“Having access to books means having choices and exercising control to read what I want, when I want, in the format that I want.”
- PROFILE: Moses Chowdari Gorrepati
- EDUCATION: MA, English Literature, University of Hyderabad
- OCCUPATION: Program Manager-Head, EnAble Vision, EnAble India
- LOCATION: Bangalore, India
- BOOKSHARE: Member since 2009
On a recent afternoon at Benetech’s offices in Palo Alto, California, I am listening to Moses Chowdari Gorrepati tell me, matter of factly, how he relied on friends to read books to him throughout his time in school. In spite of a visual impairment since birth due to glaucoma and corneal dystrophy, he excelled and eventually earned a master’s degree in English Literature.
Success in School Due to Armies of Readers
As a child and cricket fanatic growing up in Andhra Pradesh, Moses would have to wait all day until his mother finished her housework and could read the cricket scores in the newspaper to him. “That used to hurt me a lot. I wanted so much to be independent.” He says he learned braille in school, but there were few books available. He had access to some books on tape, but the selection was limited and took a long time to record. So, he relied on armies of readers.
For one class, he described how the teacher assigned A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth, a classic of Indian literature. But there was just one problem: the book has 1,349 pages. Moses couldn’t find a reader, so he skipped class the day the book was discussed. “I spent almost all of my time at university aligning my schedule with others so they could read to me, and it meant missing many events and activities,” says Moses. As he’s talking, I flash back to my university days and wonder how I could have possibly accomplished what he did.
Proud Milestones: Receiving First Paycheck and Reading to Others
In 2009, after graduating, he discovered Bookshare, the world’s largest library of accessible ebooks. He describes his life as “before Bookshare” and “after Bookshare.” Says Moses, “having access to books in Bookshare means more than just getting the information in the books. It means having choices and exercising control to read what I want, when I want, and in the format that I want.” He recalls a proud moment when he brought home his first paycheck. His parents had been saving a bit of money each month, assuming they would have to provide for him for his entire life, and they were so pleased that he acquired skills and knowledge to gain employment. “On that day, my life changed and so did the lives of everyone around me. I proved to them something that I believed all along – I could provide for myself. It was a great feeling.” Another proud moment is when he reads to his wife, who is sighted – a feat that is only possible with accessible ebooks.
Moses reads on his smartphone using the Go Read app. He often downloads books for offline reading when traveling. He also reads on his computer. “Now that smartphones are more affordable in India, more people have them. People with visual impairments like me can also use low-cost DAISY players in rural places where internet connectivity can be unreliable.” He mostly reads books in English, but also enjoys a growing collection of books in Telugu and Kannada, two regional languages.
Access to Books Opens Doors to Opportunities
Moses hopes that others with visual impairments and disabilities can be included in mainstream society through digital empowerment and access to information with the ultimate goal of employment. As a Program Manager at EnAble India, he is committed to helping others make that goal a reality.
“When a person with a disability learns how to access books, it gives them a good feeling to be independent. That feeling is contagious and motivates the person to learn new things,” says Moses. “Another benefit is that people can have conversations with colleagues and function successfully in the workplace.” Books are not just for acquiring knowledge, but also for enhancing the range of experience of being social and being included at work – an aspiration worthy of us all.
Moses Chowdari Gorrepati is the Program Manager-Head of EnAble Vision at EnAble India, a nonprofit that works for economic independence and dignity of persons with disability. Their #SeeAMillion campaign aims at transforming one million persons with vision impairment by 2025 into active citizens and nation builders through digital empowerment. Bookshare, a Benetech initiative, is a partner of EnAble India.
For more information about Bookshare India, please contact: Dr. Homiyar Mobedji