The visually impaired are known to have a heightened sense of sound and they can echolocate their destination with reasonable ease also have enhanced tactile sense.
However, COVID-19, the disease that has brought the world to its knees, has compounded their difficulties as they navigate the maze of their dark, humdrum lives where touching, largely, is taboo and social distancing the norm.
Students of a premier Kolkata school for the visually impaired, who are currently at home due to the lockdown, are worried a lot, clueless about how will they maintain social distancing once the institute reopens in June.
"A visually impaired person often touches an object or holds the arm of a person to navigate his or her way. However, with social distancing norms in place, this has become a problem for them," a teacher at Calcutta Blind School said.
At home, they are somehow managing their daily lives, but when the lockdown is lifted, they may face difficulties in maintaining the social distancing norms, which are expected to remain in force for some time, he said.
Subir Das, a class 11 student of the institute said, "At home, I think it is still safe to navigate our way. We can touch the doorknob or the switchboard. But I have to learn to move around without touching anything once I go out after the lockdown is over. I will go out either with my mother or sister after the lockdown is lifted. Maintaining social distancing during that time will be a challenge," he added.
The suspension of the classes has posed another problem.
Over 100 students of the school are not able to learn mathematics lessons as the subject is taught only with Braille books under the supervision of a teacher, an educator at the institute said.
Other subjects of humanities and science are taught through audio lectures, he said.
"Their Braille mathematics books have been kept in the classrooms," the teacher said.
The institute has given mobile handsets to the guardians so they can be in touch with the authorities, if needed. The arrangement was made before the classes were suspended, he said.
Many students feel home study was no match to classroom learning, the teacher said.
Examinations for classes 11 and 12 were conducted before the nationwide lockdown was imposed.
However, one of the 22 boarders got stranded due to the lockdown and school authorities dropped him home in Nabadwip in Nadia district, the teacher said.
A total of 180 students of another school for the visually impaired at Chaitanyapur in East Midnapore district are, however, currently lodged in the hostel, a spokesperson for the institute said.
"They are devising ways to maintain social distancing. They are facing difficulties but are still coping with it," he added