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Where children dream in colours

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In right direction: Students of Indian Association for the Blind participating in the mobility lessons at the school in Sundararajanpatti, Madurai.
In right direction: Students of Indian Association for the Blind participating in the mobility lessons at the school in Sundararajanpatti, Madurai.

S.S. Kavitha

IAB students prove physical disability is not an obstacle

MADURAI: Amidst tall buildings and cool atmosphere, a motley group of students sing clear and lilt while a few move energetically as part of their game session. Aside, boys and girls walk with much confidence. Call out to any one of them for direction to the office room and pat comes the reply, “Take a right turn. Park your vehicle and then a left to the office.” And one is left awestruck not because he is visually challenged but he shows no trace of his disability.

Showing the way to the office room, R. Prakash, a Plus One student of Indian Association for the Blind Higher Secondary School and Rehabilitation Centre, shoots off a philosophical line. “Even black and darkness can be colours of hope and creativity with human resilience.”

“Believe me, I dream in colours though I am not familiar with them. Physical disability is certainly not an obstacle,” says Prakash, who is visually challenged from birth.

The IAB has added a unique dimension to its effort to enable the visually challenged to be a boon and not a burden to the society. “I understood the confidence I had gathered inside the IAB premises when I went for my professional debut in 1997. I cherish my association with IAB for almost three decades now,” says S. Manjula, PG Assistant, Government Higher Secondary School, Sankaralingapuram, Virudhunagar district. All these students can move around the premises without the white cane because of the confidence level attained at mobility sessions.

IAB’s objective

The IAB was established in 1985 by S.M.A. Jinnah, who lost his vision when he was 14 in an accident, with an objective to provide opportunities for education, vocational training and self employment for visually challenged.

“Physical disability should not decide the fate of individuals. They should be judged by their merit alone,” he says and adds that the progress of any society was hampered by the weariness which was a result of poverty, disability and lack of opportunities.

“Problems of the disabled children from poor families are compounded by negligence of parents who do not want to spend their limited resources on children of no economic significance. These children are treated as burden,” he says. The IAB was started solely to provide free accommodation and education to the needy.

In the last 21 years, 5000 visually challenged people have passed out of the institution. Of them, 520 are in Government jobs while more than 2000 are self-employed or in private concerns, says Mr. Jinnah.

With the assistance of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the IAB has standards VI to XII. For educated youth, the school offers courses in stenography, telephone operator and computer operation while for the less educated visually challenged persons chair caning and tailoring courses come for free. It also offers hostel facility under the Integrated Education Programme.

With public donations, the school has a Talking Book Studio that has all lessons recorded in cassettes; Braille Press that supplies books to standard I to XII all over Tamil Nadu; scholarship for normal children with blind parents and free ration and dress materials during festivals to 200 families of visually challenged persons, costing Rs. 4 lakh a year.

To nurture reading habit, the school has in Braille format more than 100 works, including Tirukural and Wings of Fire by A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, says B. Murugesan, Headmaster.

Array of awards

The IAB has an array of awards in its kitty including National Award for Best Role Model given by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (2001), Best Employer Award for the Handicapped (1993) and Best Institution Award (2006).

Recently, it received the National Award for the Best Institution in 2007.

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