“Like everyone else, deaf-blind people also have dreams to achieve successful lives and education. Many people assume that, without sight or hearing, deaf-blind people could not lead “normal” lives. We need to remember that no one has a “normal” life or can ever go through anything without struggles.”
Q: Where were you born and when?
A: Calcutta, India on July 3, 1970.
Q: What disabilities do you have?
Q: Do you have any hearing or sight?
A: Neither, I am profoundly deaf and totally blind.
Q: Were you born with them or did they onset later on?
A: Born deaf and became blind at age 9. Read my autobiography for more details.
Q: Did they become “handicaps?”
A: In what sense? How do you interpret this question? I don’t consider myself disabled now that I have learned to adjust to the way I am. Read my bio for more details.
Q: How did you cope with them?
A: Frustrating at first, but learned to make adjustments and I am happy now. My bio will tell you more.
Q: Are you married?
A: Yes, happily married to Sook Hee Choi.
Q: Do you wish to have children?
A: Sure, I have one and hope for one more.
Q: What religion are you?
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: I love computing, woodworking, traveling, having new cultural experiences, creative writing, cooking, sewing, participating in sports, hanging out with friends, and the list goes on!
Q: Did you go to a regular school or a special school?
A: A regular school.
Q: What adjustments did they make for you?
A: No adjustments/accommodations really! More in my bio.
Q: What are you presently doing?
A: I am the supervisor of the Technology Center at the Helen Keller National Center in Sands Point, New York.
Q: When were you employed at this present job?
A: In the winter of 1999.
Q: What does your job involve?
A: My responsibilities involve 1) supervising the department, 2) teaching students with a wide range of vision and hearing losses to use computers assisted by braille displays or large print and a number of Windows-based applications, 3) beta testing various Windows-based applications and compiling results for modification, improved design and user-friendliness for people with access needs, 4) evaluating and testing prototypes of new products before they are manufactured and marketed, 5) communicating with key people involved with making telecommunications accessible for people with disabilities, and 6) researching on ways to make various software programs and hardware components more accessible and cost-efficient for companies seeking to develop new access products.
Q: What did you do before joining this present job?
A: I went to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) where I earned a bachelor’s degree in dirty Political Science!
Q: How were your teachers there?
A: Some I had strong rapport with while I didn’t with others. They were very aware of the needs of disabled students. So I felt very fortune that I went to UALR!
Q: What did you think of studying with everybody at an American university?
A: I loved it! It was no problem since my lifestyle was pretty Americanized, anyway! Having been in the U.S. since 1983 has me changed a lot so it would have been harder to study in India.
Q: Do you have a dream to do something exceptional in the near and far future?
A: For a long time, I had thought of attending law school. My goal was to assist in establishing more and better schools and services for the deaf-blind in India and other developing countries as well as in the U.S. I didn’t want to see deaf-blind people confined at home and treated as devalued members just because of their lack of participation in society. Knowing all about laws and becoming a lawyer myself, I wanted to be able to advocate for disabled people to obtain the civil rights and equality to which they were entitled. However, I now feel mixed as there are so many opportunities for me to explore. I now am seriously considering starting my retail business.
Q: Why a retail business?
A: The secret will be disclosed later!
Q: Did your family provide you with educational support?
A: If you mean about financing me, then no, they didn’t. They didn’t earn enough money to meet the living standards of the U.S. plus there are very high taxes to send any money out of India! I relied on various funding sources and scholarships to keep me financially secure.
Q: What is the most difficult thing experienced in your life?
A: Driving … as I’d have loved to drive and get around more freely without having to depend on help from friends! 🙂
Q: What do you do on a weekend?
A: I rest, go out with friends to party, shop, etc.
Q: Will you explain how you communicate with your friends?
A: In American Sign Language (ASL), of course. Although I function well both in ASL and Signed English, I prefer ASL as my primary mode of communication. I encourage folks wishing to communicate with me to give it a go with whatever level of signing skills they have. Those who don’t know ASL, I communicate by having them print capital letters on my palm with their index finger. I reply back either in the same manner or by writing on paper with a pen.
Q: How did you converse with your parents before you mastered the sign language?
A: Before and after learning sign language, I still speak to them in my native language, Bengali, because they don’t sign. The only difference is that prior to losing my sight, I understood others by lip-reading whereas after becoming blind, others have to print on my palm (POP). My folks use a lot of abbreviations to speed up the writing process. Either they or I speak in English by POP whenever I can’t express in baby Bengali (read my bio for more details).
Q: How do you meet new friends?
A: Many ways! At school. At parties. Through my friends. Through the internet (E.G., some of you who are reading this may become my friends unknowingly!). By myself (I meet them or they come to me).
Q: Are your friends helpful? How?
A: It depends on what you’re talking about. But in general, they are very helpful. I love to socialize so I have fun doing many things with them!!!!!
Q: Will you explain your everyday life? Do you live by yourself?
A: Yes, I live by myself. My daily routine is like everyone else’s; working, playing, going out with friends, eating, sleeping, etc. Unless you have anything specific, please ask me!
Q: How do you travel by yourself?
A: In big cities like Boston, Massachusetts, or Washington, D.C., or New York City I use subway and bus. At first I need orientation and mobility training before I’m able to navigate independently.
Q: How do you know which bus or subway to get on?
A: When I am with my dear dog guide named Dinah, she will look out for a bus or train and drag me to get onto it! If I am using a cane, what I do is hold a note in my hand that says… “I’m deaf-blind and please let me know when bus no. 70 is here.” When the bus driver or another person sees my note, he or she will pat my shoulder. The same procedures apply when using subway.
Q: Do you want to say something for everybody? Anything!
A: When I look at myself, I realize how so many changes I have made in my life–especially from being an innocent child in India to the United States where my knowledge has been broadened. It is unfortunate that I lost my sight. I used to think that way, but now I no longer REGRET what has happened! Before I close, I would like to tell everyone a few things to remember. No one of us should give up on anything but rather have strong faith in God and ourselves. I have a favorite motto that I’d like to share: persistence, ambition, and enthusiasm–these are my THREE principles. If you take these principles, I can more than guarantee that you will be surprised at how much progress you will make no matter what your difficulties or weaknesses are!