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'Tech enhanced our lives': Visually impaired woman who secured 286th rank in civil services exam

During her high-schooling and college phase, M. Puranasunthari was immensely inspired by several IAS officers who stood upright in their fight against corruption and served the society with their visionary planning.

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'Tech enhanced our lives': Visually impaired woman who secured 286th rank in civil services exam
M. Puranasunthari secured the 286th rank in the recently declared civil services exam results conducted by UPSC
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The modern technology and gadgets that many of us take for granted, have truly transformed the lives of many, beyond imagination. One among them is M. Puranasunthari, a visually challenged UPSC candidate hailing from Madurai in Tamil Nadu, who secured the 286th rank in the recently declared civil services exam results. She tells WION that her journey in clearing the exams would have been even more challenging if not for special software, technology that is meant to help the visually impaired. 

Having completed her schooling in 2012, in a Government-aided Tamil Medium school, she went on to pursue a B.A. in English Literature at the Fathima College. Recalling the nature of her integrated schooling, she makes mention of her teachers who provided her special support by ensuring that she was accorded individual attention. “Special teachers taught us Braille language and some of them had even waited for long after school hours to help me. They used to check on my progress after completing every chapter. They helped identify and explore my talent and interest in poetry, singing and public speaking” she recalls gratefully. 

The switch from schooling in Tamil-medium to a bachelor’s degree specializing in English was a major challenge for the IAS aspirant, she recollects that even clearing the first semester was tough. But she eventually started improving as the terms progressed. “There were not many Braille textbooks, but my peer and faculty were of immense support in college. My friends introduced me to the Non-visual desktop access (NVDA) software and text-to-speech software, which really changed the way that I learn” she tells WION.

During her high-schooling and college phase, she was immensely inspired by several IAS officers who stood upright in their fight against corruption and served the society with their visionary planning. 

After completing her degree, she moved to Chennai to study at IAS coaching institutes run by the state government, which provided free classes, accommodation and food. She was also supported by a Good Samaritan who helped with her basic expenses. She spent three years (2015-18) in Chennai, honing her knowledge and skills in order to clear the exam. 

“I have cleared the exam in my fourth attempt and my parents are delighted. My father is a sales executive and mother is a homemaker, they struggled a lot but never made me feel the burden. In Madurai, I have been working as a clerk at the Tamil Nadu Grama Bank to support the family. The bank staff were also gracious to support me and provide leave during the months of serious preparation” Sunthari says.

Confident and hopeful of a posting in the Tamil Nadu cadre, given her 286th rank, she’s sure of being able to shoulder the family’s financial liabilities and care for her parents, younger brother. “I was among the first batch to receive the laptops issued by the Tamil Nadu government under former CM Jayalalithaa, and that laptop continues to help me learn and work. As soon as I start earning, I hope to buy an Alexa virtual assistant. I’ve heard a lot about it. It’s such technological innovations that help us special persons do more in our daily lives” she signs off. 

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