The cultural norms prevailing in Asia put women at a disadvantage by placing them in a subordinate position in society. Asian women are constantly taught to be subservient. They are taught only to listen and not speak up. The lack of self-confidence leaves them with hunched shoulders, unable to stand tall and to make their voices heard. In such a society, the situation of vision impaired women is worse and they are often more timid and backward than their sighted counterparts.
Of late, Sri Lankan women have shown a tendency of combating outdated cultural norms and securing their rightful place in society. They have gathered the strength to pursue their ambitions. The number of career women has increased considerably in the recent past. However, the same cannot be said of women with vision impairment. Vision impaired women have difficulty in finding employment or setting up one’s own business. This is not purely due to the lack of hard skills or educational qualifications. Even if a vision impaired woman possesses the requisite qualifications and intellect for a particular profession, she fails because she lacks the personality traits that employers and clients look for.
Modern day employers specifically look for candidates who possess soft skills such as interpersonal skills, presentation skills, etiquettes, adequate grooming, team spirit, right attitude, flexibility, appropriate dressing sense and presentability, presence of mind, time management, work ethics, personal hygiene, listening skills, communication skills, street smartness and common sense. Research has shown that in this competitive era, mere hard skills do not make a person employable and enable that person to sustain in the professional life. Unfortunately, most vision impaired women are unable to acquire the skills which are required for personality development due to their impediment. Sighted people follow visual cues and learn from others or join a finishing school. Vision impaired women are unable to join mainstream finishing schools as most schools do not offer individualized lessons nor can they learn through observation. It is expected that the personality development programme specially designed to cater to the needs of this marginalized group of vision impaired women will give them the ability to project themselves better and create an impression on others and eventually find a sustainable income.
In order to improve the above skills the Asian Blind Union “Women & IT” project funded the “Organisational Leadership Development 2014”. The partner organisations were the Sri Lanka Federation of the Visually Handicapped and the Sri Lanka Council for the Blind. 16 young vision impaired ladies were trained on soft skills and on assistive device as a smart phone. Majority of the trainees were from The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon I.C.T. Training Centre for Persons with Disabilities.
The trainees were trained on:
Who am I and what gifts do I bring.
Why am I following this course?
Where am I now and where do I want to be at the end of the course.
Team building and the power of a Team.
Independence and control of my future.
The value of Time and managing it.
What are the different areas of our life and how do we balance it.
What is the Corporate World or what the world of work that I am in is or that I want to be in.
A lot of this was activity based and special attention was given to activities that vision impaired persons can engage in. The purpose of this session was largely to ensure that the participants wanted to learn and were excited to change their lives to reach the next level.
Personal Grooming and Etiquette
From hygiene matters through to Fashion in terms of personal Grooming
Handshake through to making conversation at business meetings and table manners
First Impressions and lasting impressions
What to do and what not to do at the work place and understanding the culture of the work
Developing inter-personal skills, how to get along with others
Communication 1: Interpersonal Communication
The use of our voice to create the desired impression and questions to ascertain correct
This was a practical session of feedback.
Telephone etiquette – Communicating on the phone
Making presentations and speeches, expressing one’s opinion at meetings
Communication 2: Body language
It is important as Vision impaired persons may not understand the importance of posture,
Gestures, use of space etc.
Communication 3: Voice for effective communication
How to vary volume, Tone, Rate of Speech, Quality of voice, according to the context
Subjects of conversation appropriate for different situations
Communication 4 -Structuring communication
Using what was learnt earlier – they will learn the main areas of communication and how to Structure their communication.
Participants were given the practical experience of table manners, office environment and hotel environment through a field visits to an office and a five star hotel.
Assistive Devices Training:
Introduction to android and touch system
Install your phone & Network.
How to setting your phone
How to answer a call?
How to dial a number?
How to check missed calls?
How to check received calls?
How to check dialed calls?
How to clear Call Log?
How to check a message?
How to create a message?
How to reply a message?
How to reply several people?
How to reply all?
How to forward a message?
How to check previous messages?
How to delete a message?
How to delete all messages?
How to check sent messages?
How to save a message?
How to set date and time?
How to use the calendar?
How to set alarm?
How to have a reminder?
How to use the calculator?
How to switch on the torch?
How to use the radio?
How to check the Connectivity
How to do Display settings
How to have Tone settings
How to check Profiles
How to do call settings
How to do Phone settings
How to do Security settings
How to create an email account?
How to log on to his/her email account?
How to check emails?
How to reply a message?
How to forward a message?
How to check sent items?
How to go to junk box?
How to delete a message from inbox?
How to go to delete box?
How to delete deleted items?
How to check draft?
How to open an attachment?
How to download several attachments?
How to send an attachment?
How to save attachments?
How to use Skype and Viber?
How to use the daisy player and read books?
How to use the voice recorder?
How to save voice memos?
How to take notes?
How to use Google play store
How to create a talkback setting
After the two and half months training the trainees were awarded certificates and a smart phone to be smart ladies. Ms. Manique Gunaratne was the Co-ordinator and resource person for the programme.