Veena now wants to record fiction and poetry to widen students’ horizons.

Third Eye’s beneficiaries include Shrirang Sahasrabuddhe of Infosys, a rank-holder now doing his PhD; state-level chess player Sonali Borse; officers working for various banks; first rank-holder in BEd (normal) Maharashtra and the rank-holder for Nashik in the State Board 12th Std exams. 

The Lions Club awarded Veena Sahasrabuddhe the Helen Keller Award in 2009 for her services for the visually impaired.

According to Indian thought, ‘opening the third eye’ means receiving knowledge. Third Eye Association is the gateway for visually impaired students to encounter learning and experience a fuller life.

Third Eye Association
VS Sahasrabuddhe
5, Nisarga-Prakash,
Near KJ Mehta High School
Nashik 422 101
Tel: 0253 2468867; 09890251009
[email protected]

ramesh ullattil
5 years ago
Nice job , keep it going [email protected]
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