Visually challenged A. Raja is determined to clear the BA (History) examinations, beginning on May 24, with high marks. The student of Annamalai University is, however, in search of a volunteer who could read the lessons for him. “There are nine papers that I need to take, and many of us come to Chennai as there is more help available here,” says Mr. Raja, a resident of Cuddalore.
Hundreds of visually impaired graduate and post graduate students take their semester examinations this time of the year. Though there are volunteer organisations that help the visually challenged students find volunteers or scribes, the demand is huge.
Disability activists say some educational institutions in the city find scribes with the help of the database of students with disabilities enrolled with them. “More than finding a scribe the challenge is in getting volunteers who could revise for them. Only if the visually challenged has prepared well can he or she make it easy for the scribe to write,” says E. Rajeswari, vice-president, Tamil Nadu Association of the Blind.
There are over 20 students in the Association's girls' hostel in Tondiarpet who would be appearing for various graduate exams until May 4. “Most colleges have some system to call in for scribes but for reading purpose there are hardly any,” adds Ms. Rajeswari.
Some use recorder or CDs to learn lessons if no volunteer is available. In a large way voluntary organisations have streamlined the process by connecting people who want to be scribes, who need a scribe and who need people to read. Disha Foundation, for instance, through its network of coordinators in colleges ensure the drop out rate is minimal as well as there is no duplication of the same request at other portals. Besides, it helps conduct reading sessions twice a week. “Nearly 30 visually challenge students have signed up on our website and every person has at least 10 papers to write,” says a volunteer with Disha Foundation.
Even a group reading session is welcome for many visually challenged. There are some who prefer to visit the home of the volunteer or it is vice-versa, according to members of organisations working in this area.
A coordinator with iScribe, an endeavour of VidyaSagar, says some of the volunteers, who sign up on their website, also write that they could do reading sessions.
“A Commerce student, for instance, needs an M.Com or B.Com graduate to help in reading. Spending two hours once or twice a week is enough if the student is regular with the studies,” says N. Maheswari, coordinator, iScribe.
VSCRIBE, a branch of Chennai Social Service focusing on the educational needs of visually impaired students, says it is easier to find scribes to write examinations as one can locate people working on shifts or college students.
Others organisations such as Rotary Club of Madras Coromandel, who has been conducting reading sessions for years, say a good number of senior citizens volunteer for its reading sessions for the visually challenged students.