Act as navigators behind the wheels with the help of Braille maps during the first blind car rally.
Gagan K. Teja
Tribune News Service
Patiala, April 9
A car rally is usually related to speed and driving skills but as 52 cars rolled out on the streets of the city today with unique teams of sighted drivers and visually impaired navigators embarking upon a 40-km journey, it was a rare sight for the onlookers.
Organised by the Society for Welfare of the Handicapped as part of its golden jubilee celebrations, Patiala today witnessed its first blind car rally in which the blind acted as navigators for drivers behind the wheels with the help of Braille maps while criss-crossing throughout the city landmarks.
The rally was a unique example of coordination between a sighted driver and a visually impaired navigator held with an aim to bypass misconceptions about people with disabilities and provide them with a platform where they could display their skills. It was approved by the Federation of the Motor Sports Club of India and each participant was insured for Rs 5 lakh by the federation.
“It was the best day of my life. Travelling doesn’t excite me a bit since I cannot see and all I used to do while travelling is sleep. But today, I actually experienced how one feels while driving. I can’t wait to attend more such events,” said visibly excited Harman (15).
For 28-year-old visually impaired Shiv Kumar Sharma, who works with the Legal Services Department in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Chandigarh, this was once-in-a-lifetime experience when he led a driver to his destination after covering 40 km. He said it had made him confident that he can achieve anything in life.
Meanwhile, one of the female drivers Chetna, who took part in the rally, along with her six-year-old daughter Anahad, said: “I wanted my daughter to see how these children fight against all odds to excel in life, whereas people like us keep complaining about small little things in life”.
Secretary of the Society Col Karaminder Singh (retd) said he had heard about such rallies being held in Surat and Mumbai. But recently he happened to see one such rally that was held at Surat and he decided to give it a shot.
“Such rallies are held to create a relationship of total dependency between the driver and the blind navigator and are aimed at building an emotional connection with close communication amongst these disabled persons and the society. Initially, I was a little reluctant as to what would be the response of people. But when our team started working on different administrative and financial aspects, we were confident that we can organise a successful rally in Patiala,” he said.
Society president Balwinder Singh Brar thanked the volunteers who helped in making this event a great success.
Women’s section: 1. Jiwanjot Kaur and Dialwan; 2. Diwana Mangla and Sujata; and 3. Prabhjot Kaur and Sunaina.
Men’s section: 1. Arshdeep Singh and Pawan Kumar; 2. Sumanjot Singh and Shiv Kumar; 3. J. Mittal and Shiv Kumar.
Navigators had to ensure that the drivers not only travelled the correct 40-km route at the correct speed, but also that they arrived at six checkpoints precisely on time. Anytime they didn’t meet those requirements, they received penalty points: 15 points for arriving at a checkpoint one minute early; and two point penalty point for reaching one minute late and 30 penalty points for missing a check point.
Preneet gave away prizes to winners
While Patiala SSP S Bhupathi flagged off the rally at 10 am, Patiala Deputy Commissioner Kumar Amit received the rally. Former Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur gave away prizes to the winners and presented mementos to all participants.
For 28-year-old visually impaired Shiv Kumar Sharma, who works with the Legal Services Department in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Chandigarh, this was once-in-a-lifetime experience when he led a driver to his destination after covering 40 km.