Photo: Ajit Solanki (AP)
The world of racing isn’t a particularly diverse place. We’ve talked about minorities in racing before, but we often assume that the people who climb into the car are at the peak of fitness. But why shouldn’t differently-abled folk get a taste of the action, too?
That’s the idea behind the Blind Man Car Rally. Hosted in India each year, just about anyone with a car can take part. You show up — after hopefully decorating your car in the designated annual theme — and team up with a visually impaired co-driver. The co-driver then does what all co-drivers do: they give the driver all the directions they need to compete. They just do it by reading braille, instead.
The biggest difference between this rally and the rallies you might be familiar with is that drivers are supposed to follow a set speed to ensure the safety of everyone involved. You’re penalised for showing up to a stage checkpoint too early, just like you’d suffer if you got there too late.
It’s an incredibly neat concept. The event is intended to empower blind folk by proving that they’re entirely capable of taking part in racing while also fostering connections between the blind and the sighted. Being differently abled can feel isolating; it’s awesome to see those societal barriers being broken so everyone can share in a common love of motorsport. The rally is hosted in a different location each year, giving participants a chance to explore different cities and make friends along the way.
And that’s not all. According to their Facebook events, all proceeds that the event makes are donated toward “the welfare of the visually impaired and education for underprivileged children”. Sometimes, racing can feel like it’s just a big gaping money pit intended to make rich people even richer. So, it’s pretty awesome to see a whole event dedicated to the folk who are often excluded from the racing community.
It’s damn popular, too. Because the location changes annually, the number of participants does as well, but there are often upward of 85 cars taking to the course. That’s an impressive number of people who get to spend one weekend a year experiencing the thrill of racing where they otherwise might not get a chance to do so.
Props to you, India. It’s awesome to see inclusivity on such an incredible scale.