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Saarthi: Carving a better future for thousands of visually impaired

Gaganbhai: A visually impaired who gave vision to thousands of children

We take so many things for granted, especially our abled bodies. But meet Gaganbhai Mehta, retired college professor, Ahmedabad and you’ll realize how privileged you are!

Gaganbhai was born blind because of retinitis pigmentosa – an eye disease that damages the retina.

“I have not seen the Earth since I was born”.

Gaganbhai standing with Saarthi attached to white cane

 

But giving up was never an option. From early on in his life, Gaganbhai was ambitious and determined. He did not want his disABILITY to overshadow his ABILITY. So, he devoted himself to studies to become independent. A meritorious student throughout, he holds a Bachelor’s & Master’s degree in Arts and a Bachelor’s in Education. But the journey was far from easy. His caliber was doubted time and again; right from getting admission into universities to sustaining without any assistive devices, it was a testing period. But despite it, he topped his university in his Bachelors’ and stood third at university level in his Masters’. His dreams were coming true and he was getting closer to his goal. But what he didn’t know was that plethora of rejections still lay in the path to self-sufficiency.

“This was around 1970s. The People With Disabilities Act 1995 and 2016 did not exist yet. Assistive devices were unknown and inaccessible to people like us. We were almost on our own and had to depend on others for a lot of day-to-day tasks, but this didn’t mean we were not capable enough.”

Gaganbhai’s self-confidence started decreasing as he began applying for the job of a government teacher after completing his studies. No one was willing to take him as he was visually impaired, though he had every qualification required by the schools. After 30-40 rejections, he had almost lost all hopes, until one fine day when his life took a new turn. It was a routine day and Gaganbhai was busy with his daily chores as usual when his Bhabhi came with a khakhi envelope addressed to him from a government school in Veraval, Junagadh district of Gujarat. Gaganbhai had recently appeared for a job interview at the same school.

“My heart skipped a bit. I immediately knew it was the confirmation letter as no institution would send a rejection letter by post.”

Finally, Gaganbhai’s determination and resilience paid off when he got his first job! He couldn’t have been happier. The first blind person and the only one to be appointed as teacher in a government high school then, the govt. appointed almost 40-50 visually impaired teachers after him. He was nothing short of a pioneer in bringing about this paradigm shift. Today, he is a proud retired citizen of the country living with his wife and two children, both of them equally aspiring as their father. He has served 7000-8000 children in 34 years of his service with 99-100%, results. Many of his students still remember him and do not miss out on opportunities to share their love, affection and respect with their beloved teacher.

Gaganbhai’s journey with Torchit

Gaganbhai receiving Saarthi for the first time at PDPU Gujarat CSR event

Gaganbhai says that life was certainly not easy for him. He was questioned by his own family members when he chose a job and self-dependence over family and home. Living alone in a new city with a new job, away from home for the first time in life was no less of a daunting task. But since Gaganbhai has come across Torchit & its assistive mobility device Saarthi, he is optimistic that there lies a better future for his visually impaired friends. Has been using Saarthi since its launch in 2017 & admires the product and its user-friendly design. He believes great technique is a must for great technology to succeed and the best part is that Saarthi has it both.

“Saarthi’s visually impaired-friendly design and features have made it an inseparable part of my life now. The 3 different navigation ranges in the device and Braille inscriptions on it make it a unique device to offer both, technique and technology.”

Gaganbhai walking with Saarthi attached to white cane

He is now supporting us as a bridge between TorchIt and the visually impaired people, organisations working for them, etc. to help us reach out to the latter with greater trust and confidence. He finds immense joy in this selfless act and continues to be an inspiration to many. He asserts that assistive technology like Saarthi is aiding people like him to become more confident, independent, and empowered by helping them with mobility, literacy, and economic self-sufficiency through employment.

“I’m happy that the visually impaired will now be able to achieve even greater heights and become more successful than I am with the help of mobility aids like Saarthi. I am thankful to Torchit for all its efforts and initiatives.”

Gaganbhai with Hunny Bhagchandani, founder of TorchIt

Torchit
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