Vision-Aid and VHS to establish a new National Resource Center for the Visually Impaired, in Chennai, India
Vision-Aid announced that it is partnering with Voluntary Health Services (VHS) to establish a new Vision-Aid National Resource Center in Chennai, India. The center will be named the Srinivasan-Sundara Vision-Aid National Resource center, in honor of Shri. Srinivasan Varadarajan and Sundara Srinivasan, parents of the generous supporters of this center, Venkat and Pratima Srinivasan, residents of the Greater Boston Area.
Voluntary Health Services, popularly known as the VHS Hospital, is a multispecialty tertiary care referral hospital in Chennai, serving the economically weaker sections of society for many decades. It was founded in 1958 by Krishnaswami Srinivas Sanjivi, an Indian physician, social worker and a winner of India’s highest civil awards, the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards.
The hospital is conveniently situated along Rajiv Gandhi Salai at Taramani, in Chennai and is easily accessible to many. The foundation for the VHS Hospital building was laid by Jawaharlal Nehru, then prime minister of India in October 1961, and since then the organization has had an illustrious record of service attracting many top health professionals in and around Chennai to volunteer their time to serve the under-privileged. Now, with the new partnership, VHS and Vision-Aid will join forces to offer Vision Rehabilitation Services to the visually impaired in the region.
Vision-Aid centers like the new one in Chennai follow the Vision-Aid model, which has a comprehensive range of programs designed to Enable, Educate and Empower the visually impaired. Programs range from early intervention services for infants and children to advanced vision rehabilitation training programs for visually impaired adults, each customized to the specific needs and circumstances of the individual. Visual impairment can range from moderate incurable low vision conditions to complete blindness.
Functional Vision / Early Intervention programs: These programs are designed for visually impaired infants and children. Specially designed interventions for infants and children (and their parents) help to improve visual processing skills for a range of afflictions including CVI (Cortical Visual Impairment)
Comprehensive Low Vision Evaluation: These programs include low-vision assessments, performed by optometrists with training in low vision. As an extension of the low vision evaluation program run in the centers, camps are conducted in local schools to identify students with potential visual impairment.
Assistive Aids & Devices: A comprehensive range of assistive devices for both individuals with low-vision and those with total vision loss (blindness), including affordable, low-cost, hi-technology alternatives. Affordability is a key consideration since many assistive aids are very expensive. Vision-Aid engages in inhouse research and product development to source affordable devices
Orientation & Mobility training: Orientation & Mobility (or O&M) training programs help the visually impaired learn to navigate safely in challenging surroundings, helping them to gain independence.
Computer training: A range of training programs (one week to 6 months) help to build proficiency in Computers skills. This includes suitable assistive technology and training in basic, intermediate and advanced computer applications like Word, Excel, Email and Internet use. Low vision learners are taught how to use magnification and blind learners use speech reader tools like NVDA to use computer applications.
Mobile Technologies Training: These programs are designed for educating and enabling use of various Apps on mobile devices ranging from navigation, situational awareness, object and currency recognition and other functions.
Special Skills Training: Beyond the core skills of Computers, Mobile technologies Vision-Aid offers many advanced training programs. These include Computer programming, Digital Accessibility Testing, Test Preparation for Banking and Government jobs for visually impaired job seekers, training in MOOCs like Khan Academy, edX and Coursera and others. The addition of a new Digital Accessibility Testing and Training Center in 2020 was particularly important since it not only offers training but also offers employment to persons with disabilities who offer expert manual and automated standards based Web Consortium Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) testing for clients globally. More information about this can be found at https://webaccessibility.visionaid.org.
Braille Training and Resources: These programs include basic braille and advanced Braille devices such as the Orbit refreshable braille reader
Livelihood and Employment Assistance: Livelihood programs focus on job skills training and placement assistance. The programs are run as 6-month intensive, residential scholarship training programs where candidates are taught computer skills, English skills and soft skills including job interview and workplace success skills.
Life Skills Training: Programs in Life Skills include activities of Daily Living (ADL). An example of a useful ADL would be teaching safe cooking habits to visually impaired housewives, exercise and physical fitness, and recreational activities like Yoga.
Spoken English Training: Vision-Aid offers specially designed training programs for the visually impaired. The Spoken English (Beginners) and Spoken English (Intermediate) programs were developed by a team of experts especially for the visually impaired, since most of the commonly available spoken English training materials use visual cues which make learning difficult for the visually impaired.
Counseling and Referral services: These programs include emotional, psychological counseling, and referral services to outside experts when such a need arises. Sharing information on their rights and benefits and providing a list of resource referrals and career counseling. Includes information on government schemes, Rights of Persons with Disabilities, training programs for sighted teachers and a helpline.
Advocacy & Outreach: These programs advocate for societal awareness and inclusion for the visually impaired among both industry and within society to influence positive policy changes.
Teacher Training program: In addition to training programs for the visually impaired, Vision-Aid has a range of Training and Professional Development initiatives to train staff at its centers and the professionals outside the organization. The programs are offered via the Vision-Aid Online Academy (VOA) which can be found at https://training.visionaid.org. Skills training programs are designed to train the trainers.
Research & Development: To foster innovation, Vision-Aid’s innovation center focuses on exploring new devices and services. Vision-Aid supports research in the field of Low Vision and Vision Rehabilitation including paper publications highlighting significant issues.
Conferences & Events: Vision-Aid participates in conferences and public events to improve public outreach and awareness about Vision-Aid’s programs and expand visibility of the organization, its mission, and programs.
The Benefactors - The Srinivasan Family
Venkat Srinivasan is a very well-known serial entrepreneur in the New England region, and has successfully launched several technology companies over the past three decades. In recognition of his contributions, TiE-Boston, bestowed its highest honor – the Lifetime Achievement Award, to Venkat. Pratima is a homemaker, loves to travel, and passionate about capturing life moments through photography.
Shri. Srinivasan Varadarajan was born in Ambasamudram in the Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu, and grew up in Mylapore, Chennai. He served the Indian Navy ,short service commission, during WW II. He then settled in Delhi and was employed in the private sector until his retirement.
Sundara Srinivasan, born and raised in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, has been a home maker and a classical music practitioner and enthusiast. Srinivasan and Sundara turned 96 and 90 respectively in 2020. The family feels blessed to have them and wishes to dedicate this Vision-Aid Center in their honor.