THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Tiffany Maria Brar, is one of the speakers scheduled to deliver a motivational speech at a seminar for visually challenged persons. Much before the commencement of the programme, a sprightly young woman in her mid-twenties is present at the venue. She is greeted by the organisers and led to her seat. She came on her own. Though she is visually-challenged by birth, lone trips in a public transport bus are not new to her. From the bus station, she flips to places where she has to go. The role of a teacher, motivator, trainer and counsellor to people fighting visual-impairment like her, fills her day. Since 2012, Tiffany is pioneering a mobile-blind school named ‘Jyothirgamaya’ in Thiruvananthapuram that reaches out to people who are deprived of education simply because of the reason they cannot see the world around and are left confined within the four walls.
At first, Tiffany’s mobile school was a modified goods auto rickshaw, and the idea was that it can facilitate teaching and learning, but later she listened to the call for change. “There was practical difficulty in making students sit inside the vehicle. Then we moved into a convenient space in the ambience of their homes,” explains Tiffany. Soon, the mobile school-on-wheels got shelved. She now gets around the city on the public transport system along with an assistant and rarely, the journeys happen in a two-wheeler. At present, she teaches 20 students about mobility, Braille, basic computer knowledge and survival needs for the visually-challenged.
In her teaching methodology too she wishes to bring in some difference. It is not something that begins and ends with words and sentences in Braille script. “I train them on certain life skills too, for instance how to hold and use the white cane they carry along. Likewise, some mannerisms need to be changed,” smiles Tiffany quoting one example from her own nature she wishes to change, the habit of gently waving her head occasionally.
She also recollects an AIR programme, where she was a guest and her mobile number was announced for visually-challenged people to contact her. Again Tiffany is breaking the barriers by travelling across Kerala, conducting self confidence-building sessions and giving counselling. She takes a friendly approach for understanding and addressing the problems of people.
Tiffany has been a great crusader in every respect. Hailing from Punjab, a major part of her education was in Kerala at schools in Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur, including two government schools, as her father is an army officer. Her mother who was a home-maker is no more. She also studied in schools in Darjeeling and Ooty. During her school days, she stayed in hostels and reached school accompanied by her inmates. She took down notes on the Braille typewriter along with others and scored good marks in all subjects. Her perseverance, confidence, good accent and fluency in English as well as her love for Malayalam songs made her a darling of her classmates and teachers. After schooling, she completed her bachelor’s in English from Government Women’s College in T’puram and a BEd in Special Education from Sri Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya in Coimbatore. Along with being a project coordinator of the Mobile Blind School, she is also conducting leadership programmes at Kanthari International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs in Thiruvananthapuram where she resides.
The 25-year-old has on cards spreading the mobile blind school concept to North India where she wishes to launch it in a special school for the visual- and hearing-impaired at Patiala in Punjab run by one of her relatives.