Tuesday, January 29, 2013

GiftAbled: How it started and Special Calendar Making Event

I still remember sometime in November 2012 when Prateek had a event with blind kids of National association For Blind as part of his office CSR, he was given responsibility to volunteer to manage the event. We were struggling to find apt gifts for the kids at various stores we visited... Thanks to my past Volunteering Experience and contacts who helped us with few ideas like how they connect with shapes and music and finally we bought some gifts... That was the day we realised how in India we lack to have an Ideal Inclusive Stores which are Disabled Friendly and have atleast few options to choose from... What if I have to give a greeting card to a blind friend... If I give him/her cards with words that I read and he can’t , he has to take help from someone... What if s/he has to gift a card to me, again take help from someone.... Why not have a greeting card which can be read by both of us, which is in Braille and in language which a sighted can see.... YUPPP, now that’s Our Dream for 2013 to start GiftAbled, an inclusive place to fill in the gaps created unknowingly in the society...  

I loved the idea of tactile with Braille which is seen in larger markets in USA but not in India... Where a blind can feel what is written along with reading. I saw this while shantala was training few blind students using books imported from US. I was talking to her about GiftAbled and We decided to make calendars for blind students of Enable India with help from Volunteers (Sighted, Hearing and Hearing Impaired)

Calendars are more often than not very colorful with attractive pictures in them. We mostly choose the calendars based on how attractive these pictures are because for the functional part – seeing the date – each one is same. Another functionality comes with the size – table top, wall mounted or pocket calendar. But have you ever thought about how a low vision or a blind person would be viewing dates daily? How can we give them a dates and picture experience with calendars? A regular braille calendar would just be boring with only dates and no pictures. In order to give the same experience to people with visual impairment, we decided to make calendars with tactile paintings. The calendar is in Braille (for totally blind) and large print (for low vision) and a tactile version of an image is next to it thus ensuring both the picture and the date functionality. These are also useful for people with learning disability.

It was a very different experience for me personally, as I have wanted to volunteer for something like this since long… In order to sensitize sighted people, blind fold activities were also conducted by Enable India. And what topped it all, was that we were taught by our special Hearing Impaired Volunteers and Tactile expert Shantala:) It was a day full of learning. Right from when and how help a blind cross the road, how to use Braille type writer, how to make creative tactile paintings, and how to make a completely blind friendly calendars. The tactile painting with every month depicted the month’s festivals. For example harvest season for January; Valentines’ Day for February; Holi – the festival of colors for March; rains for July; Independence Day for August; Diwali – the festival of lights for November; Santa for December and so on . Thanks to Kiran Rao for her support whole day and super super thanks to all Volunteers (around 25) for making it happen. We successfully completed 5 very good quality calendars to be gifted to our blind friends! But the day just didn’t end with 5 calendars; it ended with 25 people adding another language and art to their skill set and being more sensitized towards blind and low-vision people. Check it out at SpecialCalendar Making Event

I have been so motivated by this tactile and Braille concept that I am sure of initiating and working on different gifts for disabled shortly. Would love to hear your views on same... Will not take more than 2 mins of your time... Please find the Survey link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QWYDBKH , fill it and wish that Our Dream 2013 comes trueJ
Thanks to the Volunteers gang who have pitched in since December to help (Asha, Pradeepa, Poornima, Amitesh, Rajib, Ravi, Rahul, Krishna, Pavithra and Jatin and now the list is increasing) and to Maniv for helping us with the name “GiftAbled”