Lending voice to help visually challenged

Lending voice to help visually challenged

College and university students do different things in their spare time. Some indulge in sporting activities, some watch movies and TV shows and some  read books of their favourite auth­deors. But Sohan Kumar Sam­al takes out some spare time for a different activity, a noble one to be precise.

The post-graduate student of Bhuba­neswar-based Utkal University, Odisha’s premier educational institution, lends his voice to record college textbooks in audio format for visually challenged students. “I always had a desire to do social service. But to do something for visually challen­ged people came to my mind when I was doing my graduation. A close friend of mine in the college was visually impaired. His struggle and difficulties to go through the textbooks used to disturb me a lot. So, when the opportunity came my way to contribute something for the visually challenged I grabbed it,” said the 21-year-old sociology student.

Not only Sohan, there are many other like-minded students from different colle­ges in Bhubaneswar who have come forw­ard to join hands in this noble activity in their free time. And this has been possible thanks to a special project called Adhyayan launched by Bhubaneswar-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), Swabhiman.
“There are now 18 students who have come forward enthusiastically to lend their voice to record the college textbooks. All of them are doing this in their spare time. We are overwhelmed by their interest and support,” said Jyoti Prakash Pattanaik, the project director of the non-profit organisation.

Interestingly, the NGO decided to launch Adhyayan while implementing another project called Sandhan in a city college to create awareness among
students about social service activities.

“While implementing the Sandhan project we came in contact with a few
visually challenged students who were finding it extremely difficult to go throu­gh their textbooks. Some of them were recording lectures in classrooms in dictaphone. That was not possible for all of them. There are books in Braille for visually challenged students. But they are too expensive for many. Then, we decided to launch Adhyayan and it has been a successful project so far,” said Pattanaik.

The effort has already benefited many visually challenged students in different colleges. “We have been benefited hugely by the project. There should be more projects like this,” said Kabitalata Guru, a visually impaired student.

The launching of the project began with the selection of students who would lend their voice to record the textbooks in two privately run Bhubaneswar recording studious.
“We selected about a hundred volunteers, including students from different city colleges. Then we  conducted an audition and selected those who had good and suitable voice,” the director of the project said.

Under the project, the NGO has alre­a­dy recorded college textbooks on political science, history, psychology and sociology. The CDs of the recorded textbooks have been handed over to different college libraries for the use of the visually challenged students.

Swabhiman has not remained confin­ed to recording textbooks for visually challenged college students only. It has already expanded its activities and began recording textbooks for visually impai­red school students too. “We have alrea­dy distributed school textbooks in CDs to visually challenged schools in 12 blocks in different Odisha districts like Balasore, Bhadrak, Phulbani, Puri, Mayurbhanj and Koraput,” Pattanaik said.

The NGO’s efforts have come in for praise and many feel that more organisations, individuals as well as governments should come forward to work and contri­bute for the visually challenged people, particularly students.

“I occasionally visit a visually challen­ged school in the city and I feel more comfortable with them than my own children at home. I have seen from close quarters their struggle and the difficulties they face in every step of their daily life.

I sometime contribute for them in my own way. But efforts of some individuals or a NGO will not be sufficient. Much more needs to be done. And more importantly, the government should extend its helping hand to the voluntary groups
doing something for the visually impai­red students,” said a Bhubaneswar-based businessman, who did not want to be identified.

It will be important to note here that Swabhiman is implementing the Adhy­a­yan project without a sponsor. The project has been launched with contributions from individuals. The Project director felt that the government should come forwa­rd to take up projects like this.

“The government, on its own, should take up these types of projects as they are extremely useful for the visually impaired students,” he said.

Pattanaik was supported by Sohan who, too, felt that it was government’s duty and responsibility to ensure proper education for physically challenged
students. “The government certainly has a duty to ensure proper education not only for able students but also for disabled students who include visually impaired,” said the young postgraduate student.

He also had a piece of advice for stude­nts like him keen to extend a helping hand for the visually challenged. “We should do the service as if we are doing it for our own family members and not out of sympathy or pity,” he added.

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