Madurai

It was a workshop with a difference

Hearing and speech impaired govt officials receive exposure at Aravind Eye Hospital

A group of 13 officials from Government of India (GOI) took part in a two-day exposure visit organised by the Institute for Secretariat Training and Management (ISTM) at Aravind Eye Hospital (AEH) here.

Objective: To understand the core values and culture of the organisation and their management principles.

But what was unique about their visit?

The GoI for the first-time grouped Section Officers across departments with hearing and speech impairments to take part in a training to promote inclusivity. “We have entertained several such exposure visits in the past. But this was riveting,” said N. Venkatesh Prajna, Director, Academic, Aravind Eye Hospital.

The officers were told about the genesis of the hospital and were given a tour of inpatient, outpatient and free services available at AEH. They were also taken on a trip to Auro Lab where they saw the manufacturing of various eye care-related products and introduced to AEH’s vision centres.

During the sessions, the participants communicated through a sign language interpreter.

Those like Manvinder Singh from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said he became emotional while visiting vision centres and, in fact, began crying on seeing the plight of the poor with bad vision.

Others like Narender Kumar from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (Department of Commerce) said the concept of affordable health care and world-class hospitals seemed impossible till date. “In Delhi, a visit to the doctor costs at least ₹1,000. The hospitals are clean as well,” he said.

Another Section Officer Geeta Sharma said she liked the concept of AEH employing people with disabilities in mainstream jobs. “When I saw women with speech and hearing impairments at Auro Lab, I was happy. We need more representation of differently abled people in everyday work, especially women,” she said.

Ms. Sharma also spoke about the problems many officers face due to lack of sensitisation.

According to her, most people who could not hear or speak were ignored at their workplace. Since many officers did not know sign language, the process of mentoring did not take place effectively. Schools must introduce sign language to ensure that everyone felt included, she added.

Echoing her, A. S. Narayanan said AEH’s model allowed people from all backgrounds to come together in a united manner for livelihood and he would take back several lessons from the programme.

Deputy Director of ISTM Agam Agarwal, who helped organise the programme, said such field exposure was mandatory for officers who worked towards framing policy.

“This was mandatory training for Assistant Section Officers being promoted to Section Officers. Through the initiative, they now have an idea of problems at the grassroots. The officers are usually part of classroom sessions with others from the department. This initiative is the first of its kind as many of these officers now feel there is better communication. We hope to organise more such inclusive workshops in the future,” he said.

The concluding session, bubbling with the energy, thoughts and testimonials of the participants’ time at the hospital, proved that language was not a barrier to learning.

R.D. Thulasiraj, Director, Operations, Aravind Eye Care System, said the management worked towards making the programme relevant for the officers.

“We focussed on areas such as purpose and best practises so that they would remember nuggets of information. AEH has been accommodative as we have staff with impairments. We wanted to do well and make sure that the participants were comfortable too,” he said.

R.D. Ravindran, Chairman, Aravind Eye Care System, interacted with the participants and recorded suggestions for future sessions.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 1:45:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/it-was-a-workshop-with-a-difference/article28159686.ece

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