Visually-impaired persons are facing difficulties in maintaining social distancing norms in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Students of a premier Kolkata school for visually-impaired persons, who are presently at home due to the lockdown, are worried over ways to maintain social distancing once the institute reopens in June.
"A visually-impaired person often touches an object or holds the arm of a person to navigate his or her way. However, with social distancing norms in place, this has become a problem for them," a teacher of the Calcutta Blind School said. As the students are presently at home, they are somehow managing but when the lockdown is lifted, they may face difficulties in maintaining social distancing norms, which are expected to remain in force for some time, he said.
Subir Das, a class 11 student of the institute said, "At home, I think it is still safe to navigate our way by touching doorknobs or switchboards. But, I have to learn to move around without touching anything once I go out after the lockdown is lifted." "I will go out either with my mother or sister after the lockdown is lifted. Maintaining social distancing during that time will be a challenge," he added.
The suspension of classes has posed another problem for the students of the institute. Over 100 students of the school are not able to learn Mathematics as it is taught only through Braille books and under the supervision of a teacher, an educator of the institute said.
Other subjects of Humanities and Science are taught through audio lectures, he said. "Their Braille Mathematics books have been kept in the classrooms," the teacher said.
The institute has given mobile handsets to guardians of the students so that they can be in touch with the authorities for any need. The arrangement was made before the
suspension of classes, he said.
For many students, however, classroom learning cannot be equated with home studies by listening to lectures, the educator said. Exams for classes 11 and 12 were conducted before the nationwide lockdown was imposed, he said.
However, one of the 22 boarders got stranded due to the lockdown and authorities of the institute dropped him home in Nabadwip in Nadia district, the teacher said. A total of 180 students of another school for the visually-impaired in Chaitanyapur in East Midnapore district are, however, presently lodged in the hostel, a spokesperson of the institute said.
"They are devising ways to maintain social distancing. They are facing difficulties but are still coping with it," he added.