On the occasion of World Sight Day on Thursday, Blind Walks were organised in over 200 locations around India and four other countries - Canada, China, Philippines, Sri Lanka. What is a Blind Walk? Well, people with sight wear blindfolds and walk through the streets to experience - at least for a short while what it is like not to be able to see. They are led by the visually disabled - for whom the lack of vision is a daily experience.
This is the sixth year of the walks. The aim of the walks is to increase empathy - and also to raise awareness about eye donation.
Father George of the non-profit The Project Vision is the man behind the walks. He told NDTV, "This should be a movement with all classes and groups of people are involved. That is the only way to change the mindset so that more people come forward to express solidarity with visually challenged people. And also to make that decision to not burn or bury their eyes but to donate their eyes."
Anandhi Viswanathan, President, Rotary Bangalore Abilities, took part for the first time. She said, "Eye donation is something I am passionate about. Most people don't get the importance of eye donation. When a person dies, usually their eyes are buried or burnt with them. If they were to be donated, they could make a difference to two people."
Jayanth Kumar, Founder Member of The Project Vision, said, "Sighted people experience for a few minutes. Walk with the help of blind people - and feel how they feel. They will get awareness and get to pledge their eyes."
Participants in the walk went from the St Joseph's school on Bengaluru's Museum Road to the busy Brigade Road. About 300 people took part in the walk which was supported by many NGOs and corporates. One participant, Pasha, said he took part because his wife is a glaucoma patient and he wanted to understand what she was going through.
Subramani, a visually challenged journalist, helped to lead one group of walkers. He told NDTV, "People should be sensitive. When walking on arterial roads, you often find people not paying much attention. This is a reversal of roles. I will be telling people how to walk. The world has to be accessible and equal for everybody. "
According to The Project Vision, India has 15 million blind persons - accounting for worlds one third blind population. Three million of these visually challenged persons could see again through eye donation. But only 68,409 person donated their eyes last year despite nine million deaths as per National Program for the Control of Blindness (NPCB).