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From menstrual hygiene to banking, vital info in tactile form now available in some Mumbai blind schools

In a welcome step towards empowering blind and low vision youth, Lion's Club, one of the world's largest NGOs, has come forward to provide tactile educational materials to some blind schools in Mumbai.

The material has been developed by Access For ALL, which is committed to using innovative methods to foster inclusion in art, education and infrastructure. Be it finance, carpentry, or kitchen skills, the materials are aimed at the "betterment of visually impaired people," as Founder, Siddhant Shah puts it.

"This is being organized by Lions Club of Sion in partnership with the Lions Club of Mandvi East in Mumbai", adds Shah." The key three issues covered here are banking basics, carpentry and kitchen skills. The kits contain a designed tactile object and Braille book on the same. Like, a tactile Braille rendition of cheques and credit cards so blind students can identify the process of writing a cheque and know where to sign them. The age group we are targeting is six years and above."

Eleven pieces have been designed in total and to begin with they have been supplied to the Victoria Memorial School for the Blind and the Smt Kamla Mehta School for The Blind, both in Mumbai. Other than the topics mentioned above, there are kits about India maps, plant and animal life, monuments, to name a few.

The topics were decided upon based on discussions with the schools and Lion's Club members after which a team from Access For ALL looked at available facilities in the schools to ensure the kits filled the gaps. In doing this, Lion's Club hopes to encourage other organizations to look at creative ways to promote inclusion.

With Lion's Club, or for that matter any funding organization, the problem is that projects become monotonous. With this approach, we thought we could support a social enterprise like Access for ALL as well as provide facilities to blind schools. We see ourselves as catalysts and hope that other organizations and individuals become aware and start thinking about this. - Lion Alka Rajesh Gandhi, Regional Chairperson

Of special note is a tactile educational kit relating to menstrual hygiene for blind girls. "I found that the Mumbai schools had no information on this topic and in my experience from blind schools in another city, many of them have male professors, which can be inhibiting for girls."

From tips to maintain menstrual hygiene to using pads according to blood flow, the kit has critical information. Information that many blind girls tend to miss out on as Ankita Singh, a low vision MA student at Delhi University and captain of the Delhi blind women's cricket team reminds us.

"Our mothers don't talk to us, so the result is that we have vague information relating to periods and that can be rather frightening. Getting this information out to girls at the right stage is critical and I hope all blind schools consider this seriously."

The kit was developed based on inputs from teachers as well as a gynaecologist to ensure important information is included. Hopefully, this will encourage more schools and organizations to look at adopting such approaches, which offer necessary life skills no child should miss out on.

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