Silence precedes every exercise; moments of repose, for contemplation of the experience of sounds, not noise, of textures, not surfaces, of fragrances, not smells. “I can hear students playing basketball outside,” one student says. “How do you know it’s basketball?” Mr. Arnol asks, and as she starts to answer, he interrupts: “Don’t use your hands. Tell me.” The words are critical for those who cannot see. He then plays various sounds for us: a piano, horses galloping, a baby’s laughter.
The students are divided into four groups, each a mix of the sighted and the visually disabled. It’s time to go deeper, to a new exercise. To not just hear sounds but feel things with their hands. Various articles mounted on cardboard sheets — a sponge, a wire mesh, gloves, corn — are passed around. This time, the sighted students are blindfolded, and everyone is helping the other figure out what they are touching. “This has to be a grain,” says one visually impaired student, gingerly touching the corn. “It’s not dirty, don’t worry,” his blindfolded neighbour says. A visually impaired student touches the cardboard, and quickly moves to the pair of jeans his sighted friend is wearing. Laughter follows: “You’re not supposed to touch me !”