Savita Singh: "I have cherished a dream of associating with a library where all the books are available in an accessible format for persons with a print disability."
Savita is young woman from Muradnagar, India. In April of this year she passed the National Eligibility Test and is looking forward to working as a lecturer in a college. Savita has been using DAISY books for the last five years.
My name is Savita Singh, and I am presently pursuing a Master of Philosophy Degree in International Politics, Organisation, Disarmament, Political Geography & Diplomatic Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi India. In 2006 I graduated from St. Stephen's College Delhi University with honors; my degree is in history. From the beginning my schooling has been possible with support from the National Association for the Blind (NAB) in New Delhi. NAB means a great deal to me, it is like a "second home". As far as I can remember the story of my life begins from the threshold of this unique institution.
When I was four I lost my eyesight completely due to small pox. A person in the Modi Nagar Eye Hospital told my parents to take me to National Association for the Blind. His suggestion and my parents' determination altered the journey of my life. I don't feel that blindness was a turning point in my life but my admission to NAB most definitely was. My parents were a bit apprehensive the first time they left me there, but very soon they could feel that it was a perfect place for their naughty, creative, ambitious daughter.
There were opportunities at NAB to reveal different dimensions of my personality. I learned braille and clay modeling. I acted in the plays, composed and recited poetry, and took part in debates. I was given the responsibility of Head Girl, and also went on school trips. The devoted teachers and the wonderful Director, Mrs. Anuradha Mohit, were the true strength of the Institute.
When I entered college life I realized that it was a beautiful world full of new experiences. The only problem I found was that nobody knew that the capabilities, talents and energetic spirit of persons with a disability were just like those of anyone else. It was a time to test all the skills I was taught in school to prove that a visually challenged person also belongs in mainstream society and that to segregate him or her is unfair and discriminatory.
The inaccessibility of the books in the huge library often disappointed me. The mere thought of the library used to make me feel gloomy; surrounded by shelves of books made me feel dizzy as I could get hold of only dust. Finding a book was not a problem, my friends used to help me in searching books, but reading them was the difficulty. How much one can depend on a reader? There are limits to what one can request and what one can expect. Then the Social Service League of my College bought JAWS Screen Reading Software for students who were visually challenged. It was the first College of Delhi University to get such technology for visually challenged students in the library. It made it possible for me to write my assignments with the help of a computer.
However, accessing information in print books still remained a big obstacle. When I learned about DAISY "Digital Accessible Information SYstem" it made an incredible difference. This amazing technology has the potential to bring about a revolutionary change in the life of persons with a print disability. It improved my over all performance, increasing it from 53% to 63%; a difference of 10% was huge for me. Problems accessing books not only adversely impact academic performance, I feel that this also impacts other dimensions of one's personality so much so that many people suffer from depression or adopt an extremely pessimistic attitude towards life. Some students even curse and blame their blindness for making them dependent on readers and scribes, and in some cases they neglect other things they cannot do without help.
After graduation I was keen to join one of the leading Institutions of the country. I studied with the help of DAISY talking books to prepare for my JNU entrance exam in International Relations. I was able to successfully get through the written exam for my master's degree. Since then I have been using DAISY books regularly for my master's degree studies. For a research scholar this technology has proved to be major boon. It enables one to study according to his/her individual requirements and time. Apart from everything else this much independence boosts self-confidence, which is indeed the first step to achieve any goal in the world.
Now I am able to read novels whenever I feel like doing so. The entire Harry Potter series, consisting of seven volumes, I finished reading in only 18 days, thanks to DAISY books. I just hope every person who needs these books can access them so that no one remains in the darkness of unawareness, when there are numerous sources available to spread the light of knowledge.
I have cherished a dream of associating with a library where all the books are available in an accessible format for persons with a print disability.
In India, there is a lack of books in braille for college level studies. College students require many books and organisations have found it very costly and time consuming to convert them into braille. Since the introduction of DAISY in India, several organisations have taken up the task of converting books for higher education into DAISY DTBs. This has helped many students pursue and excel in different courses. Ms. Savita's story is just one example.