In 2017, Vision-Aid introduced Spoken English as one of the key programs in our model. We quickly realized that while many organizations teach spoken English, the materials and methods rely heavily on visual cues which do not work for the visually impaired students. So we set out to design a custom training program in spoken English for the visually impaired that can reach visually impaired students in all settings rural and urban.
After running a first pilot in 2017, the program was expanded by bringing on board two team members on staff, to design and implement the program. Materials and methods were developed and currently two more pilots are being run – one in Agra at the Lui Braille Blind School, and one in Aligarh, at the Ahmadi Blind School.
The program is designed to work in a live classroom setting or a virtual (or blended) setting, and is taught both in a classroom setting (at Aligarh) and via virtual sessions (in Agra).
The Vision-Aid team has been very encouraged with the initial results of the program and continues to refine it constantly based on learning in the pilot. We’re delighted to see students who could barely speak a couple of words in English 3 months ago are now speaking full sentences coherently. Most students are very enthusiastic to participate in classes because of their interactive, lively nature, and enjoy the whole learning process.
Over the years, in our efforts to enable, train and empower blind and low vision persons to live with independence and dignity, we have found that the ability to communicate fluently in English is a vital skill for our visually impaired students, opening more job and educational opportunities for them.
Currently, 16 students in Agra (in classes 9 – 12) and 23 students in Aligarh (in classes 7 – 10) are participating in the program. Classes are run 3 times a week in each location. Plans are underway to expand the spoken English program to two other Vision-Aid locations in early 2019.
Our big thanks and appreciation to our spoken English team – led by Rita Vachani, Program Coordinator, Mirza Adam and Areeba Shabbir, English instructors who are designing and delivering this innovative new course, and Hasan Kabeer from our technology partner in New Delhi Gyanmantra, for providing critical infrastructure and technical support, as well as help from Ujwala Phene and many volunteers who set the early stage and helped along the way. And to our many supporters and well-wishers who make such programs possible.