I had my doubts about whether blindfolding myself and experiencing a science exhibition for the blind would trivialize the issue. Deepak Nathan, a disabled rights activist, assured me that my intentions were laudable. So off I went to the exhibition titled, “Thanal” by Karna Vidya on Saturday at Anna University in Guindy, Chennai. Before I entered, I put the blindfold on.
The object of the exhibition was to convey that the blind typically find jobs as teachers and receptionists but they could be scientists and techies, too.
I went to the first person I brushed up against. He welcomed me and asked me to touch the objects he had on display. When I touched one object, I realized it was a drumstick. I realized that I had a visual memory of drumstick and was able to quickly correlate it with what I touched. What if I had no idea how anything looked? Could I imagine the situation?
But I also felt such an imagination was not possible since I had sight. I took off my blindfold and came back to regular life. The darkness suddenly vanished and light appeared. Along with it all the shapes and colours. I felt a surge of relief, even happiness, and quickly saw how the blind live their life.
Those who were born blind are at a certain level and live their life without caring about how anything would look. I felt the pain of those who lost their sight at some point in life and keep trying to imagine how things look.
At the exhibition, two stalls were crowded. One had a Class 5 boy with a model of the human digestive system. He was asking visitors to touch the model and experience it while at the same time explaining how the system worked.
He said he was studying at Vriksha Montessori in Alwarpet. After school, he learns science at Karna Vidya and has dreams of starting a tech startup and become a businessman. He sings Carnatic music too.
At another stall was Balu who had diminished vision. He had finished his schooling in Bargur and finished BEd at SRM University. He has received computer training at Karna Vidya for six months. “All over the world, there is a rule that whatever new innovations are made, the disabled should be able to use it. They use the device and give their feedback. But there is no such process in India. My goal is to ensure that such a process takes root in India, too,” says Balu.
Using the non-visual access desktop he has learned computers. He has learned to use smart phones too using this.