In my last article, I mentioned about my initiative to sensitize people about persons with disabilities and about my first experience of sensitizing session in one of the schools of our city. Today, I am sharing my experience about my visit to another school this morning.
When I entered the school, I was quite nervous because I was not familiar with the surroundings. I carried my laptop bag and a file in my hand. While heading towards the admin area, I was confident and was trying to keep myself at ease. I was to do the session in the assembly and before that, I was sitting in the admin area. While sitting there, I was trying to observe the activities going on there. In about 10 minutes, I left for the assembly. There was a lady teacher who was assisting me in making arrangements. The strength of the students present there was around 2500. Before my session, a faculty member gave a brief introduction about me. Like my last session, I discussed the following points in detail:
• What is disability and how it is misinterpreted. Also a quick peep into RTE Act.
• Detailed step-by-step information about screen readers/talking softwares. I gave them a demo of how Screen readers work on our laptop and mobile.
• I made sure to convey my message to them that differently abled people don’t need words of sympathy but what is needed is inclusion. We all must include people of all communities. And if we help a person with disability, we should not hesitate to ask for a help from him. One should not have prejudice that a differently abled person cannot help other.
• A piece of information about Radio Udaan, an online radio station of its own kind. This station is run by visually challenged people belonging to different cities. Being an RJ and a part of this station, I told them about our ways of working and broadcasts.
After my session, I had an open forum for students and staff members to come up with their queries, doubts or questions if any. Some of the students came up with some questions though the number of questions asked was not high, may be because students usually hesitate to come on the stage during the assembly. After my session, even some of the teachers spoke about what they know about disability. Students and teachers were listening to the session very carefully. After the assembly, one of the teachers halted class 10th in the assembly ground. She asked me to share my experience with that class as in CBSE they have Helen Keller book in their syllabus. As the class had Helen Keller in their syllabus, they were full of curiosity and had many questions. Students came up and asked their questions on the mike. I tried my best to provide them with all the information I could cater. Even the teachers with this class asked me many questions. They had inquisitiveness and were full of interest. Some students also came up with their questions later in the office where I was sitting. I am really thankful to the Principal and the staff for their arrangements.
So far in my journey of sensitizing sessions, I have felt that people and especially students have keenness to know about how persons with disabilities study, carry out their day today activities and work. Today, when I was in the school, a couple of times students and teachers came up to me and held my arm to assist me through the staircase and similar areas. I simply told them, “We all need help sometimes, so do I but I don’t need your help right now. When I need it, I myself will ask you for the same, thank you.” In this way, neither they nor I felt out of place. With such gestures, I noticed that they do have empathy but the only trouble is that they don’t know how to react. Even sometimes, it becomes difficult for a lay man to react in such situations because he doesn’t know which act of his may offend a person with disability. I personally felt that people will understand our ways of executing actions if we ourselves bring these to their knowledge. Lack of awareness has expanded the gulf between a lay man and a person with disability. One more thing I noticed was that some persons had a touch of traditional view point about disability. I tried to clarify them that we are not special beings; we just have our different ways of doing things. For example:”You open the book and read it, while we scan a book and listen to it with the help of screen readers”.
I would like to conclude that it has always been challenging to change the view point of people at grass root but still I am glad that I am getting a positive response from the people more than my expectations. Every single bit of awareness in the society is taking me closer to my purpose.