When I was studying in Khaling, we had developed a unique code-language that enabled us to communicate privately amongst us. Being visually impaired, it was of great advantage for us because we could safely talk about anything without the fear of being intercepted by teachers and other staff of the school. We always felt safe to converse in our code-language because nobody outside our circle of friends could comprehend it.
We have been lately talking about inclusive education in Bhutan and some of the schools have already been modified to accommodate children with varying abilities in the same learning environment. But no matter how accessible the general infrastructures of the school might be, or how well trained are the teachers dealing with students with special needs, I think the goal of inclusive education cannot be achieved if the school curriculum is not inclusive. When we talk about inclusive education, people mostly think about only accessible physical infrastructures within the school campus and disabled-friendly facilities and services. But we have never thought of the curriculum which is the backbone of formal education system in the country. I feel that our school curriculum is very rigid at the moment. We are expected to learn what is prescribed in the textbooks and not what we are good at or what we love doing. When the curriculum is developed, the needs of persons with disabilities especially the visually impaired children are never considered. As a result, the curriculum is largely visual-based and hence, the visually impaired children are deprived of the opportunity to participate equally in the classroom.
It’s normal for sighted people to wonder how we the visually impaired people interact with the outside world and make sense of things around us. People obviously feel that there is no other more painful situation than having to spend the entire life in the absolute dark. As a result, various questions run through their mind when they see a visually impaired person living a comparatively normal life. With the help of modern technologies and wisdom of our leaders, life has been much better today for persons with disabilities especially the visually impaired people mainly because of the fact that we were the first to receive formal education. Based on our capabilities and knowledge, there are many platforms today where we can exercise our rights to participate in the mainstream society. Due to such great transformations in the lives of visually impaired people who were once deemed useless and burdensome, many people wonder how we manage to laugh and smile everyday despite being robbed of the most important sense organ, the eyesight. A man from my village had even equated me with God when he saw me reading a braille note because what I was reading with my fingers did not make any sense to him. It was a real wonder for him. Likewise, many people seem to wonder a lot about how we make sense of the universe and universal phenomena. Many a time, we have been asked some of the strangest questions by our curious sighted friends and personally, I never mind answering them. Some of the questions are funny but they make some sense especially when we look from their perspectives. Following are some of the questions sighted people have asked us so far: