Patiala Blind Car Rally drives home a sense of empowerment & adventure
Its the biggest attraction of the Patiala Heritage Week celebrations being organised by the Punjab government from 21-28 February 2018. That's the car rally by the Patiala School for the Blind on 24 February.
Most such rallies are a test of speed and driving skills, but the blind car rally teams up sighted drivers with blind or low vision navigators, who guide them through the city landmarks with the help of Braille maps.
"The car rally for the blind is based on the concept of Time, Speed and Distance format (TSD) of a professional car rally. However, this one has been modified slightly where the sighted driver is 'shown' the way by a blind navigator with the route chart printed in Braille which the sighted cannot read" - Simar Singh, Co-organiser, Patiala Blind Car Rally
Not only does it display a rare degree of coordination between a sighted driver and a blind navigator, it also goes a long way to dismiss widely held misconceptions of the limited capabilities of the disabled. No wonder the first blind car rally held in 2017 attracted hundreds of curious onlookers.
The navigators have to make sure that the drivers travel the 50-60 km route at the correct speed and arrive at the six checkpoints at the scheduled time. There are penalties levied on those who break the rules. Like 15 points for reaching a checkpoint one minute early, two penalty points for reaching one minute late, and a whopping 30 penalty points for missing a check point. The route chosen this year is a mix of tracks and includes a highway, main road, side road, metal road, dirt track, etc.
The aim of the rally is to provide a sense of fun, but it goes beyond that as well.
"The aim is also to try and understand the challenges faced by the blind and their skills in reading Braille. It gives an opportunity to the blind navigator to show his or her skills and gives them a sense of achievement and raises confidence levels" - Simar Singh, Co-organiser, Patiala Blind Car Rally
The rally is open to both men and women above 18 years of age, who possess a valid driving license. The proceeds will be donated to the Patiala School for the Blind.