Tiffany Maria Brar
14 September 1990
Chennai, Tamil Nadu
|Parents||Tej Pratap Singh Brar,|
|Alma mater||Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University, Coimbatore|
|Occupation||Founder of Jyothirgamaya Foundation, Disability Rights Activist|
|Profession||Social worker, Special educator|
|Known for||Social activist, Motivational Speaker, Inclusion, Disability rights and Advocacy|
|Awards||National Award from the President of India,Holman Prize|
Tiffany Brar is an Indian community service worker, who became blind after her premature birth due to an overdose of oxygen, resulting in complete blindness. She is the founder of the Jyothirgamaya Foundation, a non-profit organization whose stated mission is to help blind people in all spheres of life to gain the skills needed for a successful and smooth existence. She is a social activist and trainer, working to create awareness of disability. She is an advocate for building an inclusive society.
Tiffany Brar, originally from northern India, was born in Chennai.She became blind very shortly after her birth due to an overdose of oxygen resulting in complete blindness. The daughter of an Indian military officer, Brar had the advantage of traveling to many areas. Since she was blind, verbal communication was very important and as a result, she became multilingual.During her childhood, Brar learned to speak five Indian languages fluently. She started her schooling in Great Britain while her father was posted there. She then returned to India and studied in schools for the blind, in integrated schools, and in military schools which were not at all specialized for the blind. After completing her primary education in Kerala, her father was transferred to Darjeeling, where she studied at the Mary Scott homes for the blind. Her mother's death left her in a situation that required her to learn many things for herself. During her school days as a blind person, she faced many challenges. For instance, she was made to sit at the back of the class and at times was not even allowed to answer questions. Her Braille notes either arrived too late or did not arrive at all. She was sheltered and protected by her parents and did not know how to venture out independently to take care of her own affairs until her early 20s. She was constantly relying on sighted people to take her to school, to college, and to other places. Because of this, Brar learned daily living skills very late in life.
Constant segregation and isolation by her classmates and not being included in various events because she was blind also instilled in her an inner drive to change the situation of the blind in Kerala. Though North Indian by origin, Brar lives in Kerala. She reached the first position in her 12th grade, in her school along with her sighted counterparts in her CBSE board exam.
After completing her schooling, she went on to complete her degree in English literature from the government women's college in Trivandrum in 2006. After the completion of her degree in 2009, she started working for an organization. She had to travel to various organizations where she came across many underprivileged blind people who were confined within the four walls of their home and who lacked proper training. This urged her to move forward and create her organization, the Jyothirgamaya Foundation.
After working for two years Brar pursued her B.Ed in special education (visual impairment) from Sree Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University in Coimbatore. In 2012, she began running the Jyothirgamaya (which means "leading to light") mobile school for the blind.
Brar now travels alone not only in Trivandrum, her place of residence, but also to other parts of the state and abroad.
Tiffany began her career as a receptionist in an organization, after that, she went to pursue her B.Ed in special education from Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University which equipped her with the skills and zest to found the Jyothirgamaya Foundation in July 2012.Research in Kerala found that even though blind children go to school and some blind adults are job holders, they do not have proper mobility and other skills required to assimilate into mainstream society. The reason behind this is that the blind are hidden within the four walls of their homes and are constantly made to believe that they cannot venture out alone and fend for themselves.
One of the main reasons for setting up a mobile blind school is that due to poverty, lack of awareness, and negligence on the part of parents and guardians, many blind people who are residing in the rural areas are unable to go to schools or training centers. Brar's concept behind a mobile blind school is that "If the blind cannot go to school then the school shall go to them."
Tiffany has been running the Jyothirgamaya since 2012 and has trained many blind people in Braille, mobility, basic computer use, and other necessary life skills. She has also recently initiated a pilot project, Road to Independence, which aims to conduct training camps in all districts of Kerala in order to reach out to the blind in large numbers. She is a motivational speaker and she conducts sensitization sessions for attitudinal change towards disability. She has served as an ambassador for the WWF Earth Hour campaign conducted in 2016 in India.
On facing challenges as a girl with a disability Tiffany was determined to make a difference in the lives of disabled colleagues. She founded her organization Jyothirgamaya Foundation which serves to empower and reintegrate the blind into mainstream society. She gets out to create social change in her state. She believes that persons with disability should have equal rights and should be able to raise their voices to raise their opinions and live a dignified life.
She has given a talk where the Commissioner of Police was present she enlightened him about the traffic rules and how insensitive drivers are while driving on the road towards persons with disabilities. She has had meetings with the governor of state with members of parliament and members of the Legislative Assembly on making and accessible environment in for persons with disabilities in India. She strongly advocates for accessible currency notes, accessible roads, women empowerment, and gender equality. With a group of her blind people, she protested in Trivandrum city to call for action for accessible currency notes. She goes on to raise awareness and advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities as enshrined in the United Nation convention for the rights of persons with disabilities and The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016. She was invited to Germany , Poland and Belgium for conducting sensitization programs.
"why don’t we root the positive in each and everyone’s life instead of searching the negatives in them”? Why don’t we love and accept others with their strengths and weakness? Why don’t we break the barriers and traditions that are followed blindly, which doesn’t help the community in which we are living? Why don’t we smile and acknowledge others at least for a second, which can cause a tremendous change in others lives?"~Tiffany Brar
Her blindness did not stop her from being adventurous. She wanted to enable the society to understand that blind people can travel alone, enjoy sports, recreational activities and adventure as equivalent to the sighted counterparts.she has broken the barriers laid down by a society which says that blind people can’t take a risk and can’t enjoy life equally. She did paragliding, skydiving, rope climbing, rope riding and tandem cycling.
The Tiffy template is a unique innovation for the blind. It is the brainchild of Tiffany Brar and the invention of Paul D'souza an illustrious inventor. It was named 'The Tiffy Template', after Tiffany Brar who triggered the concept. It is a small template which identifies Indian currency notes. This avoids the blind people from being cheated by shopkeepers, auto drivers, and so on!
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