I had asked Mr.Balanagendran to write an article on how visually challenged candidates prepare for the civil service exam. It is my personal requests to all readers- please DO read the two paragraphs titled
And if any of you have any suggestions, alternative softwares or preparation resources for the benefit of visually challenged candidates for any competitive exam, please do share it in comments or via the “Contact Me” button. Here start the article:
- Childhood Fancy Turned Into an Obsession
- Strategies, Books and Softwares we follow
- Time management
- Books and Materials
- Software’s we use
- Barriers to Preparation: The Cost Factor
- To Conclude
Respected readers and followers of Mrunal.org, we would like to say thank you for spending your precious time in reading our guest article. We feel that this is the opportunity for which we have been waiting for a long time to make some amount of people know, “if you think you can, you can, Inspite of your abilities and disabilities”. We think that it’s obvious to introduce our self to you all.
We Balaji and Balanagendran are two visually challenged civil service aspirants. We have been affected by this visual challenges by our birth itself; therefore life is going with the same amount of bliss with desires as that of the sighted people without difficulties. Both of us did our schooling till SSC in a specialized school, later we have been aspired to do commerce, so that we got transferred from that specialized school to the ordinary school where the sighted people study.
During those days, doing commerce is impossible for a student with visual challenges because of numerous diagrammatic and numerical based subjects such as accountancy, mathematics, Etc. but we have decided that we need to do commerce and make the people know that visual challenges are not an obstacle, were as it is just a limitation. After our HSC we joined Bachelors in Commerce “B Com” in Loyola College Autonomous, Chennai, one of the renowned colleges in India.
In the year 2010 and 2011, we have proved what we have stored in our mind to prove to the people, “even a visual impairment cannot make commerce an impossible one”. Now both of us are commerce graduates and looking forward to become an Indian administrative service officers with a view to do something for the betterment of the visually challenged and to the entire differently abled community.
We heard the word IAS for the first time at the age of 5 or 6. During those time, we have been told that it is the toughest studies in the country, and only rich people can do that. On that time, due to our childhood curiosity, we told to our parents that we are going to do that! They didn’t take it that much serious initially, our neighbours and relatives laughed and said that we are pathetic. As a first generation learners, we need to work to our limits to take our self from one level to another level in the day to day operations of our educational career. After the completion of our SSC, we told to our parents that we are going to do commerce followed by civil services. Then our parents started to have strong faith on us. Really, now a days, our parents are the greatest motivators.
We don’t know how we have maintained that childhood fancy, but now we are certain that we have no other option but to become an IAS officers. During our HSC and our college period, we were searching and collecting information’s about civil services, UPSC, exam procedures, optional subjects, syllabus, and so on. Now we are on the right track, as Balaji has given his first prelims and Balanagendran has given his second prelims on this past Sunday, may 20. From our primary education till date, we have come across stunning successes, devastating failures, real motivations and harsh criticisms. We strongly believe that the mixed experience of our life is the only tool which helps to have a focus towards our destiny.
We use to do some activities as part of our preparation, we would like to call it as strategies. Some of them are for your view.
We all know, the most precious commodity in this world that is irrecoverable, is time. Therefore, we won’t compromise when it comes to time. We use to do what we have planned to do in a particular time. Most of the time we suffer a loss, due to lack of concentration, lack of interest in the subject, ETC. but we use to finish the work with in that day itself. We don’t care of our sleep, we don’t compromise with our own self, if we feel that we need to work more today. So, time management is the major tool or strategy where we are very cautious.
We have e-sources as well as Braille materials, which is a special method of learning for the visually challenged people. We use to separate time for E-material and special time for Braille material in a day. For example, In our state, 2 hours power cut per day is sure. During those 2 hours, we use to read Braille materials. That 2 hours are the moments which make us feel, “it is ok, even good, to be a visually challenged”. We feel that is why we are proud to say the thing which we do, cannot be done by a sighted person, that is reading and writing in the dark! Those 2 hours really helps us in learning. After that, we use to divide the hours for E materials as well as for our Braille materials. We won’t go to bed unless the allotted work is finished on that day.
Most of the books we have are in E-format. For our initial preparation, we followed NCERT books from 6 to 12th standard, for science and technology for GS we use to follow the Hindu scientific events, for current affairs we use to read news papers through online, such as the Hindu in common, for national affairs, we give priority to press information bureau, where we can get day to day information about all the ministries and commissions activities. For Indian polity we follow M.Laxmikhant that we have in Braille format.
For environment and biodiversity, we follow news papers and the national open school material taken from Mrunal.org for economics, we follow the articles of Mrunal, and as a commerce students, we possess our college economic notes.
