Blind open their eyes to opportunities in physiotherapy

 Niraj Arora understands pain better than anyone else. “Just a touch will do. We can locate the exact spot where pain lurks in a patient. This is our USP in comparison with others,” boasts the 32-year-old physiotherapist from Bhusawal (Maharashtra), insisting that his blindness does not come in the way of his work. 

 Arora is among the ten blind physiotherapists who were in the City on Wednesday to take a certification exam for Community Based Rehabilitation.  He is one of the about 300 full-time blind physiotherapists in the country, most of who hail from Maharashtra and Gujarat.  Though several hundred persons with blindness from across the country visit Bangalore with a hope of joining the IT and ITES sector, those in the western region are finding physiotherapy a viable alternative.  Arora and fellow participant Girish Chandra Rikhadi, 32, have received training from the National Association for the Blind India (NAB-India) in Mumbai, which runs a Diploma in Physiotherapy course for the blind.  The NAB centre in Mahalaxmi, Mumbai, has trained about 150 blind physiotherapists in the last decade.  Besides NAB, Blind People’s Association (BPA) in Ahmedabad runs a two-year course in physiotherapy. “It generates good income for us. Most of us have our own private clinics and receive nearly 10 to 15 clients a day,” said Rikhadi, who has his clinic at Amarnath in Mumbai.  “I lost my eyes in an accident and my parents came across the physiotherapy programme online. Today, I have a clinic at Bhusawal and opened another in Pune offering Ayurveda, Panchakarma, obesity and weight management, physiotherapy and spa. There are several sighted persons working under me,”Arora proudly mentions.  Widespread awareness about physiotherapy coupled with the increasing ailments due to accidents and lifestyle meant the therapists receive more patients in recent times.  “We find a lot of patients at hospitals. We’ve to manage diagnosis, evaluation and then the treatment. Those happy with us come back for more sessions,” said Bhagyashree Sunil Gandhi, 21, who began her practice just last year.  The issue of blindness, though a surprise for their clients, does not necessarily affect their business.  “Any reservations the patient may have vanish once we treat their pain effectively,” said Jyoti Mahesh Shirisagi, who commutes between two hospitals in Mumbai to offer her services.  Indian Association for the Visually Impaired Physiotherapists (IVIP), which is formed by blind physiotherapists across the country, has members in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi and other places, but has just one in Bangalore.  “It’s a surprise that this city doesn’t have many physiotherapists,” Rikhadi said, admitting that Bangalore is an ideal place for the blind to practice physiotherapy. Understandably, none of the institutions in the City seems to offer a full-time diploma course, though there have been attempts to train the blind in massaging. “Most organisations (here) look at IT and ITES as the best sectors for the blind and other persons with disability to work,” said a trainer closely associated with the disability sector in the City. 

“Only a few practice physiotherapy here, which is neglected largely due to lack of awareness. With lifestyle changes and stress people go through here, physiotherapy will be the most lucrative option for the blind,” Rikhadi added. 

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