What was started by a blind person to help victims such as him 70 years ago in the state of Gujarat, has become today a world renowned premier organization “promoting comprehensive rehabilitation of persons with all categories of disabilities through education, training, employment, community based rehabilitation, integrated education, research, publications, human resource development and other innovative means.”
Blind People’s Association (BPA) in India at Andhjan Mandal was started by Padmashri Jagdish Kashibhai Patel, the founder and Visionary of BPA, who had turned blind when he was 8 years old. Jagdish, the oldest brother of Dr. Geeta Trivedi, who is an active member of AAPI, based in Boston, went to the School of Physiotherapy in Bombay. Later on, Dr. Jagdish started his Practice in his Father’s office. He opened clinics and became Head of Physiotherapy Department in L. G. Hospital, Amadavad.
Dr. Geeta Trivedi, who has seen its growth from the very beginning and has supported its programs, says, “BPA has become an one window service for persons with disabilities. BPA, understands that gainful employment plays an essential part in the life of a person because it gives him status and binds him to the society.”
Full of enthusiasm and inspiration to help others like him, young Jagdish started a club with three others, who were visually challenged. What they began is now an institution of Multi-Disabilities, known across the world as the BLIND PEOPLE ASSOCIATION.
Dr. Rajendra M. Trivedi, Dr. Geeta Trivedi’s husband and long term associate of Jagdish Kashibhai Patel, and Honorary Coordinator, Resource Mobilization for BPA in the United States, says, “Transparency has been a hallmark of its growth all along. Every Rupee donated from its worldwide supporters is listed with how the money donated has been spent with success stories on their website.” The Indian American Education Fund, based in California is another group responsible for raising funds for BPA from donors in the US.
Dr. Bhushan Punani, the Executive Secretary of BPA, in an exclusive interview described the many initiatives across Gujarat and the rest of the country. “Blind People’s Association is a professional organization which believes in providing equal opportunities to all categories of people with disabilities. Consistent with the philosophy, it works for providing education, employment opportunities, equal rights and quality life for them,” he says.
A Qualitative Study by Carolyn P. Da Silva, PT, DSc, NCS, Abhinit Bhatt, PT, DPT, Elizabeth Brooke Avant, PT, DPT, Radha Thakorbhai Morar, PT, DPT, Saida Ebrahim, PT, DPT, Rupal Patel, PT, PhD, on “Experiences of Students, Teachers, and Physical Therapists From Blind People’s Association in Ahmedabad, India,” the authors state, “The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of PTs and physical therapy students with BVI, and teachers with and without BVI at Blind People’s Association (BPA) in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.”
At the end of the scientific study, they conclude: “Prior to studying at BPA, the students reported that they felt as though they were an apparent inconvenience to their peers, teachers, and families. Also, the students were not provided with ample accommodations in their traditional classroom settings, which limited their options in secondary education. Conversely, at BPA, they were given a learning experience that allowed them to feel and be more successful with their education. After having the experience at BPA, the students felt more accepted by their larger community and became more confident and inspired to pursue goals in their personal and professional lives, and felt an increased desire to impact their communities with the training they received.”
BPA has continuously strived to provide employment Opportunities to people with disability. During the last five years, it has been successful in providing employment to thousands of people with disabilities. Under the “Swayamsiddha Pariyojana” project BPA works especially for the empowerment of blind women by providing them Micro Credit, so that they can be independent individuals. BPA also gives priority to projects advocating human rights for people with disabilities.
“AAPI is excited to collaborate with BPA and contribute resources, skills and talents in taking this noble organization beyond the borders of Gujarat and helping its serve other parts of India, where this effective model of empowering the disabled will serve the needy,” says, Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of AAPI.