Ashwini, who hails from a small village in Bellary, has not had it easy in life. She says, "When I was born blind, the acceptance of my disability was not so easy for my family. My parents were told that I will not be of any help to them and that I’d only be a burden to them, and they'd rather just kill me. Thankfully, my parents were stubborn and didn't give up on me.”
Blind children from poor background families are usually neglected and not taken care of, not provided with the basic amenities to cope with their disability and live independently. They are often just kept in a corner, while the parents need to go work to earn a living. "Children with visual impairment should study and become independent enough to get a job and earn their living. Hence, I started this school," she says. The school draws students even from the most remote villages of Karnataka.
The academy is in no way less than any other private residential school in terms of infrastructure or technology. Students are taught computer and science experiments, and sports and cultural activities are conducted on a regular basis along with other academic studies. "When I started the school, I dreamt of making it very well equipped. That is why we have a separate science laboratory, a digital library and headphones for every child. This is aligned to their regular studies, braille books, and braille computers" she happily adds.
Learning simple tasks of life is difficult for these children. Children are also taught life skills like folding and keeping their beds clean. Toilet and bath training is given. Things required to lead an independent life. Outings for Parks, Museums, Temples, Movies, Cultural competitions, Performances at various events are frequently done.
“Our disability should not become our weakness. Working hard until we reach our goals is the only way to make our dreams come true. People will ultimately see you as a normal person and they will surely accept you and your disability”
At a very young age of 23 she achieved many laurels for her social work in the field of educating and empowering the disabled and underprivileged, one of them being the UNITED NATIONS Special Envoy for Global Education's Youth Courage award for Education, on July 12, 2013 at the world body.
Today there are 35 students who stay at the residential school, and Ashwini now has plans to open her doors to 200 more visually impaired children in need. But the school is run in a rented building in Bengaluru and can’t accommodate the number of children who are in need of the facilities.