Summer CSGC Grant Update: My Time … Starts … Now: Enabling Voices of the Visually Impaired

For my summer Grant project, I wanted to focus on providing speech and debate training to underprivileged kids throughout Asia. I wanted to address this issue because the infrastructure for teaching English in these regions is incredibly sparse and lacking. I wanted to provide opportunities for them to learn a foreign language they previously did not have.

Through the process of planning, I’ve decided to partner with a blind school in Shanghai that I worked with before I came to Deerfield. This blind school is called Orbis, and its goal is to provide English lessons to blind kids throughout Asia via online tutoring sessions with volunteers. Recently Orbis has also started a series of speech tournaments to offer students more opportunities to practice their English in a tournament setting rather than waiting for an available tutoring slot. Because of how close their goals align with my project’s aim, I wanted to provide additional support via funding to procure resources and offer my teaching skills from my debate background.

Because of this, my role falls into two main jobs: I act as an organizer that helps set up the online tournament format, recruit volunteers, and invite adjudicators to judge the tournament. The second primary role I serve is as a tutor, using the speech and debate skills I gained to provide transcripts for the children to craft their speeches and offer them greater academic resources. I also fill in available slots for Orbis’s regular English lessons to grasp the range of proficiency and age of the visually impaired students. With all this information collected, a group of peers and I decided that the topic “My Aspirations” was appropriate for the average age of students participating.

Additionally, we will host multiple workshops to offer advice and feedback on the speeches that the students will write. The tournament will happen on the 19th of August, with four workshops during the two months. My grant aims to maximize participation among the visually impaired by procuring resources. With my budget, most of the funding will go to a Braille printer in Shanghai to translate all of Orbis’s written lessons into Braille so the students can learn on their own. I think this is the best use of the funding due to the unique nature of these Braille sheets promoting independence among these students rather than pushing them to rely on other mechanisms that don’t empower them.

As a result, I believe that putting the grant toward the solution of a Braille printer is the most worthwhile. This solution also addresses the post-covid social climate in Asia and especially China, where the “Zero COVID” policy has set back a lot of educational curriculums for a few months. This situation means that many of the usual students won’t be able to participate in the tournament as their schools finish their classes throughout the summer as lockdown restrictions finally lift, especially in my hometown of Shanghai. Through these Braille sheets, students can still participate in the learning phase of the tournament by reading the material on their own time.

I am hopeful we will get a good turnout for our tournament as everyone is excited for everyday activities to resume post-lockdown.

-Billy Tang ’25