ELS Language Centres, Penang took the opportunity of Helen Keller’s birthday on the 27th June to let the students experience the difficulties that disabled people undergo every day and to plant the seed of compassion in them. Besides that, the students were also given the opportunity to learn another form of communication; Braille.
Miss Eileen Khoo from St. Nicholas Home for the Visually Impaired was invited to conduct activities to create the awareness of the plight of the visually impaired to the students and she did just that.
After a brief introduction about the achievements of Helen Keller and the work of St. Nicholas Home, she taught the audience to read Braille. She went on to explain the organisation and the arrangement of the letters of the alphabet in the Braille chart before the students were given the chance to practice reading. Books for the blind, complete with pictures and maps were then circulated for the audience to feel.
As some of the students mentioned, the experience was surreal. There were those with more sensitive fingers and there were those whose sense of touch was truly abysmal.
The competition that followed revealed this great divide in the capability of the students. Abade, the winner of the first session was able to identify all the words given very quickly while a couple of his friends struggled to even read one word.. The second round was more evenly contested and the participants took about the same time to finish reading the words.
The next task for the students was to identify maps that had been printed specially for the blind. It proved harder than expected. Jason Kok was totally flabbergasted and could not identify the map of Sabah and Sarawak by tracing the outline with his fingers. The moment he opened his eyes to look at the map, he realised how dependent every one of us sighted people were so dependent on our sense of sight.
Miss Khoo ended the session by showing the audience the use of the cane in locating places and how everyone could assist the visually impaired when help was needed.
Judging by the responses of the students to the activities and the way they eagerly helped themselves to the brochures on how to help the blind as well as samples of the Braille alphabet our mission was definitely accomplished.