For a month, Writer’s Cafe in Chennai will host a unique drive – its menu will have jumbled words and prices. No, it’s not to give customers a hard time but to raise awareness on dyslexia.
The idea came about when the Madras Dyslexia Association approached restaurateur Mahadevan who readily agreed to implement the awareness campaign as his cafe.
Speaking to TNM, Rashmi Wankhede of the Madras Dyslexia Association says, “Tomorrow (April 7) onwards, until May 7, we are converting the cafe into a dyslexia cafe. We are going to give an experience to the people. Nobody has to register, they just have to walk in. This will be giving them an experience of what they (persons living with dyslexia) go through.”
In addition to the mini-makeover of the cafe itself, there are other ideas in store as well. “We also have a help desk throughout the month. Experts in the field of dyslexia will be at the cafe from 1 to 3 pm in the afternoon. If anyone has a doubt, they can approach the help desk. This is when they see maximum footfall at the cafe. We have small quiz sheets and puzzles.”
The LED screens will also play a small story about a child who has dyslexia.Incidentally, Writer’s Cafe is staffed by burn and acid attack survivors.
Mahadevan says he was smitten by the idea from the start. This isn’t the first time a business owned by him has held awareness programmes of this scale.
Speaking to TNM, Mahadevan says, “For me, Writer’s Cafe is cafe where it’s profit with a purpose. We have employed burn survivors, and the entire proceeds goes to their rehabilitation and helping the burn survivors, acid attack survivors find a job. When I was asked if this could be implemented for a month and I said why not? This is a cafe with a heart.”
He adds, “During the Joy of Giving week, we had 20 people dine at Copper Chimney. The entire proceeds of nearly Rs 3,000 for a plate went to the Shankara Eye Hospital. We bound their (the customers) eyes with a dark black cloth. Then we served them food. How a visually challenged person will have his dinner ... It’s spread awareness.”
He hopes to bring back this awareness programme in a cyclical manner over the year. “After four to five months, we want to come back with another fifteen-day run of this initiative. In a year’s time, we want to do three runs of it. One month first, fifteen days second and a week third. Our aim is to spread awareness. I have a platform and I want to utilise it.”
Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. It is classified as a specific learning difficulty.
According to the Madras Dyslexia Association, “Dyslexia is an invisible disability. Which means that dyslexics look completely normal to others, while they are not able to learn in particular traditional methods of learning. They do learn and understand, but differently.”