VE STORIES

Vidhya’s Journey with VE: Inspired by the Cause

By Vidhya Anand

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
-Nelson Mandela

The Beginnings

Vidhya AnandMy journey with Vision Empower- (VE) started in the fourth quarter of 2018, when , Supriya, a personal friend for over two decades, shared with me her initiation, research and understanding of the mission ofVE . My primary take-away from that meeting was the passion and diligence of Supriya and the structured thought process in planning and achieving the objectives

During this informal conversation she shared the struggles of teachers working with visually challenged children, especially for mathematics and to a lesser extent the science subjects at the primary school level, which can be considered the foundation for future STEM specialization. As I got to know more about the organization, my curiosity was kindled. I also mentioned about Vision Empower to one of my colleagues from the school I currently work, Devidutta Ghosh. Devi is a science teacher in the primary classes at The Samhita Academy (TSA).

The Motivation

Vidhya-with-team

Both Devi and I were inspired by the cause and approached Supriya and offered to help her in any way she feels fit in using our experience in teaching sighted children of Grades 1 and 2.

Supriya made arrangements for us to visit Ramana Maharishi school for the blind atJ P Nagar, Bangalore. We had the opportunity to observe a Math class wherein children used -Taylor Frame to solve the math problem. We observed how the teacher read out the question and the children actively participated in solving the question and arrive at the answer.

The teachers and support staff at the school were very friendly and accommodating. They gave us the tour of the school and demonstrated how different resources were used to teach the concepts to the children. Devi and I also learnt how the staff were working towards making these children independent within the school environment, so the children could eventually be confident in independently facing different situations in life.

Post this we met Supriya and-we reiterated our desire to work on a project with VE.

The Journey Begins

Vidhya-at-I-for-Inclusion

Vidhya at I for Inclusion

Supriya suggested that we- work on designing the accessible curriculum for Grades 1 and 2, as we had over five years’ experience working with children in these grades. We visited the IIIT campus where we met other VE team members, including Aditya and Rajagopal. Aditya guided us on the the VE process and lesson plan templates we had to work on.

We started writing the lesson plans for each Chapter using a spreadsheet template that was designed by the VE, for grade 1, 2 and 3. We agreed to review the contents of each topic and subtopic with Supriya and Adithya as and when they were completed and immediately incorporate the changes, based on their feedback.

During one such meeting at VE we were introduced to Sylvia, who would manage the overall accessible content creation. We were also provided an orientation on Subhodha portal by Adithya. In his session he briefed us onhow to use the portal, informed us on other users who would be using this portal and all that we needed to keep in mind while creating content for Subodha.

During the process of writing the lesson plan Supriya and Adithya were there to guide us and clarify any doubt. In the process of drafting the lesson plan the team of Vision Empower helped us with lot of links to refer to and also the Karnataka state syllabus online book forthe topics that we needed to cover.

My learnings and Challenges

While my experience as a Mathematics teacher for Grade 1 and 2 for six years has helped me when I started crafting the lesson plan, there were quite a few challenges that had to be surmounted. The primary issue was to unlearn what I knew and practiced on a daily basis and learn to see things in a more inclusive perspective.

Initially, I felt I am going blank as I was not experienced / comfortable on how I shall introduce concepts to the visually challenged children, the kind of manipulatives that could be used and the questions that could be posed to the students to make the learning interactive. As I started browsing information on various related web sites and read about the thoughts and solutions shared by many experienceed teachers at schools for the visually impaired on online forums. For example, I learnt how the concept of place value can be introduced with the help of different texture manipulative to form a given number or how a simple dice can be used to reinforce the concept of addition in a fun way. So, over a period of a. month, I could bring in different ideas to make the concept simple and interesting.

During our review meeting with Supriya we shared the struggle that we faced while working with the existing excel sheet template, viz: need for larger text descriptions, or need to add more details to the lesson plans. After some brainstorming with the team, we agreed on working on a text document template per lesson and to create a teacher manual containing the objectives of each lesson in the plan, concept introduction and the different manipulatives which the teachers can use to teach the concept to children with visual impairment.We also suggested that a closure activity be added for each lesson plan in order to help children to enjoy the process of learning and relate to the concept through real-life examples and activities.

In January 2019,VE sent us an invite to attend Inclusive hackathon presentations. Observing this hackathon gave us an exposure to the capabilities of visually impaired programmers, but we also gained awareness about of the difficulties visually impaired persons face in public areas and day to day public life, and the need for inclusive design. In May 2019, I attended the workshop I For Inclusion, conducted by XRCVC at VE, to introduce me Braille and Nemeth code, and how different concepts in Science and Math can be introduced to persons with visual impairment quite easily. The session gave me a good exposure to the way visually impaired children learn.

In the 'Stories' section, we attempt to document our experiences while volunteering, special people we have encountered in this journey. If you have volunteered with Vision Empower and have an interesting experience or story to share, do write to us.