Sunday, September 27, 2015

Scribing for the blind

This weekend I had the opportunity to be a scribe at the Little Flower Convent School for the Deaf and Blind. I found out about this volunteering opportunity through an email in the CTC (Chennai Trekking Club) group. As I work on weekdays, I signed up to volunteer on Saturday.

I just knew that I would have to write the Computer Science exam for a student studying in Class 12. I did not have any more information. I thought this was a nice opportunity to interact with blind children and know more about their lifestyle.

On Saturday, I found myself sitting under a tree in the school compound. The school is really beautiful. Lot of trees, play ground and classrooms. It was green and breezy! At 10 am, the teacher directed us to the examination hall. There were eight 11th standard girls and seven 12th standard girls. We were 16 volunteers (I think).

As I entered the exam hall, at the start of the exam, I looked at the smiling students, and smiled. The way we smile to say hi or to acknowledge someone. And then the truth dawned upon me. This happened several times in the span of 3 hours.

The teacher had printed the questions on papers, spread them on a desk (blank side facing up) and the students had to pick one of the questions. Remember our good old science lab exams? The teacher told them which question they had picked. Some of them were disappointed at the question which they happened to pick. Again, remember those lab exams? One of them was super happy for what she picked. Ha, every class has such a student!

I accompanied one of the students, A, to a classroom. Once we got to know each other a bit, she instructed me how she wanted the margins on the paper. Then she told me where to write the date, the page number, her name, subject etc. She knew what she wanted! Heading in the center, date on the left and name on the right. Top margin needs to be wider than the other three.

After this, I read the question to her. She asked me to repeat it a couple of times. Apparently, she did not prepare too well, but she wasn't nervous at all. She dictated me all the steps involved in the program and chatted away as I wrote. Mind you, headings in black, figures to be drawn with pencil and other text in blue ink!

We chatted and enjoyed writing the answer. After this, we had one more question. She did decently well. After we gave the paper, I sat and spoke to another student, P, who was very enthu to talk. She showed me the stories that she has been typing on her computer. She has partial vision. She used a black background and large white font to be able to figure out if she was typing correctly.

I asked the girls what they wanted to be.. I asked about their hobbies, We became good friends and I stayed back to chat for some more time. We discussed Harry Potter, Wikipedia, gender based treatment, music, amongst other things. This girl, P, wants to write more and hopes to publish a book. She did have some gadgets to help her with reading and listening to books. She told me how they got one from US, but it was really expensive! There is so much scope to use technology to assist these wonderful kids to learn more. This got me thinking about all the "technological advances" that we see around us. Yes, those countless mobile apps which help in getting food at our doorstep, those mobile apps to count  the calories that we have consumed, and then those mobile apps to tell us how much one needs to burn (if any). Sigh.

As I left, I gave a hug and wished P all the best. She memorized my email id and promised to write me an email in April, after she is done with her exams. I smiled at her.. only to realise that she wouldn't know that. It took some time for me to let this thought sink in.

No comments:

Post a Comment