Express News Service
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Tiffany Brar has just completed her quarantine after recovering from Covid. But her heart goes out to those differently-abled people who may not have the facilities required for room quarantine in these difficult times. For the Thiruvananthapuram-based visually-challenged disability rights activist knows exactly how difficult it is to get things done.
“We need to touch things frequently to access our environment. Social distancing is not easy for us as we require additional support. I went to New Delhi last month to attend a few programmes there. By the time I returned home, I tested Covid positive. Just because I have a house and a room of my own, my Vineetha Akka (her caretaker since childhood) and her children, I didn’t find it difficult to move on. But that’s not the case with many out there,” says Tiffany.
When people now complain of being confined to their homes during the lockdown, the 30-year-old has been turning on her inner eye to train people from as far as Malappuram and Kozhikode for years. Since 2012, she has been running the Jyothirgamaya Foundation which trains visually-impaired people to become self-reliant.
Her foundation helps train people in personal grooming, interpersonal skills, cooking, spoken English, currency note identification, using gadgets, and playing chess, among other skill areas. So far, more than 200 visually impaired people have benefited from this modern day Helen Keller’s efforts. She had even launched a preparatory school/kindergarten for visually-challenged children, with her motto being “catch them young and teach them well”. What’s more, all that is provided free of cost, including hostel facilities.
But things are a bit different now, Tiffany says. “A majority of the disabled people including women have lost their livelihoods. The various mobile applications developed to combat Covid-19 should be made accessible for us too. We have difficulty in going to hospitals now, and volunteers are needed to help us. Even when we go to the bank, we need extra help as people are hesitant to touch us,” she says.
Tiffany is a bit disappointed that the disabled community or their caretakers are yet to be provided with spot registration for vaccines. “We hope the state government will come out with subsidised rates of Rs 250-300 for RT-PCR tests for the disabled as a special drive,” she says.
Tiffany interacts with the differently-abled every day online and over the phone, attempting to keep their spirits high and urging them to ensure that they keep away from risky situations. She is particularly concerned over chances of people finding them a “nuisance”.
The only daughter of retired General TPS Brar and the late Leslie Brar, Tiffany grew up in the state capital after her father began serving as a Brigadier at the Pangode Military Camp in 1995. She is the winner of several prestigious awards including the Holman Prize 2020 from the Light House for the Blind, USA, and the national award of ‘best role model’ instituted by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) under the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2017.