The National Association for the Blind (NAB), Delhi is the
largest non-government, voluntary organization in India. The organization has
23 state and 65 district level branches to reach a large number of visually
challenged people. The Delhi State Branch was established in 1979, and since
then, it has undertaken various projects, which have immensely benefited the
visually impaired and also successfully integrated them into the mainstream of
life. The association has a team of highly qualified and experienced personnel
that makes its services qualitative. Its personnel are invited as experts to
large number of National and International forums and are thus chosen as the
counselors for IGNOU study centre (0743 D) which is housed in the NAB complex.
Dr. Saraswati Vashisht is heading the centre as the
Coordinator of IGNOU Special Study Centre (0743 D) at NAB. Dr. Vashisht retired
from the Delhi Administration as a Principal. She has also been one amongst the
National awardees Principals. She is in the review committee of NCERT and
evaluation committee of CBSE as well. She said, during her four years of
tenure, learners have performed brilliantly in all fields. She proudly informed
that the enrolment of the study centre is increasing each academic session. It
is gaining popularity because of the specialized courses that the centre offers
to the visually impaired and the sighted learners alike. IGNOU has recently
shown faith in Dr. Vashisht and given responsibility to the centre to introduce
other specialized courses as well. The centre plays an important role to
support and solve learners’ problems by guiding and counseling them regularly.
Along with IGNOU study material the centre also provide reference books to the
learners in specialized courses. Dr. Vashisht feels that the upgradation of the
course content is very much needed in some course modules.
Dr. Vashisht expressed that IGNOU’s courses are popular
among sighted and visually impaired candidates both. She said Study Centre
(0743 D) has special educators who excel in teaching the visually challenged
and sighted learners both. The centre has mainly those learners who due to some
reasons could not continue their education and now the centre help these
learners by bringing them in the main stream with the help of IGNOU.
Dr. Vashisht who hails from rural area of North India was an
outstanding student since her childhood, which encouraged her to be an
educationist. Speaking on the challenges faced by visually impaired learners,
she said that even her life was never a cake walk. She said in order to chase
her dream she had to struggle a lot within her family, village and the society.
Since she belonged to a conservative family, she had to break through several
taboos to attain higher education. It was due to her sheer determination that
even after her early marriage she chose to pursue education till Ph.D. She said
that her students consider her as their role model and gain courage from her
life experiences to progress in life. She feels every individual have problems
in life but struggling and then achieving success through hard way is the sole
‘mantra’ of life.
She expressed that since the learners do not come from the
main stream education system, therefore many a times their foundation is left
weak. This makes the work for the counselors slightly difficult and
challenging. But since the centre provides opportunity to learners to study
with the regular students, therefore, the gap between the two is slowly
diminishing and bearing fruits, said Dr. Vashisht.
The centre has specialized facilities for visually
challenged candidates. It provides Braille, large print and cassette books to
the visually impaired learners. Special equipment’s for writing Braille,
Mathematics and Geometry, tape recorders, Braille Watches, talking calculators;
white canes, etc. are made available to visually challenged learners studying
under the programme of Integrated education. Mostly lecture method is being
used during the couselling sessions along with the aids and equipments. Dr.
Vashisht said “during training we use demonstration and practical like in B.Ed.
foundation course, Braille teaching, mobility and orientation course for
visually impaired candidates along with their educators. Transport facilities
and scholarships are also provided to the deserving learners. In fact, the
integrated education brings the blind and the sighted learners close to each
other, thereby helping them understand each other, said Dr. Vashisht. This also
makes them aware of each other’s unique potentials and strengths and creating
better understanding and acceptance.
The centre supports bright learners by providing them job
opportunities. The Regional Centre also extends support to this special study
centre in all respect. According to Dr. Vashisht, centre’s future developmental
plans are to introduce more courses which can be useful to the visually
challenged learners. The centre would like to incorporate new technologies in
order improve the teaching methodologies at the centre for visual impaired and
general candidates both.
by Ezra John