The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.
These are the words of Dr. Helen Keller whose birthday is celebrated on June 27 every year. Born in 1880, Helen Adams Keller was an American author, political activist and lecturer. Stricken by an illness at the age of 2, Keller was left blind and deaf.
Beginning in 1887, Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, helped her make tremendous progress with her ability to communicate, and Keller went on to college, graduating in 1904 making her the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. She is an inspiration to persons with deafblindness and Anne Sullivan inspires teachers who teach such children and young adults.
In Chennai, the staff at the Sadhana Unit for the Deafblind and Multiple Handicapped at the Clarke School for the Deaf and the Mentally Retarded are the modern day Anne Sullivans.
The institute, which is the first unit for children and young adults with deafblindness and multisensory impairments in South India, aims at training children to develop skills necessary for successful living through a functional curriculum and emphasis on communication and language.
We admit children with different degrees of combined vision and hearing impairment as well as vision and hearing impairment with additional disabilities in classes from early intervention through to pre-vocational classes.
Persons with deafblindness are not the same and there are varying types of deafblindness like totally deaf with partial vision; totally blind with partial hearing; partial hearing with partial vision; early visual impairment with later hearing loss; early hearing impairment with later vision loss; congenital deafblindness; adventitious deafblindness due to accidents or old age; and deafblindness and additional disabilities.
Individual education plans are designed as per the need of the child. We are proud to say that four of our young adults with deafblindness have passed their class X from the National Institute of Open Schooling.
Two of our young adults have participated at the National Conferences on Deafblindness and also mastered the Braille Script.
We want more teachers to come and join us and make the lives of these children happy and fruitful.
The Clarke School for the Deaf is at #3,Third Street, Dr. Radhakrishnan Road, Mylapore, Chennai 600004
Phone 044 28475422
(Dipti Karnad is principal of The Clarke School for the Deaf)