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Learning to empathise with the physically challenged

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Practical knowledge: Participants at a workshop conducted for scribes by iScribe in Chennai on Saturday.
Practical knowledge: Participants at a workshop conducted for scribes by iScribe in Chennai on Saturday.

Staff Reporter

Workshop for iScribe volunteers held at Vidya Sagar

CHENNAI: It was only when Vijayalakshmi sat on a wheelchair with her hands and legs tied up did she realise what it meant to be disabled. “I just sat on it, confused, waiting patiently for someone to come and help me out,” she said, talking of her experience.

This was how a wheelchair-bound disabled person really felt, explained Sudha Ramamoorthy, Principal of Vidya Sagar’s school for special children. “They usually do not initiate action by themselves but keep waiting for others to do something for them,” she said.

At an orientation workshop organised here on Saturday, non-governmental organisation Vidya Sagar trained scribes registered at the iScribe to better their understanding of persons with disabilities. Practical exercises were carried out to help the over 30 participants to handle disabled persons.

Participants got a chance to understand what it meant to depend on others all the time. As part of the exercise some persons were blindfolded so that they could experience what it meant to be in a dark room. Ms.Ramamoorthy pointed out that it was absolutely essential for scribes to understand the behaviour of those they are trying to help. “Only when you experience disability, you get to see how frustrating it can be sometimes,” she said.

She said children with cerebral palsy had problems in communication and there were chances that they may not articulate properly too. “The process of learning happens through movements from the young age. Because persons with disability do not experience movement the way others do, their learning is affected. Autistic children can also have memory issues,” she said.

G.Titus, one of the participants, suggested it would be a good idea to bring out pamphlets and instruction manuals on how ordinary persons could help persons with disability. Devika Anand, a scribe, recalled how once she ended up having the wrong question paper in her hand and struggled in vain trying to get answers out of a child who had Attention Deficit Disorder.

“When the child became restless, I could not understand why he behaved so. Luckily another student who was waiting for his scribe, told me that I had the wrong question paper and I approached the teacher for the correct one,” she said. At the workshop, scribes were also warned not to write anything which the student had not said. “It send out a wrong signal to the student that they need not study and the scribe will write everything for them,” said Shefali, a special educator.

Maheswari Narasimhan, one of the co-ordinators for iScribe, said already over 1200 persons had registered as scribes at the site and over 400 people, who had not yet registered had already scribed for some students with disabilities. Those interested in scribing may log on to http://iscribe.co.in/ for registering.

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