Perkins School for the Blind, in Watertown, Massachusetts, US, is among the oldest schools in the world for the blind. On October 15, 2012, the global NGO shortened its name to Perkins, to reflect a mission that extends beyond the school in Watertown, into 67 countries. Today, Perkins is a leader in serving people with visual impairments and has carried out some initiatives in India, such as the Voice and Vision India, which works to increase educational opportunities for children in underserved urban and rural areas. In an interaction with Vikram Chaudhary of The Financial Express, the president of Perkins, Steven Rothstein, shares that approximately 4.5 million children around the world don’t receive an education simply because they are blind. “That needs to change,” he says. Excerpts:
How is Perkins transforming the lives of the blind?
We recently partnered with SOBTI, a small, collaborative school in Mumbai that serves students who are blind with other disabilities. One student, Guarav, lost his vision to cancer at age two. His parents almost gave up hope that he could get a good education until they discovered SOBTI. Now, six years later, Guarav has learnt to read and write Braille, and he dreams of going to college and becoming a doctor. That’s just one story, one person; at Perkins, we see the untapped potential in every child who is blind. We know that with the right education and training, people who are blind can lead productive, fulfilling lives. Success stories like Guarav happen every day, all over the world.
What have been your key achievements?
We’ve expanded our reach to 67 countries, and last year our international partners worked directly with 90,000 children, adults and teachers. Our Perkins products division, which offers accessible products like the Perkins Brailler, a kind of Braille typewriter, continues to expand into new markets. One of our most exciting initiatives is e-learning, which offers online training to teachers of the visually impaired. It’s accessible anywhere, around the clock. Perkins has been educating children who are blind for more than 180 years, but e-learning is transforming our ability to share knowledge with blindness professionals.
Why the current focus on India?
India is home to 25% of the world’s blind population, many of whom have additional disabilities. Not only is that a significant number of people who need our support, but three-quarters of them live in rural areas, where educational options are more limited. We’re stepping up