Sightsavers and the Eye Bank Society of Rajasthan recently organised a motorsport rally with a difference: blind and visually impaired navigators directed the sighted drivers around the bustling streets of Jaipur!
Visually impaired people from all over the state joined prominent local personalities in the cockpit to take part in The Raj Car Rally with Visually Impaired Persons. The unique event brought local businesses and a wide range of disabled people’s organisations together, and demonstrated how sighted and disabled people can work together to achieve their goals.
Competing in teams of four, local personalities took to the wheel accompanied by a time keeper and writer, but the most important job fell upon the visually impaired navigator. Driving instructions were only given in Braille, so it was up to the navigators to ensure the drivers knew when to speed up, slow down, turn the right way and ensure their team crossed the finish line.
The day began with the teams getting to know each other as the cars were prepared, including some that were decorated with positive messages about the inclusion of disabled people in society. But with the cars in position the serious business of rallying got underway, and the teams set off from the Ashok Club through the busy streets of Jaipur.
The rally was managed by the same teams that run the Himalayan and Desert rallies, who had kindly offered their services for free, so professional marshals monitored the rally at various checkpoints along the 60 kilometre circuit. All 42 visually impaired navigators ensured their teams powered into top gear and finished the course reaching the chequered flag at the Desert Trails resort in good time. The rally was concluded with an awards ceremony, where trophies and prizes were given out to recognise the winners and all those who had contributed to a truly special day.
This car rally has been able to highlight and impress upon the people the fact that visually challenged people too are capable
The drivers were clearly impressed with their visually impaired teammates’ abilities, Raj Rally driver Ajayvir Khurana said: “The way my navigator guided me quickly and clearly was amazing. I just couldn’t believe it.” The rally had a big impact on the visually impaired participants too, Mukesh Kumar explained what the experience had meant to him: “This has definitely increased my confidence level. I think there should be many more events like this so that everyone can understand that even those who can’t see can achieve a lot, if given a chance.”
The Raj Car Rally was a huge success across the board; the event grabbed the attention of the national media, used the support of local businesses and united disabled people’s organisations in the region in a way that has never happened before. In fact the rally was such a success that the cars will be motoring back next year as it has now become part of the annual Jaipur Heritage Festival.
Sightsavers’ Abraham George said, “This car rally has been able to highlight and impress upon the people the fact that visually challenged people too are capable. Through this event we have been able to bring together numerous organisations working in the field of disability in Rajasthan on one common platform, which has never happened before.”
Perhaps most importantly of all, the Raj Car Rally has once again highlighted the abilities of disabled and visually impaired people, and demonstrates how they can work alongside sighted people to achieve any number of goals. The event has had a huge impact on Jaipur, and will hopefully help to build an equal society with opportunities for all.