Often times, we assume that blind people experience complete darkness, but Shravya Kanthi, who is visually impaired since birth, believes that blindness doesn’t make a person less intelligent, less capable or less competent. “Perception and adaptation are deeper than we can imagine,” says Shravya, who is currently pursuing her MBA from ISB. She is also the president of Women in Business (WiB) Club at the ISB.
“Whenever I hear any sighted person speak of blindness, it is always about limitations. I have been visually challenged since I was born. Before getting into any school,“I started learning music, as schools refused to take me in. It was very tough for my parents to convince them to enroll me as there was a lack of awareness back in 1998,” recalls Shravya, who did her B.Com (IPP) from St Francis, and worked with UBER India as a community operations specialist from 2016 till 2018.
Citing inclusion as her biggest struggle till date, Shravya adds, “How do you learn to live with something when society makes you feel that you are not as capable and not whole? That’s something that I have to live with every day. I have tasted everything right from rejection to bullying and all things negative. In fact, during my third year of graduation, during campus placements, a lot of multinational companies refused to take me in because I am visually challenged.”
No doubt blindness comes with its own set of challenges, especially since most of the world is designed with sighted people in mind. And while being a business management student can be hard, Shravya has had to deal with more than most due to her blindness.
Getting into ISB has been a big achievement. “There was a general perception amongst relatives and ‘so called’ friends that music was easy for me, but academics was not. I had to prove them wrong but more than that, it was a lot about self validation and thinking that I can do something. ISB gave me that confidence. It has been a dream come true,” says the Carnatic music singer, who has taken part in reality shows.
‘Looking’ back at her earlier years in schools, Shravya admits that the memories hurt. “Life has changed a lot. When I was a kid, my teacher used to ask me how she could explain graphs and numbers to me, how I would do maths, and how I would understand what was written on the board,” narrates Shravya, recalling some of her early challenges. However, all those challenges were overcome. “The only additional effort they had to make was to read what was written on the board, while my parents threaded my graphs so that I could understand the topic well,” says Shravya, who never attended any special school and did her Intermediate from NASR school, where she was the Cultural Captain.
So how did she cope with mainstream education? “I attended mainstream school all the way through university. I did face challenges though – mostly dealing with the lack of knowledge that teachers have when teaching a person with a visual impairment. I could not see images, so they needed to be described to me clearly and I could not watch videos that did not have any spoken commentary. But I used to take the help of my friends,” says Shravya, whose family noticed her inclination towards music at the age of two and decided to shift from Vizag to Hyderabad on the advice of her music guru, Dr Padmini. Subsequently, the talented youngster went on to give public performances at Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Little Champs in 2007.
Shravya points out that the challenges faced by blind people in their everyday lives are not well understood. But in a heartening move, when she joined ISB, they asked how they could make classes more inclusive for her. “Before starting off my classes, I attended a few sample classes and had a lot of discussions with the faculty. I have an audio-visual software on my laptop called NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access) software which enables one to use a computer by communicating what is on the screen using a synthetic voice. It also allows me to browse the Internet and do my own bank transactions,” says Shravya, who was also the media coordinator for the COFEE club in St Francis, for which she won a gold medal in 2016 for best coordinator....