Meet their `aspirations` not just needs

December 31, 2014

I recently visited an exhibition set up by the students of the International School of Geneva. The exhibition displayed projects of young students that showed their creativity as well as sensitivity.

Experiences of physically handicapped and visually impaired persons — was the project of one girl. She had asked her classmates to volunteer: some were blind folded; some were put on a wheel chair; and some were asked to use crutches—for about half a day. She then interviewed them and captured their experiences.Afsar picture 11 Dec 2014

The volunteers confessed: it is only after our eyes were closed, we could empathize with a blind person; sitting on a wheel chair or using crutches, made us realize the blessing of being able to walk, run and play. They recommended: we should count our blessings and we must be sensitive to the needs of physically handicapped persons around us.

It was just a coincidence that I listened to Maryanne Diamond at a TED event @TEDxPdNations at the Palais des Nations, Geneva on the 11th December.

Maryanne Diamond cannot see herself but has a vision. She is a well-known advocate for the rights of blind persons. In a truly inspirational talk, she recounted how she missed reading books in her childhood, `I would find my siblings read books. They would sometimes read a book to me and I looked forward to that.’ She has dedicated her life to ending the current book famine for blind persons. “93% books are not on the format that blind persons can read,” she shared.

Maryanne is a living example of what people can achieve despite being physically challenged. She completed her education, has a successful career and a loving family.

Maryanne is great not because of what she has achieved for herself but because what she is doing for others. She is the Chair of the International Disability Alliance. As the President of the World Blind Union (WBU), she led the WBU’s delegation to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) negotiations, which resulted in the ground breaking Marrakesh Treaty that aims at facilitating access to published works for blind persons. She now heads the worldwide treaty ratification campaign to end the global book famine for the blind.

With technology, it is possible to have books on a format that blind persons can read. We all must be part of the movement to make it happen. We should not be satisfied by just helping a blind person cross the road. We must help them meet their aspirations, even if it means a thing as simple as just reading a book to a blind person.