Date Posted 28 Mar 2022
Kalimat Foundation, a UAE-based global nonprofit, has facilitated play and social interaction between visually impaired children and their sighted peers as part of a storytelling and workshop session held to mark the UAE Reading Month, organised annually in March by the Ministry of Culture and Youth. The interactive event titled ‘I See You’, also sought to strengthen social bonds between the two groups and highlight the importance of access and inclusion in a community setting.
In collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation and Emirates Association of the Visually Impaired, Kalimat Foundation recently hosted the ‘I See You’ storytelling and tactile books workshop at the Al Rasheed Hall at House of Wisdom targeting 10 visually impaired and 10 sighted children in the 5-10 age group.
‘I See You’ aimed to send the message that despite the differences between the two groups, sighted and visually impaired children can connect through stories, auditory stimuli, and by sharing their emotions and feelings through a range of fun activities.
For five years now, Kalimat Foundation has been transforming the lives of visually impaired children through its “Ara” (I See) initiative that supports the production and facilitates the circulation of books in accessible formats for children who need it.
At the interactive session, Kalimat Foundation’s accessible format book, Yummier than Bananas (Atyab min AlMawz) by “ Kalimat Publish House”, was brought to life by the powerful storytelling skills of Samya Ayish. The same story inspired the ‘Tactile Books workshop’ led by Rana Thabet that was designed and conducted by the Sharjah Art Foundation.
Reinforcing the event’s message of promoting inclusive and safe learning environments, the book tells the story of a little monkey named Sammour who tries to impersonate all the animals he meets in the jungle just to befriend them. Eventually, Sammour discovers the value of self-love and accepts his identity, and discovers how, in appreciating each other’s differences, one can receive love in abundance.
In keeping with its steadfast and earnest efforts to support visually impaired children, the Emirates Association of the Visually Impaired invited participants to the workshop, guided them through it, and supplied two braille typewriters for their use during the activities. The Little Readers team at House of Wisdom also assisted Kalimat Foundation with event set up and in conducting the two activities.
Amna Al Mazmi, Manager of Kalimat Foundation, said: “To ensure literacy and promote lifelong learning opportunities of the visually impaired, it is essential to create a culture of inclusive, safe, and supportive learning environments. ‘I See You’ demonstrated how the shared experience of listening to a story enhanced with auditory elements can connect visually impaired children with their sighted peers and inculcate the values of empathy and acceptance of their unique identities.”
She added: “Print disabled children need our full support, advocacy, and solidarity; and collaborations with like-minded partners are vital in integrating them into the wider community to foster a sense of belonging and build their social competencies through peer acceptance. The activities hosted at ‘I See You’ sought to uphold the crucial need of all children to access a wealth of learning opportunities that ensure maximum participation and enhance a culture of inclusivity in diverse social settings.”