S. Saravanakumar reaches out to other visually challenged people to train them in life skills. He says that with a little more help he could do a lot more

He logs on to internet explorer and runs a Google search of news channels. He listens carefully to the news updates and shares it with you. Next, he switches over to Microsoft Word, smiles and types out a welcoming Vanakkam Sagodari. He uses the NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access) and JAWS (Job Access with Speech) software. S. Saravanakumar is visually-challenged, and he independently runs the SPS Coaching and Consulting Centre in Thondamuthur Panchayat Union, 20 kms from Coimbatore. Most of his students are visually challenged.

He lives with his parents P. Swaminathan (retired Divisional Development Officer, Erode) and Padmavathy, and runs the institute on the first floor of their home. “It’s agonising to live with the knowledge that you will lose your vision someday”, says Saravanakumar. His parents detected an eye defect when he was a six-month-old baby and took him for treatment, but his vision deteriorated. “I could see the blackboard only in bright light. Because I had partial vision I couldn’t get a blind certificate and use scribe facility to write my exams.”

Vision problems forced Saravanakumar to abandon a teachers’ training course, and enrol himself into a distance education programme in commerce. “I equipped myself with Braille (English and Tamil) and typewriting (Braille). I joined spoken English classes, memory development, and yoga, and learnt as much as I could. I wrote with sketch pens and darker pencils. And I started conducting classes too.”

Learning skills

In 2004, his world became totally dark. He took it in his stride and learnt about NVDA and JAWS from telephone operators Ravi and Venkatesh as well as Jagan, who runs a coaching centre for the blind in Erode. All three are visually challenged. “The speedy voice commands scared me. But, they motivated me, and I completed a six-month training,” he recalls. Now, SPS is a Government registered coaching centre for normal and visually challenged people in spoken English, Braile, personality development, business consultation, campus interview skills, yoga and meditation. Anyone from class IX onwards can enrol at the centre. He uses a number of gadgets to make his life more comfortable such as a talking calculator, weighing machine, Braille measuring tape, Braille typewriter, to name a few. His phone, Nokia E5, is equipped with the talking software. “I bought it from Saksham, Delhi. The screen reader software helps me organise contacts, alerts me on missed calls, and facilitates browsing and SMSing. I can read all your SMSes, but every word has to be grammatically correct. If you send ‘gud morn’ I can’t read it. It has to be ‘good morning’.”

Saravanakumar insists that disability is not an impediment. “My capital is my confidence,” he smiles. “My parents are my guiding force. They support me. Their only advice is ‘don’t criticise anybody, do your duty’ and I follow it. I am also punctual.”

He begins his day at the crack of dawn with yoga and runs a tight schedule till 11.30 p.m. In 2003, his institute also got a note of appreciation from the former president Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. “My strength has been a positive approach towards life. It pains me when people spread wrong information about us without understanding our capabilities and skills. We can live independently with a little encouragement. With three-month training, we can type, align text, and draw tables in Microsoft word 2000. We cannot decipher graphics. We need help to create an e-mail Id as the last step involves a visual.” Saravanakumar also does online banking, and online recharges of his mobile phones.

Looking for sponsors

Saravanakumar says he wishes he had an outlet to showcase his talent and reach out to more people. “I can’t move out on my own because of a problem with my legs. I tend to fall. Travelling by car, with an assistant, is a costly affair. If a there was a trust that provided me accommodation (a single room in the city) or transport, I am willing to conduct courses.” Saravanakumar is however grateful for the many people who have come forward to help him. He says, “In 2010, Mrs. Thenmozhi, assistant headmaster of Thondamuthur School presented me a computer, Ranjitham Senthilkumar sponsored a braille typewriter, and another well-wisher gave me a UPS. We incur high electricity bills (as we use a commercial electricity line) and broadband charges. A sponsor to meet our running expenses would help.”

His advice is to believe in one’s strengths, treat work as worship, take criticism in one’s stride, and not look for sympathy. “I make it a point to distribute 1000 posters once in every three month in Thondamuthur to let people know about the institute. One of the main objectives of my centre is to teach anger management. When people criticise me, I divert my anger by reading a book, or downloading a CD.” He wants to form a yoga association for the blind. He conducts online yoga classes on Skype with the Id sps.yoga

What does he do when he’s not working? “I visit the online library for the disabled people and read. There are 50,000 books available there. I listen to news and comedies.” Call: 94424-24400 (toll free) or 0422-6460333.Visit www.onlinecoachingcenter.in

My strength has been a positive approach towards life. It pains me when people spread wrong information about us without understanding our capabilities and skills. We can live independently with a little encouragement...