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Monday, March 23, 2009

Car Rally for the blind-Chennai 2009

This is the second guest post on this blog (read the first one here).Harsha Koda is a senior IT professional and entrepreneur who runs Jalakara.com and several other initiatives. In this post, he writes about a unique rally which is being held in Chennai. Rally for the blind, is a unique rally wherein blind navigators guide their drivers by reading out the instructions given to them in Braille and together they reach the destination. Harsha was the winner in Novice category in the 2007 edition of this event. This year’s event in happening on coming Sunday, 29th March, so explore if you can participate. Find out more about this rally in the post below. - Admin

The Rally for the blind this year is next Sunday - March 29th in Chennai.

I'm not sure if you know how the blind rally works but it is a very interesting format... Every time we help the blind cross the road, they put their 'faith' in us ... I think it is payback time and this rally is designed to ask us to put our ‘blind faith’ in their 'navigational skills' ... using a braille navigation chart. The tulip chart (driving instructions chart) is given in Braille which a sighted person cannot read. So the blind navigator reads out the instructions on the speed, directions, etc which guides the car thru the streets of Chennai ... to the finish. (something similar to World Rally Championship or WRC where navigators guide drivers. But WRC is considered an EXTREME SPEED event for SKILLED DRIVERS while the blind rally is more a TIME_SPEED_DISTANCE rally.... very SLOW... more skill and co-ordination.... so that everyday drivers can take part)

There’ll be usually 3-4 people in each car, the driver, the blind navigator, the time keeper and sometimes, one more person who plays the role of the writer. The roles of the Driver, Blind Navigator, and Time keeper are pretty clear. The role of a writer is to write down all the instructions as they are read out by the blind and pass it on to the sighted navigator. This is done because it is sometimes difficult for the blind to go back to a previous instruction or read instructions again and again (in a moving car).

Here is how the tulip chart reads... in brail... for e.g..

Speed change 0.00 to 3.50 Kms. Travel at 30 Kmph
0.00 Zero Odo at gate and turn left onto main road.
0.50 Traffic signal take left.
1.80 T junction take left
2.30 Turn right keeping Sangeeta Restaurant on your left.etc.


Here is a tip on how to succeed... ask the blind to read all the instructions continuously without waiting for reaching the next reading/ marking. This helps us sighted people as we are always 'looking' for a 'reference' that we can 'see'.

But by experience I have found the as much as we underestimate the blind... I have had my navigator tell me once... "saar! if you turn left here you will go to T.Nagar".... amazing!... they are subconsciously aware of where we are - in time and space... so to speak.

A very interesting rally covers about 60 kms in Chennai city and helps several blind people 'see' how we 'sighted' people react when we get lost or clueless as to where we are going.

I have participated in this unique experience before and my experiences of the rally are on my blog. Please do read it to get more idea of what it is all about.

This year’s Rally for the Blind is scheduled for Sunday, 29th March 2009. The event is organized by Madras Motor Sports Club (MMSC) with the support of the National Association of the Blind and sponsored by Chennai's Savera Hotels. So if you have a car, a bunch of friends, 500 Rs (Registration fee per team) and half-a-Sunday to spare... come take part in this rally and make it meaningful... and I guarantee you will have a great time.

In case you wish to participate:
Supplementary Regulations and entry forms are available for download at
http://madrasmotorsports.in/Rally_for_the_Blind_SRs.doc
http://madrasmotorsports.in/Rally_for_the_Blind_Entryform.doc

Registrations are on at MMSC office or with the Lobby Manager at Savera Hotel. Call 2499 0998, for more details. Entries can also be sent by email to mmsc_chennai@yahoo.co.in, the fee can be paid at the briefing meeting. which is on 28th march at 3:30 P.M. at Savera Hotel, Radha Krisha Salai, Mylapore Chennai. Please make sure you attend the briefing positively because you will be allotted your blind navigators, Competition numbers and given your sample tulip/speed chart to do a test run on Saturday.

The Rally will start from Savera Hotel at 9:30 A.M. sharp it will cover a distance of approx. 50-60 K.M. and finish at Savera hotel. There will be lunch at Savera for all participants along with entertainment and games.

Please pass this info to your friends who might be interested in participating.
-Harsha Koda

Post Event Update: Harsha tells me that this year's event, for the first time ever in the history, attracted more cars than number of blind navigators and organizers had to send back some enthusiasts.


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