About This Cause
Sightsavers is an international organisation that works with partners in more than 30 countries to eliminate avoidable blindness, and fight for the rights and needs of people with disability.
In India since 1966, our work here has enabled millions of people to lead lives of independence and dignity. We work with local partners to strengthen communities and organisations, and support the treatment of millions of people with eye disorders. We educate, counsel, train and rehabilitate people who are disabled or blind, and help extend the reach of our services to the least served areas of India. Till date we have:
Touched the lives of 55 million people till date
Given free treatments to 36.4 million people, by giving spectacles and medication
Performed 5 million operations to treat conditions such as cataract
India has the largest population of blind people in the world. That’s over 8 million people. Most of them live in the poorest parts of the country with little or no access to even basic health care facilities.
But did you know that 75 per cent of them could have been prevented from going blind if they had received timely treatment? Poverty – which is both a cause and effect of blindness – can be very hard to break out of, especially in rural India where most blind people live.
Preventing blindness increases access to education, employment and prosperity, and enables greater participation in civil, social and political life. Below are some of the eye conditions we help overcome to promote eye health and restore sight:
Paediatric Eye Disorders
Uncorrected Refractive Error (free or affordable spectacles for school children, truck drivers, and underprivileged adults across India)
Sightsavers ensures availability of affordable, quality eye health services in rural areas, urban slums and government schools. We focus on raising awareness about eye health, training health care workers, school teachers and community volunteers and strengthening their capacities.
The reasons behind avoidable blindness run deeper than the eye diseases that cause them. They result from – and lead to – poverty, and are often accompanied by social exclusion and early death. So, instead of slapping a sticking-plaster on the problem, we ensure that people have access to quality eye health services in a sustainable manner and without any financial hardship.
Blindness creates a cycle of illiteracy, poverty and social exclusion for children with visual impairment (CVI), making them one of the most vulnerable groups in the world.
When children with disabilities participate in mainstream education on an equal basis with other children, they learn from an early age that they are equal and valued members of society. They remain in a normal social environment, are no longer isolated and participate more actively in general community activities throughout their lives.
Sightsavers works to promote a positive, inclusive and enabling environment in mainstream schools everyday; we also work with families as well as communities to support the holistic education of our CVI children.The key objective of our Inclusive Education program is to help children with visual impairment (CVI) study well in schools and raise their learning outcomes through the use of technology.
How we do this:
1. Tools and technology
We support children who are visually impaired or blind with technology tools like smartphones with in-built assistive technology, assistive portable audio devices, laptops, physical aids (i.e. books in Braille, tactile games, talking watches, etc.) and tools such as low vision devices that give them greater independence and allow them to perform tasks they may have previously found difficult or impossible to accomplish. We also use an online assistive library that gives every child in India access to school textbooks and other books in an audio format. We train our CVI children to use this library with the devices we provide and also keep updating the library with yearly versions of their school textbooks.
2. Working with teachers
For inclusive education in India to succeed, teachers are the key. We support the training of specialist teachers to:
a. Aid the inclusion process in the classroom by helping enroll more and more visually impaired and blind children to school
b. Visit schools in their local area and teach visually impaired and blind children skills such as Braille
c. Prepare visually impaired and blind students for the classroom
d. Provide one-on-one help to children in the classroom, such as by using Braille machines so that they can be more involved in the classroom
The program is currently implemented in five states namely, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan.
There are over 21 Million people with disabilities (PwDs) in India. Lack of education, awareness, and/or access to resources prevent most of them from gaining employment in any industry throughout their lifetimes. This is compounded by the deplorable social stigma they carry in a caste laden society like India.
There are several government schemes for the benefit of people with disability, but poor awareness levels and administrative negligence often result in these benefits never reaching people with disabilities (PwDs).
Sightsavers' disability inclusion program works to strengthen community led Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) in the country, build economic empowerment for them, and create an enabling environment for PwDs to survive. Sightsavers supports them through livelihood trainings and facilitates effective advocacy for their rights on all national and state platforms.
We work to change the attitudes of communities, schools and governments by ensuring they adopt socially inclusive policies towards people with disabilities so that they are treated with dignity and are not denied their rights to appropriate healthcare, education and income. We work to ensure that the government implements its obligations under international conventions towards people with disabilities.
Sightsavers helps people with disabilities to gain independence by providing vocational training and skills that are relevant and useful to PwDs. This opens up new opportunities for work and self-empowerment. We also work with private-sector employers to provide employment opportunities and training, and to change attitudes around disability.
Our goal is to show that people with disabilities can be valued, productive employees and to provide them with sustainable access to work.