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Fall 2003

Photo and Caption: (left to right) Dr. Sukhdev Roy Shukla, Mr. A.S. Sham Sundar and local friend.Disability Leaders from India Tour Lighthouse

The Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind was honored to be one of three U.S. agencies working with people who are blind and Deaf-Blind visited by leaders from the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH) of Dehra Dun, India. Over the course of two days, Dr. Sukhdev Roy Shukla, director of NIVH, and Mr. A. S. Sham Sundar, assistant director, took a comprehensive tour of Lighthouse facilities and programs. The Lighthouse was proud to introduce new assistive technologies and ideas to our guests for use in their work.

NIVH focuses on human social development through production and delivery of assistive devices, research and development, production and circulation of audio and Braille books and consulting services to the Indian government and other organizations. The leaders of this organization chose to visit the Lighthouse because of our unique work with low vision and deaf-blindness as well as our cutting-edge assistive technologies. These technologies include Braille displays and speech synthesizers that help employees perform office and machine shop jobs.

Shukla and Sham Sundar were introduced to Deaf-Blind culture for the first time during their visit. Lee Kelley, lead teacher and employee support, who met with the visitors to discuss our Deaf-Blind Independent Living Classes, says “they had never met Deaf-Blind people before and had never seen tactile signing with a Deaf-Blind person.” Lee also discloses that the visitors were “impressed with the [sign language] interpreters because there was a lot of facial expression. When they use interpreters in India they just have straight faces.”

Shukla and Sham Sundar also got a chance to see new assistive technologies first-hand. Mr. Sham Sundar says that one of the visit’s highlights was being shown the Lighthouse’s “precision tools for precision jobs.” During their tour, the visitors observed a wide array of assistive technologies, from computerized voice technology to new means of printing Braille.

Don Swaney, adaptive hardware and software support technician, was one of the Lighthouse staff who demonstrated assistive technology for Shukla and Sham Sundar. He says that the visitors were particularly interested in the Lighthouse’s production of business cards for federal employees and an innovative Braille embosser, the Tiger Advantage, which produces accessible maps and blue-prints as well as Braille text. “I was really impressed with their knowledge of everything,” says Don, “as well as their level of confidence. They were very self-directed type people.”

Sherry Gomes, development assistant, who coordinated the tour, was equally impressed with the visitors. “They were always courteous and very appreciative of everything,” Sherry observes. “They seemed to be interested and said they gained many ideas from their tour.”

The visit introduced new means through which NIVH can promote opportunities for blind people in India. “We find this tour very useful, especially the computer applications you have,” reports Dr. Shukla. Shukla and Sham Sundar expect to use their newly acquired knowledge of computers and the Lighthouse Customer Service Department skills and systems when they return to India. They also plan to add new technology such as advanced Braille embossers to their organization. Dr. Shukla says he is leaving the Lighthouse with a feeling of optimism. “I am quite hopeful when we go back to India to use the knowledge we have gained here.” 

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