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IISE celebrates WHITE CANE DAY 2009

Several visitors tried out the obstacle course blindfolded with a cane
Several visitors tried out the obstacle course blindfolded with a cane

The Hindu, Saturday, Oct 17, 200

The eyes have it

The White Cane Day at IISE was an eye-opener
Café in the Dark is unlike any restaurant you would ever come across. The food is there… but there is a catch. You don’t get to see your food, instead you’ve got to feel and smell (and even hear) your food, for inside the cafe; it’s pitch dark! Welcome to the world of the visually-impaired, where you have all other senses to rely on except your eyesight.

On White Cane Day (October 15) at the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs (IISE), Vellayani, visitors were given the opportunity to experience first-hand what it means to be visually-impaired. And what an eye-opener that was!

Willingly blindfolding ourselves we felt, heard and smelled our way through an obstacle course, learnt the rudiments of Braille, played Topfschlagen (a treasure hunt while blindfolded), got professional foot and neck massages from Hosni from Saudi Arabia and Kyila from China – two enterprising visually-impaired masseurs and watched a hilarious skit presented by Mohammad from Sierra Leone, Robert from Kenya and Sahr from Liberia. Then, even without blindfolds, we had to grope our way to dine at the one-of-a-kind Café in the Dark.

Profound experience

“You would never realise how much of a battle mundane activities are for the visually-impaired until you actually experience it for yourself,” say Brigitte and Hans Gehrge from Germany, who were seen enthusiastically participating in all the activities for the “seeing.” Navin Ramachandran, a well-wisher and part-time faculty member at IISE, adds: “It was indeed a profound experience to have all your faculties about you except your eyesight. But you realise that your other senses quickly take over and compensate for your eyesight. For instance, to get from the entrance of the Café in the Dark to the table, my feet, my hands and my mind became my eyes, with only the voice of Jessy – our visually impaired hostess – and a rope lying on the floor to guide the way.”

Navin says that during his “stint as a visually-impaired person” he noticed that he tended to stoop. The obstacle course too was an equally startling revelation for visitors. Armed with only a white cane we tapped our way through various obstacles strewn across the path (to stimulate the daily challenges faced by the visually-impaired). “It was quite difficult to navigate. And that’s after seeing for myself what obstacles lie ahead,” says Shankar Krishnan, a business consultant. “I have a new found respect for visually-impaired; for the challenges they face,” say Yuriko Matsukawa from London, and Balakrishnan, an architect who was capturing all the action on his camera.

For children too it was an eye-opener. As students from Trivandrum International School found out, it was very difficult to paint an egg when you don’t have your vision. The children from the Trivandrum Blind School beat them at every competition.

“The event was an attempt to create awareness about the importance of the white cane,” says Sabriye Tenberken, co-founder of Braille Without Borders and IISE. “The white cane is seen by the majority of the visually-impaired as something to be ashamed of; something that draws attention to their impairment. Whereas, it actually stands for independence, confidence and empowerment. I, for one, would be lost without my white cane,” she adds.

The event was certainly a revelation for those in the dark about the grit of the visually challenged.


Article courtesy of The Hindu

Others enjoyed a medical foot massage
Others enjoyed a medical foot massage

The basics of Braille were explained and taught in the Braille Workshop
The basics of Braille were explained and taught in the Braille Workshop

The audience enjoyed the play that was performed showing the importance of the white cane
The audience enjoyed the play that was performed showing the importance of the white cane

White cane dat 15-OCT-2009