Blindness is not a disability but a different set of capabilities: Thomas Tajo

Blindness is not a disability but a different set of capabilities: Thomas Tajo


ITANAGAR, Sep 13: For the first time in their life, the students of Donyi-Polo Mission School for the Hearing & Visually Impaired, Chimpu, Itanagar, had the opportunity to learn a new technique called ‘Echolocation’ on Thursday when Thomas Tajo, an echolocation trainer conducted a FlashSonar echolocation workshop at the school premises.

The two-day workshop on ‘Echolocation for Visually Impaired Persons’ is being organized by the Education Development Organizing Society (EDOS) to train and guide the visually impaired students to detect objects in their environment by sensing echoes from those objects.

Thomas Tajo, hailing from remote Chayang Tajo in East Kameng district, who became blind at the age of 8 or 9, taught himself to actively echolocate. For the last few years he has been travelling across Europe giving echolocation and mobility lessons and workshops to organisations for the blind, families of blind children, and to both individuals and groups of blind children and adults. He teaches in English and Dutch.

Despite being visually impaired, Thomas obtained Master’s degree in Sociology from Delhi Schools of Economics, University of Delhi. Currently he is based in Belgium and works with one of the world’s renowned NGOs ‘Visioneers or World Access’ to impart independent navigational skills to blind individuals across the world.

Thomas, who doesn’t see blindness as a disability but as a different set of capabilities in experiencing and being in the world, said that blindness allows him to experience and interact with the world much more closely and intimately than the sense of sight might do.

Disability means the incapacity to lead a productive life and travel safely and independently on your own, said Thomas, who already serves as an Activational Workshop Visioneer in Europe, Asia and South America, informed that like him many others are blind but leading a normal productive life and are learning how to travel safely and freely on their own.

Speaking about the workshop, Thomas said, “The workshop session will not only help the students to develop better skills but will also assist in shaping their future.” He, however, said that echolocation works best through constant practice.

“Echo gives us special information about the objects and tells us the distance of those objects,” he said while sharing the importance of echo.

“With constant practice, visually impaired can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate safely through the environment using echolocation,” said Thomas, while informing that during the two-day workshop he will impart all kind of echolocation techniques to the students.

EDOS chairman Sanjoy Dolo while expressing gratitude to Thomas for coming all the way from Belgium to impart echolocation techniques to the students, requested him to keep inspiring the people. “You have inspired many across the globe and we want you to keep inspiring,” Dolo said.

Vice-Chairman Donyi-Polo Mission School for the Hearing & Visually Impaired, Dr Oken Apang while lauding the EDOS for conducting the workshop said that more such innovative and important works should be organized to help out the students to learn more things in life. He also expressed gratitude to Thomas for coming to the school and encouraging the students.

School Principal H Sharma highlighted how the studies and curriculums take place for the students. He informed that besides regular curriculum the school also imparts plus curriculum which includes Braille writing & reading.

Earlier, organizing chairman Er Ajit Tajo Sonam informed about the main objective of the two-day workshop.

Later, Thomas, using various objects such as bowl, tray, sticks etc, demonstrated the echolocation techniques. He walked around navigating objects and people without using walking sticks with the help of echolocation techniques. He also assigned students to do the same and answered questions asked during the interaction.

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