Vashkar Bhattacharjee has climbed what would seem to many people around the world as an
unscalable summit. His achievements are many, and he is continuously striving to improve the
lives of people with disabilities in Bangladesh. Vashkar has attended numerous international
conferences and, received several awards on behalf of his organization, YPSA; a2i in
recognition of his own and organizational accomplishments. The story is an illustration of the
life and struggles of Vashkar Vhattacharjee and how he won against the odds.
Vashkar Bhattacharjee is a visually impaired person from Chittagong, Bangladesh. He was born
in a remote village in Patiya, Chittagong, in a time when there were no hospitals or doctors
available in his village. After birth, he was bleeding through the nostril and mouth. His family
did not know what to do. When Vashkar was two years old, they realized that he was blind.
As Vashkar grew older, his family was confused about whether he should go to school or not, as people in Bangladesh think that blind people can do nothing. Most people think that it is
impossible for a blind person to get even an education. Vashkar’s family was very frustrated.
His father heard from an eye doctor that there was a primary school for the blind in Chittagong, and he was admitted to that school. After leaving primary school, Vashkar attended a junior high school for sighted children. It was very hard at first because there were no braille books and the teachers did not know how to teach children who were visually impaired.
After finishing junior high he was sent to a high school for sighted students. Attending mainstream schools led Vashkar to discover and realize the huge lack of facilities for visually impaired students. In those days, braille books were the only means of education for visually impaired students. At junior high and high school, there were no braille books and there were very few writing frames or braille paper.
Vashkar completed high school and tried to enter many universities, but they all refused his
application because of his blindness. Vashkar decided to challenge this decision. Along with
some other visually impaired applicants, he, therefore, began a hunger strike. Suddenly, the
university changed their mind and let them enter, but again there were no facilities. The
university teachers didn’tt know anything about braille or how to teach visually impaired
students. Some of the teachers cooperated, but some did not. For example, one day in class
while Vashkar was taking notes on a braille slate, the teacher thought that he was playing. He
told Vashkar to stop playing and leave the room. Vashkar complained to the head of the
department and showed the teacher who had asked him to leave his class that he had actually
been taking notes, not playing. The teacher was very surprised when Vashkar read the braille
notes to him. He thought it was like magic.
However, with great supports from teachers, family members and fellow friends Vashkar
graduated with honors in history from Chittagong University and obtained a Master's degree in History.
Finally, Vashkar was ready to be independent and to enter the job market in Bangladesh. It was
the most difficult task, as only a very, very small number of visually impaired persons in
Bangladesh had a job. Most of them used to beg on the road. Some of the visually impaired
persons who have jobs worked as teachers in schools for the blind, as lawyers, or in NGOs. Even if a visually impaired person receives a university education, it is often very difficult to find a job.
Vashkar remained unemployed for some time. He realized that theoretical learning alone
would not be enough to get his desirable job. He needed to be technologically skilled.
After completing a Master’s degree from the University of Chittagong, Vashkar won a place in
the fourth Duskin Leadership Training in Japan. This opportunity proved to be the turning point of his life. Vashkar was enlightened to his purpose: Making services inclusive and accessible for persons with disabilities.
Therefore, Vashkar introduced DAISY in Bangladesh and took the initiative for converting all the textbooks from Class 1 to 12. Along with it Vashkar also developed Bangladesh’s first Accessible Dictionary.
As National Consultant (Web-Accessibility, Prime Minister’s office, Bangladesh Government) of Bangladesh governments Digital Bangladesh Initiative, he has worked to make 25,000 government websites and more than 200 government e-services accessible. He drafted the National Web-Accessibility Guideline following the W3C 2.0 Standard and Conducted a National Web-Accessibility Audit of the National Web-Portal. Also, Vashkar worked as a web accessibility consultant for UNDP, Bangladesh in 2013. Vashkar has conducted several Research, Access audits, etc., such as web accessibility audit, supported by DFID, with Manusher Jonno Foundation, and published several reports and articles on numerous national and international platforms. He has worked to create the first inclusive university in Bangladesh, the University of Chittagong. The very university refused his admission application in the 1st place.
Vashkar is now working with the a2i, ICT Division of Bangladesh Government along with
different national and international organizations and institutions to mainstream the Persons
with Disabilities through ICT, advocacy, policy development, and networking. He has worked
hard to promote disability-inclusive policies and ICT-related laws such as the Persons with
Disability Rights and Protection Act 2013. For several years now, he has been a National
Consultant for Accessibility to achieve the SDGs and facilitate the proper implementation of the UNCRPD in Bangladesh.
Vashkar has won many national and international awards and recognition, such as the UNESCO award for the digital empowerment of persons with disabilities as 1st Bangladeshi, D 30 Divers ability Honoree as 1st Bangladeshi, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Award, Henry Viscardi Achievement Award, etc.
Vashkar wants to continue his work for making an inclusive and accessible digital Bangladesh
where persons with disabilities will enjoy the rights which the rest of the population take for