While the city gets ready to take in the sights and sounds of another Durga Puja, a thought has been spared for those who are barred from the privilege of appreciating the artistry and grandeur by the lack of vision.
A Braille display stand will be set up in front of three community pujas this year — Hazra Park Durgotsab Committee, State Bank Park in Thakurpukur and Young Boys Club, near the Chitpur crossing.
The board will have a description of the look of the pandal that the sightless can grasp by touching its surface so that they are not dependent on a volunteer to explain to them what other visitors can appreciate on their own.
The stand is the initiative of National Institute of Professionals (NIP), an educational and cultural centre for the blind and other differently abled.
“The hurdles that people with disabilities face in our society are innumerable. Many private buses refuse to let them board. We tie rakhis on drivers and conductors at the Dharmatala bus stand, hoping they have a change of heart. In such a context, taking people with challenges around during a crowded festival was unthinkable a decade or so ago,” said Debajyoti Roy, secretary of NIP.
The organisation started a Puja award judged by the differently abled and senior citizens in 2010 in order to take them pandal-hopping.
“Access for them was an alien concept then. Every other pandal had a few steps which put the brakes on the wheelchair-bound. But Puja has come a long way since then in terms of inclusivity. You have ramps and wheelchairs at most big pandals now,” said Roy.
The organisation used to bring out a Braille Puja guide with location details of pandals. “Now the emergence of Google Map with audio directions serves the purpose. So we have stopped publishing the guide,” he added.
But “showing” the sightless was still an issue. Says Sanjoy Majumdar of SB Park Sarbojanin: “People with challenges do visit our pandal.... When the proposal came to us, we readily agreed to install such a board.”
The first board will be launched at Hazra Park Sarbojanin on Friday.