..And the fight is on
Meet HT Woman first runner up Priyanka Bhatti, a woman who overcame visual impairment to create a world of her own where all specially-abled people are treated equally...lucknow Updated: May 03, 2018 13:02 IST
Born to a teacher mother and a medical professional father, Priyanka Bhatti was like any other infant till her mother realised during one of her vaccinations that there was some problem with the toddler’s vision.
What followed was a series of tests and visits to the doctor after which it was finally concluded that the baby was visually-challenged since birth. This condition did not deter the little girl’s enthusiasm to fly high. Not only did she overcome criticism and rejection all these years, she also started her own NGO Samarthan Education – a start-up that provides English training, personality development and employment to other visually-challenged people.
Talking about her initial days, Priyanka says, “I was five when my parents thought of sending me to a special school hostel in Dehradun. Maybe at that point I must have felt sad to part from my mother but today I think it was the most sensible decision my parents ever made. Studying there made me confident and trained young girl. I also became well-versed with Braille user which can read computer screens and other electronic supports.”
Priyanka went ahead and completed her graduation in English from Spicer Memorial College in Pune and post-graduation in education. “Studying in a normal college was the second biggest hurdle that I had to overcome. As I knew it was only education that can help me achieve all that I wished for. I had already given up on one of my dreams to study science like my brothers and become a doctor as it was not possible with my condition. But I knew that I will have to study and complete my education,” she says.
“Keeping up with normal people was difficult. Making notes, studying and participating in events was tough but I knew deep down it was not impossible,” Priyanka adds.
It was after her masters that she realised there was so much to be done for specially-challenged kids and youngsters who lack opportunities to achieve their dreams.
It was during this phase that her mother was promoted as a principal and the entire family relocated to Bulandshahr from New Delhi. “When we reached there I become aware that there were no proper facilities or institutions for special children or youngsters. I became a part of a few NGOs and started taking workshops and seminars to make parents of specially-abled children understand the importance of education and training to become self-reliant individuals. Soon I realised that though we were training them but the youngsters were not able to find suitable jobs. This was again a big challenge,” she says.
Priyanka started a placement cell where availability of vacancies was tracked and the candidates were placed accordingly.
“It was never easy and it’s still not easy to make people understand that a specially-abled person doesn’t need your mercy. He or she needs support and understanding to stand with others. I’m proud that I have trained hundreds of children and helped in changing the mindset of their parents. Making employers understand that specially-abled people are in no way inferior to any normal person is a vital part of my fight,” Priyanka says.
Her journey took a turn when she decided to marry and settle down.
“It was a tough phase where I was constantly made aware of my weakness. But my would-be husband not only married me against societal pressure but also motivated me to carry on my fight. Many tried to dissuade him to not to marry me but he never paid heed to them,” she recalls.
“I remember people telling him that if he married me our children will be visually-impaired. This hurt me the most and made me scared for the first time in all these years. When I conceived, it was the ultimate battle between my heart and mind. Finally, my heart won and I gave birth to a normal baby girl who is now five,” Priyanka adds.
She not only runs her NGO and take seminars and workshop across the country but is also bringing up her child like any other normal mother.
“I love to take care of my daughter and the household all by myself. I also manage all my work on computers and mobile phone, thanks to the software JAWS that helps us use mobiles and laptops like any other normal user,” she says.
JAWS is a computer screen reader program that allows visually impaired users to read the screen either with text-to-speech output or Braille display.
ON WINNING HT WOMAN AWARD 2018- FIRST RUNNER UP
“Life did take away something big from me but somewhere it tries to compensate with loving parents, husband, beautiful daughter. Now my work is getting real recognition with such a big and credible award. I cried when I got to know I have won the first runner-up award. It seemed all my hard work has finally paid.”