Visually impaired youth learn personality development skills through performing arts
When to be assertive or diplomatic, what tone to adopt when speaking about sensitive matters – these are valuable workplace behaviour tips many of us lack at the start of our careers. Help The Blind Foundation, a Chennai-based organisation, is imparting them to visually impaired youth in partnership with Chirantana, an NGO that teaches life skills to disabled children and youth through creative methods.
A computer trainer in Hyderabad, Satya N is nervous about speaking in public or among large groups. She is learning to overcome this with the help of online classes in personality development recently launched by Chennai NGO Help The Blind Foundation (HTBF).
“I started my career in 2013 and have worked in different organisations”, says 27-year-old Satya who is visually impaired. “I was always uncomfortable when it came to speaking in a public forum and wanted to change that”.
Training aims to equip visually impaired youth with vital career skills
The three-month personality development training is being conducted by Chiranthana’s Art Courtyard Productions. Chiranthana is an NGO that imparts life skills and soft skills to children and young adults with disabilities using theatre programmes.
“This is the first time that we are training visually impaired youth”, says Rachana Prasad, Founder, Chiranthana. “We worked on models that have to do with auditory processing with the aim to enhance their other senses”.
Every month, HTBF will select 20 students for the training.“We realise they need to be prepared for employment and that’s why the idea of giving them a skills-based education’, says Sivaji Rao, Trustee, HTBF.
Over the last two months, Sathya has learned many additional skills apart from effective public speaking.“My interview skills have improved and I understand better how sighted people regard the visually impaired and how to interact accordingly”.
Life skills imparted as well
Mohammed Bilal, 27 years old, finds the learnings useful while teaching computer skills to visually impaired students of Presidency College, Chennai. “I modulate my voice and use the right pitch to make the lessons more interesting. This will be useful for me in the future when I go for job interviews”.
A theatre-based intervention, believes Nataraj Sankaran, Trustee, HTBF, is especially apt for people with vision impairments.
For visually impaired people, sensing is believing and their response to the art form, be it music, drama or dance, is very spontaneous. They measure emotions through voice modulation. Initially two sessions were held on a trial basis and we started with a skit programme where they got to show their skills. This encouraged them over time to start expressing themselves. There was no judgement, benchmark or comparison and we found students to be receptive and spontaneous. – Nataraj Sankaran, Trustee, Help The Blind Foundation
HTBF aims to train 200 students, boys and girls. “The lessons relate to different aspects of personality development like expressing yourself among a group of people, listening to others opinions’, how to express yourself without hurting someone and how to talk about your disability”, adds Natraj. Self-grooming is another important part.“We are also talking to girls about how to tell sighted colleagues how they want to be held while being supported. If a sighted person touches them on the shoulder or the back and they don’t like it, how do they express that”.
The trainings are in English with some Hindi and Tamil thrown in. “The students are communicative and say what they want”, notes Rachana. “Their comprehension levels are good and we are now at a stage where the lessons are practical. The blend of art forms makes it creative and interesting”.
Videos of these sessions are being put on Art Courtyard’s YouTube platform as well. The aim is to create a platform where disabled people from around the world can watch and learn.
“We want to give them confidence and the opportunity to learn in a more creative way”, says Deepa Krishnamurthy, Trustee, HTBF. “We decided to do this for a month and found that they enjoyed it a lot. They have even learned how to record themselves on video. From trainers we are expanding to students. If we have more funding we would like to extend it more visually impaired people in the future”.
For Adil Mir, a 28-year-old visually impaired youth from Kashmir, the video lessons have been an eyeopener. “I have understood how to stand in front of the camera, the right posture, how far to place the camera while seated, etc. I had no idea earlier how to hold the camera such that my face is clearly visible. This is good learning because the world is becoming even more tech-based after COVID-19 and everything is online now”.
Hamsini A V says she is a better speaker now.“I have learned to speak without fear and inhibition. As visually impaired people we learn from voice, so it is important to know which words to emphasise on and express yourself better”.
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