For CSAT, we follow Indiabix.com for our basic practice, Mrunal’s article on aptitude and RBI grade B officer’s book for aptitude and reasoning. We use to go R.S. agarwal only to take the questions; We use to solve them by using short cut ways that have been taught to us. Our friends are the backbone in our aptitude preparations. They use to type the questions from the text book, and we solve it and send it for corrections through mail. We are glad to have such people as our friends. Now days, Mrunal too joined the party by assisting us in solving our queries related to aptitude and by sending the article when ever we request in a doc file.
You are your best motivators. Similarly, we use to motivate our self by doing things which gives self satisfaction. Such as, teaching to our juniors, discussing about social and political issues with elders and friends, assisting a stranger if the opportunity comes, ETC. through those things, we are able to feel that, we can contribute something to others, therefore, we are also a deserving people to be an IAS. Such things use to boost our mind and help us to get back to our books with a bang.
In the recent days we the visually challenged have attained independence with the help of Information and Communication Technologies “ICTs”. For instance software’s like JAWS, Kurzweil, Abby fine reader, and so on.
Job access with speech, “JAWS” is a screen reading software which helps as to read the contents on a computer screen. It helps as to surf internet, to read and type the documents to reach the desired files and folders in computers and almost all computer activities.
These software’s helps as to read a book independently. By using these software’s we’ll scan the books and convert them in to a word document format or to Mp3 format. Earlier we need a person to read the book for us. But this barrier as been removed by these softwares.
Inventions of Braille printers are very important mile stone in the life of each an every visually challenged persons. Since the Braille is the main script for all visually challenged persons these printers accomplished the task of compiling the soft copies in to a Braille book and help as to have a contact with our script, Since Braille is the main source of our learning. At the same time it also helps to those who cannot afford a desktop or a laptop.
But converting a book into a soft copy is a tedious work because we cannot reproduce the hard copy material without the author’s permission. This barrier is going to be removed by the proposed amendment in the copy right bill 1957 which is in the parliament for its approval. Under this new proposal the differently-abled people can convert a book in to a soft copy without the permission of the author but he or she should pay the royalty if it is explored for commercial purposes.
As we told earlier we have a screen reader JAWS for computers, we have (Talks) a screen reader for mobiles too. This software functions in the same way as jaws. It will read all the contents that displays on mobile screen. We’ll read messages, contacts, Medias and much more. In short these screen readers are similar to Vodafone advertisements, “where ever you go it follows”.
But they won’t cheat as the Vodafone network does. We use to store materials by converting into MP3, DAISY format or TXT format files in our memory and use to hear with the help of our mobile whenever computers and Braille reading are not possible. Even now days some of our friends are using touch screen phones and tablets. After invention of all these Information and communication technologies “ICT tools”, we can access all the soft copy’s and hardcopy’s independently.
Our humble request to you all is, if you get a chance of meeting a visually challenged, create awareness of these things. Surely it will enable a visually challenged to know about these kind of software’s. We have a resource centres at Loyola college Chennai, S.T Xavier’s college Mumbai, National Institute of visually handicapped at Dehradun and Chennai. These centres give free training for all visually challenged persons throughout the year in handling this kind of softwares.
Though we have numerous amount of technological advancements, it is impossible to purchase those things by an individual because of its Himalayan cost. For example, JAWS costs around 20000 to 50000. I think, it is more than the cost of a computer now a days. Due to that we are using software called non vision desktop access “NVDA”, which is free for all. But the barrier is, it Is not that much user friendly and its accent is very difficult to understand.
When it comes to scanning and making Braille materials, we have to bear the cost approximately 600% or more than its original price. For instance, if you are a sighted guy, you need to pay Rs. 410 to purchase M.Laxmikanth’s book on Indian polity, or less if the seller is giving discount. But were as, if you are a visually challenged, and if you want to convert that book into Braille, first you need to pay Rs. 410 to purchase the text book and then you need pay another Rs. 2560 extra for its Braille conversion. Imagine, if a visually challenged who has affordability, can pay for it, but can a middle class or a poor guy pay nearly Rs. 3000 to purchase a single book? This is what we people feel as the greatest barrier in our preparation. Such barriers still keeps a million miles distance between a visually challenged and civil services.
We hope that the information’s we have given helps in reducing the hindrance of knowledge about the visually challenged people, especially visually challenged civil service aspirants. It’s our honour and privilege to thank Mrunal for providing a glorious opportunity to interact with you all. If this information’s helps in reducing the level of your sympathy on visually challenged, that is our success!
As Martin Luther King Jr Says,
‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others.’
Hope that this article have answered to some of your questions relating to visually challenged soles in accessing there study materials with advanced technology. we congratulate all the UPSC aspirants, and wish them their dream come true as soon as possible. Have a strong faith in your efforts Because,
“if you think you can, you can, Inspite of your abilities and disabilities”.