In a world where visually-impaired people are considered dependent on others, Tiffany Brar, 30, who lost her sight at birth, leads by example and has made the lives of hundreds of visually-challenged people more meaningful by training them for jobs.
Driven to empower and skill the visually-challenged people, Kerala-based Brar started a non-profit organisation Jyothirgamaya Foundation (Sanskrit for ‘leading to light'), which started a mobile blind school in 2012. The disability rights activist says there are about 4,00,000 visually-challenged people in Kerala, who through proper interventions can be empowered to make their own living.
"There is no need to segregate visually-challenged people, when it comes to jobs. They can do most jobs like others. What's needed is to train them in soft skills and computers and increase the chances of their employability," Brar said.
She conducts short-term courses for visually-impaired in batches of six-seven students. Her organisation has trained over 200 people through camps and 1,100 through residential empowerment programme.
Brar's own life is defined by persistence and extraordinary courage. Born in Chennai, where her father, an army officer from Punjab, was posted. She lost her sight at birth due to overdose of oxygen.
Her father's posting took her to Britain, where she started her schooling. At 12, she lost her mother. She later studied in Kerala and Darjeeling. Despite little specialised training for visually-challenged, she passed 12th class with flying colours, finished college and took up work. She then did B.Ed. in special education (visual impairment) from Coimbatore.
Since the setting up of Jyothirgamaya, Brar has travelled quite a bit - not just within the country but across the world. Brar always thinks about several things that she has to do and how to strengthen her organisation.
"Our motto is ‘empowering the visually-challenged'. We conduct several training sessions to equip them to get a job," said Brar. The private sector, especially the IT companies in Kerala, should come forward to employ trained visually-challenged people, she said and added, a few had come forward and we wish more to join.
When floods hit Kerala in August 2018, she went around collecting relief materials for camps.
Several awards have come her way. In November, she won the 19th National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP)'s Mindtree Helen Keller Award. In 2017, she received the National Award for being the ‘best role model' from the President.
"I have a long way to go and am determined to empower the visually-challenged," said Brar.