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Participants learn to improve their visual senses during the event at Zaabeel Park. – Photo by Mohammad Mustafa Khan

A student who attended Baqaeen’s workshop for the first time was able to correctly color the UAE flag by tracing the textured outline on the canvas.

People who are visually-impaired can become good visual artists by honing their olfactory and tactile senses – this was the emphasis during a workshop at the launch of ‘Little Reader Festival’ by the Ministry of Community Development (MoCD) in Dubai on Tuesday.

The festival, part of the UAE’s Month of Reading, included a workshop on the impact of colours on people with visual disabilities and also featured a Sign Language Museum for people with hearing disabilities.

Visiting Jordanian artist Suheil Baqaeen, who conducted the painting workshop, explained to Khaleej Times that scents were added to the colouring materials so the visually impaired artists can distinguish them.

“It’s simple: Each colour is infused with a natural essence that best represents it. Green smells mint; red smells like cherry and yellow is banana or lemon,” he said, adding: “Other colours like white emits the scent of vanilla, black is licorice, blue is lily, and so on.

“They (visually-impaired) are not completely blind – they still have peripheral vision and that is what we want to enhance. They can be creative and we only need to boost their imagination,” he added.

A student who attended Baqaeen’s workshop for the first time was able to correctly color the UAE flag by tracing the textured outline on the canvas. “The new student first chose the right colour by smelling it and by using her tactile sense, she was able to make the UAE flag while some advanced student-artists were able to make portraits,” Baqaeen noted.

Also at the reading festival, Hessa bint Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development, held an interactive session with the students and read a book titled “Black Colour”. “The people of determination always look forward for community engagement, making them interactive, productive and proactive society members. Such a step enhances their inclusion and empowerment in the community,” she said.  Marwa Al Aqroubi, chairman of UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBbY), added: “The event reveals our strong beliefs of inclusion for the people of determination in the community and enhances their relations with their surroundings and love for books. It also helps them to be active and effective members of the community. Reading books is the best way for communication with others and an inspiration for them to overcome challenges and fulfill their dreams,” Aqroubi said.

Other interactive sessions during the reading festival included sharing of successful stories of role model people and the ‘Pioneers of Reading’ session to highlight the skills of talented employees. There was also a special reading session for senior Emiratis held in cooperation with the Environment Friends Society about al Ghaf trees, and coinciding with the Year of Tolerance.  The Ministry also specified a reading hour in addition to other entertainment activities for the staff and several innovative competitions.

The Month of Reading emerged from the National Literacy Strategy to make reading as a way of life in the UAE. Its part of strategic goal aimed at producing a reading generation by enhancing the reading habits of individuals.

Dolls help kids understand stranger danger

Staff at Dibba Al Fujairah Handicap Centre are using talking dolls to explain stranger danger and how to avoid physical or sexual harassment to visually-impaired young kids.

“We came up with creative ways on how kids, especially the determined ones, can protect themselves against harassment. We put a button in the doll and whenever someone will touch its sensitive areas, it will say ‘Don’t Touch Me’ in Arabic,” Mona Hila, staff at Dibba Al Fujairah Handicap Centre, told Khaleej Times.

“We want to teach kids that they should not allow anyone to touch sensitive parts,” she added.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Community Development (MoCD) is using 3D printing technology to come up with assistive writing tools for young kids of determination.

Eqab Albadarneh, an occupational therapist at the MoCD, said 3D printed handles are added to pencils to help the special kids with poor motor skills get a better grip of the writing materials.

Source: Visually-impaired artists hone their skills at MoCD workshop – Khaleej Times