Visakhapatnam, India, September 04, 2014: L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) and Microsoft India Development Center (MSIDC) of Microsoft India (R&D) Pvt Ltd today announced the launch of a Computer Training Centre for the visually challenged at LVPEI’s GMR Varalakshmi Campus, Hanumanthawaka Junction here. This is the third joint initiative completely funded by monetary contributions received through the Employee Giving Campaign at Microsoft India Development Center, the first two being the Mobility & Sensory Stimulation Park LVPEI Kode Venkatadri Chowdary Campus in Vijayawada and a Helpline for Visually Impaired launched last September.
The Computer Training Center, launched by Dr Gullapalli N Rao, Founder & Chair, L V Prasad Eye Institute, and Mr Anil Bhansali, Managing Director, Microsoft India Development Center (MSIDC), is open to any visually impaired student who wants to learn computer skills for educational and employment purposes. The three-month program uses assistive technology in the form of screen reading software such as JAWS, MAGic and Window-Eyes, and teaches Microsoft Office such as Word, Excel, Power Point, Internet Explorer, accounting packages such as Tally and software languages such as C,C++, Java, HTML and SQL. Combined with soft skills and communication training, the course helps build confidence and increase the employability of the visually impaired students. The center aims to train a total of 128 students including blind (n=32) and low vision (n=96) in the next 12 months.
Explaining the potential of the initiative, Dr. Rao said: “LVPEI is one of the very few organizations in India running a dedicated hands-on training program for the visually challenged with the support of assistive software. We have always been committed to providing world class facilities to prevent blindness and provide vision rehabilitation. While we have made considerable progress in bringing the best of eye care services, we felt a need to establish a computer training center for the visually impaired. The center will help them acquire the required skill set to compete in a technologically advanced society and become financially independent. We would like to thank Microsoft India Development Center for its continued support of our initiatives.”
There are several screen reading software developed for use by visually impaired, but most of these are extremely expensive, limiting their usage to a very small percentage of the needy. However, Microsoft’s Window-Eyes screen reader is offered as a free download to all licensed users of Office 2010 and 2013, a great benefit for the visually impaired. Recounting his experience, Mohan, a computer training instructor at the Vishakhapatnam center, said: “I felt the impact of my vision loss doubling when I lost the privilege of using computers. Thanks to LVPEI’s rehabilitation team, I learnt how to access computers with assistive software, and could connect back to the world again. Now I have the privilege of teaching the skills that I learnt as I have been given an opportunity to work as an IT instructor for the center.”
Elaborating on MSIDC’s contribution, Anil Bhansali said: “Every year, Microsoft runs a dedicated global program encouraging employees to give back to the community. Since the year 2000, MSIDC employees have been supporting various social causes they are passionate about. Many of our initiatives align to Microsoft’s long history of commitment to accessibility where the company builds accessibility features into several products and services and partners with others to discover new ways of using technology to transform people’s lives and have a long term impact. In 2012, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our Giving Campaign, we decided to take up eye health and support for the visually challenged as a special initiative, given the long term adverse consequences visual impairment has on a person’s education, employment, mobility, socialization and mental health.”
“We chose to partner with LVPEI and Sankara Eye Care Institutions, given their commendable achievement in this field. We have achieved quite a bit. Thanks to LVPEI efforts, more than 4000 sighted and visually impaired individuals visited the Mobility and Sensory Stimulation Park while the helpline successfully answered 1500 enquiries regarding medical intervention, assistive devices, employment opportunities, mobile applications, audio books, educational courses, etc. The numbers are growing month on month. Our contributions helped Sankara achieve quite a bit since November 2013—they conducted vision screening for more than 71,000 school going children, 300 pediatric cataract surgeries, delivered spectacles to 1100 plus kids with refractive error and successfully treated nine cases of retinoblastoma. I am thankful to our employees for their generous donations towards such a noble cause,” Bhansali said.