Chennaiites are breaking stereotypes surrounding differently-abled

Chennai: A differently-abled person waits for help to cross the road. Taking pity on him, a woman runs up to him and lends her hand. It is common that we assist people out of sympathy, more than empathy.

Upon seeing such sights, Abhilasha Veeraraghavan was not happy and she was pondering as to how to bring about a change in the way people with different abilities are seen.

She, along with her sister Ashwini Veeraraghavan, co-founded Voice of the Unheard (VoU), a trust that works towards normalising stereotypes.

The trust has set its sights on breaking the taglines with which differently-abled are seen and empower them by imparting skills.

“Our very first event was organised at Desire Home, which provides shelter for specially-abled children. It is there we trained them in various forms of art, such as dance, painting and drawing. We believe art is the best way to heal oneself,” stated Ashwini.

“Children with different abilities, or rather special abilities, love to dance, but a sense of hesitation always persists. We help with the coordination of their limbs and help them dance to tune. What really astounded us is that many of them are avid movie-enthusiasts, which makes it easy for us to train. Their love for folk songs is something unique and we us such numbers to keep them on their feet,” says Abhilasha.

With utmost passion, patience and compassion, the team of six train the children. It takes three weeks for them to learn a single move, it is said.

Yet, the challenges do not deter them in their pursuit to shower unconditional love on children who are often overlooked. After training the children for six months, the home organised their first annual day celebration.

“It was the first time that the children performed in front of their family, kith and kin. The smiles on their faces transformed our lives and our joy knew no bounds,” adds Abhilasha who works in a business development company.

The event was part of VoU’s project named ‘Talentia’ and the team plans to work with other such homes and help people to come out, feel self-empowered and express themselves in the best possible way.

To nurture the skill of drawing, the team has devised its own customised curriculum and an art book. It is designed to train the children to learn strokes and identify colours. The classes happen every weekend.

“It starts with identification of colours. It is difficult for special children to learn colours. Even if they are unable to repeat the colour after us, as per our commands, they just have to pick the colour-coded cards. It was welcomed well when we implemented it and the children were able to learn it in a brief time,” says 26-year-old Ashwini who works with a private research firm.

Though the team conducts cultural activities for the welfare of special children, there always is a gap between them and others. To bridge the gap,

Vaanga Pesalam project was launched to converse about topics like marriage and disabilities.

Gradually, the trust aims to expand all over Tamilnadu and other States.

Going forward, the Voice of the Unheard trust plans to launch ‘Sahaya,’ a camp where underprivileged, hearing-impaired children in the suburbs and rural areas will be screened to check their hearing potential and help them be rehabilitated through speech therapy with the help of trainers and experts.