On Saturday, October 27, 20 blind individuals climbed Nandi Hills, a 4,850 ft mountain near Bangalore, with the help of a team of 20 additional sighted volunteers.
In India, 64% of the disabled population is unemployed and 27% never receive any schooling. The blind trek symbolically serves to break the stigma and encourages increased understanding of differently-abled persons’ capabilities despite being visually impaired.
Participants and volunteers met in Bangalore and drove to the base of Nandi Hills, where all volunteers had a brief sensitisation training on how to best guide their visually impaired partners and then had breakfast together. The climb to the top took four hours, and participants had fun trading places with their volunteers, having their sighted buddies close their eyes and learn how to walk using canes.
Participants and volunteers met in Bangalore and drove to the base of Nandi Hills, where all volunteers had a brief sensitisation training on how to best guide their visually impaired partners and then had breakfast together.
The climb was a joint initiative between EnAble India, a Bangalore-based non-profit that has dedicated the past 20 years to removing cultural stigma around disabilities and advocating for inclusive hiring practices, and Bikat Adventures, a learning-based trekking company focused on making adventure and personal goal achievement accessible to everyone.
“We have to explain on the trek that ‘there is a tree here, feel it’s bark. Touch and feel is the most important part. For example, if we were walking in sunlight and pass under a tree shadow, some cool air is coming. We cannot see, but through listening and feeling, we can understand what is around us,” says Rajesh Jayanna, who is a training course graduate from EnAble India.
One participant with visual and physical impairment was having a hard time climbing the last few hundred steps, so the team worked together to carry him to the top. He called it his chariot, and was greeted at the top by the rest of the group with a round of applause and cheering. Camaraderie was palpable.
The night ended by watching the sunset from the mountaintop together before descending by bus.
The group had lunch at the top, along with a lesson on Indian sign language from the only deaf member of the group that had joined the day’s hike, and those who were visually impaired held the volunteer’s hands in order to feel the hand signs and recreate it themselves. The Bikat Adventures team (Cambria Sawyer and Shreyas SathyaPrakash) lead a spirited Q andA session about mountaineering life, tips of the trail and some outdoorsmanship advice. The night ended by watching the sunset from the mountaintop together before descending by bus.
EnAble India was started in the year 1999 by Shanti Raghavan and Dipesh Sutariya when Shanti had a brother whose eyesight was diminishing, and he was not getting jobs. She decided a training program should be started so that people.
“We are all looking for jobs, because most companies don’t understand how visual impairment works. In our batch though, one person was hired by HP, and the rest of us are graduating our training program with EnAble India in November,” said Afsal S, one of the visually impaired participants.
And then Afsal added an interesting point.
“Sighted people need assistance too. If you are studying at night, you need a light. We use the Braille system to read, so we are also independent when sometimes sighted people are not.”
First Published: Nov 09, 2018 10:06 IST