Udayasri

Inspirational Story of First Blind Woman to be Chartered Accountant from Andhra Pradesh

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even
touched. They must be felt with the heart.” –Helen Keller

“Can we see hard work, hope, confidence, and success? But we can feel them in our heart and mind. If all these beautiful feelings can only be felt but cannot be seen, then how can people call me a blind girl? When I can challenge the world and win, how am I visually handicapped? I feel whoever doesn’t have the internal vision are called blind but not those who don’t have physical sight.”

These are the words of the bright and ambitious 20-year- old future CEO, Udayasri. Udaya belongs to Tellapalem village of Khammam district, Andhra Pradesh. “Mine is a small family consisting of my father (landlord), my mother (insurance agent), my younger sister (engineering graduate) and myself.”

Udaya is currently studying chartered accountancy from the country wide highly reputed college, SuperwizzVijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. Simultaneously, she is doing a Bachelors of Science in Commerce from Balaji Degree College. She is also preparing for the ICWA. She completed her intermediate junior college at AdarshaMahilaKalashala, Vijayawada with 87% in Mathematics, Economics and Commerce. She aspires to become a responsible CEO of a multinational company and successfully lead the company. Udaya believes in financial independence and is very much looking forward to helping students like her in the future. “I would like to continue my dedication and hard work to successfully complete CA and ICWA and support myself, students like me who need help, and my family. I believe in innovation and smart decisions. So I hope to contribute my share as the first woman differently-abled CEO from Andhra Pradesh.”

Udaya was born blind in 1992. “My parents had no words, but only tears to see me without sight. They thought my world would be empty and dark without any happiness and full of challenges but they might not have realized that, in the words of Helen Keller, ‘when one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.’ I was the first blind child to be known in my village/community. All my relatives and villagers started saying that society will not accept a blind female child. They criticized that I would be of no use to anyone.”

“Even we had no hopes that our daughter will be able to contribute to the country and our family. But now we are the proud parents of Udaya,” said Udaya’s mother, Mrs. Krishnaveni.Says Udaya’s father Mr. Mallikarjuna Reddy: “We accepted our precious diamond and gave all medical help that we could. Unfortunately we were not able to help her to gain her sight. We never realized that we would be able to give her the vision to fight life and achieve dreams sky-high. We strongly feel that our love and compassion gave her confidence to study.

Udaya was hardly able to spend time with her loving parents. Soon after three years of age, Udaya began to see the other door of happiness that was opened, which is the door to the world of knowledge and education. Udaya’s parents entered her in a residential blind school in Hyderabad at the age of five. Udaya had to overcome many challenges as a 5-year-old kid living in a boarding hostel in Hyderabad which is very far from her native place. She struggled to adjust in the new environment with her friends who were all without sight but she persevered with a lot of hope, willpower and self-confidence. She worked very hard to get good grades in all her classes. She completed from class 1 to class 10 in the same blind school.

“I was very creative and hardworking in whatever I did. During my schooling, I excelled in singing, chess and in leadership roles. I achieved good national, state and school level recognition as classical, devotional and folk singer. I can sing well with or without the presence of instrumental orchestra and karaoke.” Udaya would invest her free time in learning music, playing chess with friends and reading. Udaya participated in several chess tournaments, music competitions, led school programs as master of ceremony and got many awards.

“Udaya is a unique girl with a humble personality, positive attitude towards life, very friendly and respectful to her friends, classmates and her teachers.” said her mentor and present Samanvai member, Swarnalatha.

Though Udaya was very happy at school, she always had internal fears to face the outside world with her disability. Once she reached the tenth class, she began to think about her career and was apprehensive about how she would face the outside world as she spent ten years growing inside a closed school campus with all her friends who were like her. She never had proper exposure mingling with regularly sighted people other than her family members and relatives. However, she did not lose hope. She waited for the right moment and the right person who could guide her.

“I never realized my path creator and source of brightness to my world would be my school teacher Swarlalatha, now founder and member of Samanvai. One fine day, I shared all my dreams and goals and expressed my inabilities and fears to fulfill them. Then she guided me like a cane in my hand to walk, stylus in my hand to write and courage in my heart to face the outside world and achieve my goals.She assured me that she would help in all my endeavors.”

“We can understand the situation of students with disabilities after their tenth grade. And this is why we as a group of dedicated volunteers decided to fill the gap by providing necessary support services and making necessary reasonable accommodations under Samanvai so that students with disabilities can get good education, employment and social status in society,” said Swarnalatha.

Now Samanvai helps more than 100 students in various ways. “As Samanvai members promised, they have been helping me in my intermediate junior college. They took the trouble of admitting me in to a very good junior college in Vijayawada and putting me in a safe hostel. They even allotted volunteers to take care of me as I am a girl. Though my parents could not pay for my education, Samanvai helped me financially to achieve top class education. They have been providing me necessary books in audio, braille and audio tools and regular mentoring. I can’t imagine my life without the help from Samanvai. I am sure I might have dropped out after my tenth class or ended up in some college studying arts and social sciences. I would never have achieved my goal of becoming a CA (Chartered Accountant).”

Udaya is able to successfully complete her education in spite of various challenges. “In the beginning, my professors at Supervise were very confused as they did not know what I could potentially do and did not think I could study coursework along with my sighted classmates, but now they are proud to have me in their classes. After observing my performance, Supervise waived my tuition and coaching fee for CA and ICWA. I also wrote a few talent tests and stood top ranked in my class. This is because of the help I received from Samanvai in learning computers, using audio material, getting financial help and much more! I can do my accounts, write papers and make spread sheets using my netbook I received from “Jobs 4 Youth” led by MeeraShennai with the help from Samanvai. “I really thank MeeraShennai for her help in considering my profile to help me out with getting the netbook.”

Udaya uses screen reading software called JAWS to operate computers. “I use netbook very well with the help of JAWS. I appreciate Samanvai for teaching me accounting softwares like Talley. I use Talley to do my accounts, and I also use Excel. I used to feel that I might not use the Internet like all my sighted friends in the past but now I can use the internet very well to search information, read and send emails and for social network purposes.”

Udaya mentioned that all her friends, relatives and villagers who discouraged her in the beginning realized their ignorance and respects Udaya a lot now. She mentioned that most students and adults in her village and at college find Udaya as a major source of inspiration and symbol of success. She also added that her parents are encouraging her and giving excellent support now.

“Samanvai members are highly knowledgeable in finding solutions to challenges faced by students with multiple disabilities. They are very friendly, loving and treat students so as me like their own kids. I feel more comfortable with Samanvai members than my own parents to express my concerns. Samanvai members believe in Helen Keller’s words who once said that ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’ I request Samanvai members to continue their services to change India. I highly recommend Samanvai services to all people with multiple disabilities.”

Samanvai offers free support services to students and never compromises on their efforts and quality of training programs. Please visit our Services section to know more about our efforts. Volunteers can visit our Volunteer Opportunities page to know more about how volunteers can contribute to Samanvai’s Mission of creating a better future for people with disabilities. Samanvai wishes Udayasri To achieve all her dreams and goals and to become a responsible CEO to a great global company someday.

Written by Srikanth Bolla for Samanvai news
Edited by Priyanka Saha, Samanvai volunteer Source of information: interview with the student, parents and Helen Keller quotes
http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/7275.Helen_Keller