They closed eyes for a few minutes to open their hearts
Dubai - While many participants felt very emotional and empathetic towards those with visual impairment, some others said they felt anxious and stressed.
Close your eyes and try doing some of your daily chores. For example, try making your breakfast or getting dressed, or just walk around inside your house. Not only will you be at risk of injuring yourself but will also feel less confident, and will experience a loss of freedom.
A workshop titled 'Eye Within' was conducted by Special Needs Future Development Centre (SNFDC) in Al Mankhool area to sensitise people about the lives of the visually challenged people of determination. The participants were blindfolded for about 15 minutes and taken through basic daily activities. All the participants were effectively 'blind' for a few minutes, under close supervision of a guide.
They were led into a an activity area where they experienced how to walk through a busy street, cross the road, climb stairs, make a sandwich or order food at a restaurant and pay - all with the blindfold on.
"You learn how different it is to have to depend on one's other senses to get around. We organised seven activities ranging from exploring a marketplace and crossing the road to ordering from a cafe. This experience allows one to overcome prejudices and stereotypes, to truly put yourself in someone else's shoes," said Mehnaz Ahmed, general manager at the SNFDC.
"We have around 50 adult students at the centre and many of them are completely blind or can partially see. We felt that vision is something that we all take for granted and since the World Sight Day has just passed, we thought of involving the community and give them a glimpse into the lives of the daily challenges of these.
Yes seeing is believing but to really understand the challenges of another, it is best to experience what they do. We believe that this experience can be life-changing for many."
While many participants felt very emotional and empathetic towards those with visual impairment, some others said they felt anxious and stressed. "I felt quite emotional and remained unsettled for some time by just imagining that I was being guided throughout the activity by volunteers who were literally holding my hand and yet I felt a strange fear and stress of not knowing what lies ahead. It was quite frightening for me but it has really given me a better understanding towards those with this disability. Being blind for just a few minutes really opened my eyes," said Jessi Sheraton who came with her team from Morgan Stanley to be part of the experience.
Another participant, Therry May, said: "I would call this workshop a real eye-opener. Though my eyes were covered, it opened my heart for those who experience this challenge of not being able to see. This activity made me very grateful to God for giving me this gift of sight."
Safia Bari, director of the SNFDC, who has been running the centre since 2007, said: "The centre focuses on empowering adult people of determination by offering personalised support to students above the age of 14 years. We strive to aid them in becoming self-sufficient - personally and professionally."
All the participants were honoured with certificates from the centre and were presented with their name badges in braille.