The incredible story of a national tennis champion, a violin virtuoso and an avid enthusiast
Meet Nibin Mathew, a third year MSc Digital Society student in IIIT Bangalore. He is visually impaired, but has not let this derail his goals and dreams.
He was admitted to the MSc Digital Society program of IIITB in 2018 as he was interested in the subject of pure science. Apart from excelling in academics, he has been a star performer in many other fields.
When we spoke with him to understand the formula for his many successes, Nibin credits the empathetic and supportive culture of IIITB as the main enabler. In fact, he won the national blind tennis championship in Patiala in 2019 by defeating 11 contestants and qualified for the international blind tennis championship to be hosted by Italy in June 2020. Unfortunately, the raging pandemic has upset all his plans.
Prof S Sadagopan, Director IIITB wistfully recollected “It was a proud moment for us. If the pandemic hadn’t occurred, Nibin would have participated in the international championship that was supposed to held in Italy. We were ready to sponsor his entire expenses of his participation”.
Nibin says he is grateful for the support he has received from everyone at IIITB. “Right from the Administration staff to Faculty and Hostel Wardens and fellow students, everyone has been very helpful. The Registrar took great care to provide facilities and amenities that are unique to my needs. I went around the campus along with him and listed a few requirements. Everything I needed was provided within a few days. For example, the institute’s administration team installed Braille displays and speech output functions in lifts in the campus, to help me navigate my way around!”
Having realized the importance of accessibility to physically and visually challenged persons, IIITB was proactive in understanding their needs and meeting them. The institute wanted to do whatever it could to encourage Nibin to pursue his passion for tennis.
Cmde S R Sridhar, Registrar IIITB says, “IIITB has a sharp focus on assistive services and campus resources for students with physical disability. When Nibin expressed his passion to play tennis we were happy to help him do so. As he needed an inclusive tennis court, we upgraded the existing tennis court to his requirements. The sound balls that were specially made for visually impaired players were not available in India. The IBTA-approved sound ball manufactured by a Japan company costs Rs 1,500 per ball. We procured a dozens of them and ensured his tennis practice continued smoothly.”
Nibin says that he is delighted with the way the institute has been supporting him. With all the necessary assistive services and tools for visually impaired students, he feels anything can be achieved. Currently, he is interning with Vision Empower Trust. He wants to develop technological tools that enables visually disabled people to be more productive. He is also in the process of creating an online portal for making material accessible for such students.
Nibin says “There is a huge misconception that visually challenged people are not able to fend for themselves, and are dependent on others. In reality, we work very hard for what we want to achieve in life. Every blind and partially visually impaired person has a variety of goals and objectives—just like a sighted person. My advice for others like me is to seek out to the resources you need in order to succeed in your life,” he concludes.
Nibin’s constant efforts to discover his hidden creative talents has led him to become a violinist. He has completed the Grade-III level from Trinity School of Music, London. He has also redesigned the instrument for visually impaired people.
Bitten by the travel bug, Nibin loves to travel on motorbikes, and has gone to many places as a pillion-rider. In fact, he travelled solo to Punjab to play his national level championship! Like millions in India, he closely follows the fortunes of the Indian cricket team.
A huge round of applause to this enterprising person with a “can-do” and “bash-on regardless” attitude!