In an auditorium in Ambalamukku, Thiruvananthapuram, the audience is listening to a woman who voices her worries about her visually impaired son. He is doing his post graduation and has to surmount innumerable challenges. The audience is sympathetic, but no one is able to come up with a concrete means to help. No one, except one 28-year-old woman. Dark-haired, and small-made, she reassures the woman that her organisation, Jyothirgamaya Foundation, trains those with visual impairment and helps them blend in with the mainstream.
Tiffany Maria Brar made the headlines last week because she runs the Jyothirgamaya Foundation that helps the visually impaired, just as she is. Born on September 14, 1988, Tiffany lost her sight shortly after her birth, due to a retinal disease.
Learning to cope
Tiffany’s father was an Indian military officer, and thus, she had the opportunity to travel to many places. Being visually impaired, verbal communication was necessary and so, she became multilingual — she learned to speak five Indian languages fluently, as a child. She studied in special schools, as well as in military schools which were not specialised to take care of children like her. After completing her primary education in Kerala, her father was transferred to West Bengal's Darjeeling district, where she studied in the Mary Scot Homes for the Blind.
After her schooling, Tiffany went on to pursue a degree in English Literature from the Government Women’s College, Thiruvananthapuram, in 2006. After completing her degree in 2009, she started working with Braille without Borders. She travelled to various organisations where she came across many people who were visually impaired and hence were confined to their homes. They lacked skills and training. This motivated her to start the Jyothirgamaya Foundation which provides training in computers as well as the use of the internet, social media, communication in English and also mobility training.
A spirited woman who does not let her impairment get the better of her, Tiffany says that she envisions a society that is devoid of physical or psychological barriers where the blind can walk, talk, travel, work and think freely while leading dignified lives. “Society thinks that we can only sing sweet songs, only become teachers and telephone operators in the bank. But we can do more. We can dance, we can fire juggle, we can do martial arts, we can become managers and directors of companies,” she asserts, determinedly.