CHENNAI: Sunday morning saw the coming together of a number of happy people on Elliots Beach, as the organisers of Shaastra, the annual tech festival of IIT-Madras, and Explore Differently, an NGO, organised an event called ‘A walk in my shoes’. This was a pre-event for the Accessibility Summit that will be held during the Shaastra festival, from December 31 to January 3, 2017. The aim of the summit is to spread awareness about issues that Persons with Disabilities (PwD) face and help come up with solutions to help them out.
Both PwDs and the able-bodied participated in activities such as wheelchair maze, blindfolded walk and headphone debate, which was a non-verbal game of communication. “These challenges did not constitute a person’s situation in totality. Experiencing these challenges might not make one understand someone’s situation completely, but it starts a journey for participants to explore further,” says Deepak, a core member of Explore Differently.
The session was an experimental event which looked at exploring the art of empathy. Empathy, is essentially being able to identify and understand another’s person’s feeling as your own. “Empathy leads to connection, which can lead one to explore what could be done,” he added. The basic concept of the event was to make people understand how difficult it is to be PwDs, by experiencing the world from another person’s perspective.
The event was smoothly executed after few weeks of discussions within Explore Differently and Shaastra, followed by a trial run which was done in IIT campus earlier in the week. The NGO has done many events that focus on accesibility issues faced by PwDs and making the others sensitive towards the subject. Some of these include a tour at LV Prasad studios and taking wheelchair users on an accessible tour to the Elliots Beach.
“Accessibility is more than wheelchairs and ramps. It is about respecting and connecting to a person with a disability as a human being,” smiles Deepak.