Blind man fights darkness, enables others to read, write

Over two decades back, visually impaired student Dipendra Manocha stood outside Delhi University’s Hindu College waiting to get an application written.After the life-altering struggle of finding a writer, Manocha set himself on a mission: Helping the blind read and write.

Manocha, 45, introduced reading aids and support mechanisms for the visually challenged. India has over 15 million blind. Today Manocha juggles between managing three such organisations that help the blind ‘read’.

“I was a research student at Hindu College at that time searching for someone who could write a simple application for me. It was baffling because I was literate and the dependency made me feel handicapped,” Manocha recalled.

The bitter experience kicked off a journey on innovation that Manocha had never thought of.

“That very moment I decided there has to be a solution to this. A blind needs to be empowered to be able to read and write on his own,” Manocha said.
Even after losing his vision at the age of 12 due to a genetic disorder, Manocha completed his research in Indian classical music. Throughout his education, the dependence on a reader and writer was hard-hitting, he says.

“There are provisions for special students. But during higher education, being visually challenged could mean waiting for someone to write your exams and that person would never turn up at times,” Manocha, who lives with his father in central Delhi, said.

It was in 1993 that Manocha left his full-time career in music and gave up a government job to plunge into the dark world of the visually impaired. The thought of empowering the blind clicked in his mind.

In 2005, Manocha received the national award for his contributions in the area of disability.

In 1993, when he started working at the National Association for Blind, he came across a computer with speech synthesiser and screen-reading software.

“The idea at that time was not just rehabilitation, but to bring the blind into the mainstream,” Manocha, the former director, information-technology services at NAB, said.

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