Abhilash Medhi

Abhilash Medhi (Blind Education and Rehabilitation Development Organization (BERDO): Abhilash was born Assam, India. He earned a Bachelors degree in Civil Engineering from Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur, India and then worked as an Assistant Systems Engineer with Tata Consultancy Services in Mumbai, India. Abhilash also volunteered for Child Rights and You in Mumbai, India where he specialized in child labour laws, helped build alliances against child labour, and developed micro-credit schemes for poor women. Abhilash volunteered at the 2nd IEEE/ACM International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD 2007). At the time of his fellowship Abhilash was pursuing a Master’s degree in Development Studies at The London School of Economics and Political Science.

An Interview with Saidul Huq of BERDO

07 Jul

BERDO was started on the 17th of July, 1991. I had the opportunity to follow its growth over the years in an interview with Saidul Huq, the Executive Director of the organisation. Huq lost his eyesight at the age of six. Numerous visits to doctors all over Bangladesh proved to be useless, as did all other attempts to restore his eyesight. A doctor from Switzerland, who was visiting Bangladesh on an assignment, told him that he would never be able to see again and that he should concentrate on his studies and use this as an opportunity to serve his community. Huq has been steadfast in his pursuit of equal rights for the disabled in Bangladesh. He started advocacy during his student days and his organisation prides itself on creating local networks of disability rights advocates.

In the interview, Huq talked about the activities that BERDO is involved in, the trials and tribulations that it has had to tide over, problems of scale and sustainability that it encounters and the like. I have always been fascinated by the sheer number of NGOs in Bangladesh. I have always wondered why a country like Bangladesh has so many NGOs and how the people perceive the role of the government in providing services that should ideally be theirs as citizens of the country.

Watch the video below for Saidul Huq’s allusion to Bangladeshi geography, and specifically to its many rivers and deltaic belt, in answering the question about the role of NGOs in the decentralisation of essential services in Bangladesh.


Posted By Abhilash Medhi

Posted Jul 7th, 2009


  • Owen

    July 7, 2009


    I remember reading Iain Guest’s account of his visit to BERDO a year or so ago and it sounded an interesting and capable organisation. I hope you have an interesting time with them.

    I hope you won’t mind me asking a nosy question. Thirty years ago I worked with someone at BT who had a Kurzweil keyboard with a Braille device using pins that enabled him to read his electronic files. I think they were very expensive then but presumably they are a lot cheaper now. Does Saidul Huq prefer working with a human interface for his e-mails etc. or are there problems (purchase, maintenance) etc. with mechanical equipment?

  • Abhilash Medhi

    July 8, 2009


    Thank you for the wishes. BERDO’s multi-pronged approach to social change makes their work very interesting indeed.

    To answer your question, there are a number of reasons why Saidul Huq uses a human interface. The process is time-consuming and low on efficiency. But then there are always trade-offs and in this case there are three positives that immediately come to my mind. First, a Kurzweil Braille keyboard costs around 1000 USD which is still a whopping 69000 BDT. Second, more than half of their work is conducted in Bengali – something that the Kurzweil keyboard is not equipped to do. A third reason (and this is what I believe, not Mr Huq) is that in a labour-intensive country like Bangladesh, if by not using a mechanical device which is not entirely indispensable, you are able to create a job for an individual (in this case, a physically handicapped person) and if the costs involved are not enormous, you should probably choose not to use the device. I hope you agree.

  • Owen

    July 24, 2009


    Thanks for taking the time to explain. As you say, in a country like Bangladesh that must be an awful lot of money. (I can think of another good reason for using a human interface – they’re rather more multi-functional than a keyboard as well!)

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