[AI] india beats

rajesh asudani rajeshasudani at rbi.org.in
Thu Jul 5 06:33:31 EDT 2007


INDIA BEATS

The means to excel

An NGO in Kochi finds innovative avenues of employment for the visually challenged to make them feel fulfilled. TANYA ABRAHAM

In harmony: Muthu, Jaimon and Benny of "Heart 2 Heart".

It is something that has been long echoing in the hearts of Kochiites, that "Two eyes are more than enough for two to walk together". Since 2001 to be precise.
When individuals with a strong desire and need to help the visually challenged got together to help, by creating what is known as the Society for Rehabilitation
of the Visually Challenged (SRVC). For one thing, the NGO does not, in any way, believe in the principle of sympathy. Empathy? Yes, but only as a means
of offering avenues that would enable the challenged to excel.
Looking at the positives

They would rather focus on the positive aspects that come from being disabled. To those involved, sympathy is an easy and weak way of highlighting the disadvantageous
situation of the blind. But, as a community, there is a larger need to allow them to be able to live normal, fruitful and fulfilling lives without being
apologetic over their condition.

That is the reasoning that brought individuals together to reach out to the challenged through means never accessible previously. "The role we play is simple
although challenging," explains one of the founders and project head of the organisation, M.C. Roy. "We act as channels through which the blind may become
self reliant, channels that may otherwise remain far from their reach." A concept that uses technology for their enhancement, leaving behind methods of
yore that seem of little use. Like candle making or rolling beedis for example; skill oriented chores that do not offer any special or conducive support
for the blind, but which instead compels them to compete in a market that requires the precision o f the sighted.

Roy points out that it was then that technology was identified as the best method of aiding the visually challenged, "We made a start with screen reading
computer software that proved to be extremely effective. Individuals were able to connect with the sound that appeared on the headphones as a reflex to
the information that they fed into the computer. One must realise that the challenged, although blind, have of0ten managed to sharpen other senses like
memory, smell or touch, which work collectively to perform better at tasks."

He is quick to point out that their focus revolves around the need to enhance and empower them. So a summer programme organised every year provides basic
orientation on numerous fronts that would equip the visually challenged to address greater, more complicated situations: like being able to respond quicker
or perform tasks with ease. "There is always a huge need to offer positive strokes to those concerned, a need to provide them with psychological counselling,
confidence building or personality development. Most of them have been pampered to the point of being incapable of independence or have been rejected by
society that has left them with little or nothing in life for themselves. Our orientation programmes help provide these basic requirements."

Hence, it may be a course on telemarketing or how to perform at a call centre. Both of which requires little or no mobility, and where sight is a small
criteria for performance. Like in the case of Sudhir, a marketing manager with Nest whose performance has been applauded and appreciated in many ways at
the company. Or Noushad, a computer programmer who has enhanced his capability through various short term computer courses.
A variety of means

But it is not technology intensive situations alone that the NGO has identified as means to aid the challenged. Tea tasting, fragrance assaying, Ayurveda,
physiotherapy and music are the other areas in which possibilities have been explored. "Heart 2 Heart", a three-men band that plays at a five star hotel
in Kochi is a result of the organisation's one such effort. Muthu, Jaimon and Benny were identified by SRVC from different parts of Kerala and brought
together to create music of a different calibre. In a situation where they have to work on rhythm and harmony alone with no cues for a start or a break,
their concentration is astounding, and they've learned to work together through persistent practice. On asking the three about it, they attribute it to
the sharp memory that records the note or tune in their minds. "There are no music notes to read from," they remind you.

Then there is also the financial aspect of the endeavour. Something that the NGO has strived to attain. All three men are financially more secure, earning
a decent sum of money that takes care of their needs. And it is that aspect that they insist on emphasising, again and again: to make people understand
the challenged are employable. They request employers to offer jobs only on the basis of skill. Like they keep saying, "There is no need for sympathy."

India Beats features stories of the unusual, the exotic and the extraordinary.



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