The Office of the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities congratulates Saish Gauthankar, a visually impaired student from Goa, who has made history by becoming the first student in the state of Goa to independently answer his SSC exams on a computer using assistive technology. This is a landmark achievement now paves the way for a more inclusive future for education for students with disabilities.

Saish Gauthankar, a student of the National Association of the Blind (NAB) studying at Santa Cruz High School recently answered the SSC exam on a computer, without any assistance from a writer or scribe. Being visually impaired since birth, Gauthankar never allowed obstacles to hinder his progress. In fact, since he was in standard 9 he began answering exams independently and wanted to do so for the SSC examination too. “I wanted to continue with the same approach that I started with last year. Though it is SSC, I wanted to answer it independently and now I am happy,” says Gauthankar.

State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Guruprasad Pawaskar, while congratulating Saish Gauthankar, hailed the initiative of NAB and Goa Board to facilitate the computerised SSC exam. “In the past readers, and writers were needed for visually impaired students to write their exams. There was a lot of dependence on others. Now through the successful feat of Gauthankar, we wish to have assistive technology being promoted widely.” He emphasised the significance of assistive technology in promoting independence and empowerment among individuals with disabilities.

Terming it a proud moment for Goa, visually impaired Taha Haaziq, Secretary of the State Commission for Persons with Disabilities says that through innovative approaches and technological advancements, barriers are being dismantled, enabling visually impaired individuals to unleash their full potential. “With the advancement of technology, the visually impaired and persons with disabilities have assistance that can transform their lives at the fingertips. We need to have positivity and determination like Gauthankar,” he said.

A student of computers, Saish interests in the subject also contributed to his confidence building, and utilized a computer to overcome the barriers posed by his disability. It is through National Association of the Blind’s partnership with Bookshare, that visually impaired individuals like Saish are equipped with the tools and resources necessary to pursue their academic aspirations independently. The partnership between NAB and Bookshare has not only facilitated digital literacy but has also paved the way for a more inclusive education system in Goa.

Joseph Noronha, President of NAB, commended Saish for his groundbreaking achievement, emphasizing the importance of embracing technology to empower visually impaired individuals. “Embracing technology is of utmost importance in reducing the hindrances faced by those who are visually impaired. Saish has led the way, and I hope more students come forward learning from his example,” he said.  Noronha reiterated NAB’s commitment to providing assistance and support to visually impaired children.NAB has been providing computer training to individuals with visual impairments since 2010. It is under the Digital Literacy project, that all visually impaired students have been trained to use mobile devices with the assistance of TalkBack and computer screen reader software.

Mahadev Sawant, Council Member of NAB who has technical expertise has played a key role in the successful journey of Saish that led him to answer this crucial exam without a writer or scribe. A key figure in advocating for inclusive and computerised exams, he facilitated the arrangement between Goa Board and Nab to test the computerised exam for Saish. “We need to have innovative approaches to create inclusivity. Relying on technology is the key which is why we have the digital literacy programs in empowering individuals with visual impairments,” he says.  

Saish would come and have the question paper read out to him through a screen reader as he typed his answers. Despite being given extra time, Gauthankar didn’t need it for most papers. He typed English and also Marathi and Hindi for the language papers. His remarkable achievement serves as a message of hope and possibility for individuals with disabilities worldwide.  


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