With Helen Keller’s birth anniversary round the corner, Liffy Thomas meets deafblind students who are in a long preparation for the board exams

Shazia Fathima is a Class VIII student with low vision and profound hearing loss. But these disabilities do not deter her from chasing her dreams. She wants to become an astronaut. Her supportive parents take her to the Birla Planetarium and also get her science books. She particularly enjoys reading stories about journeys to space.

Shazia is among the six students at the Clarke School for the Deaf who are being coached for the Board examinations. It would take years to tutor deafblind students such as Shazia, but this is a challenge the teachers at the school do not want to shy away from.

“It is the first time we are preparing students for the Board examination. A student, who was partially blind and deaf, went on to get a diploma,” says Leelavathy Patrick, founder of Clarke School for the Deaf. After she became a deafblind, Helen Keller learnt to communicate and write. These students are inspired by Keller to become graduates. She was the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. But, certain hurdles have to be surmounted. The Department of School Education has to allow these students to write Board examination. These students will appear for the State Board exams just as other students do. Dipti Karnad, principal of the school and coordinator of Diploma in Education (deafblindness), says finding faculty familiar with tactile sign language is difficult.

The institute is at 3rd Street Dr. RadhaKrishnan Salai, Mylapore. For details, contact 2847 5422

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