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ICT Training for Blind and Visually Impaired Persons

By Glen Simon

Members of the St. Lucia Blind Welfare Association (SLBWA) recently benefited from a week-long ICT training programme.  The computer training programme is part of the continued advocacy by the SLBWA for the full integration of blind and visually impaired persons in every aspect of the Saint Lucian society and economy.

The month of May is observed as Blindness Awareness Month where increased attention is focused on the successes, challenges and strides of the blind and visually impaired segment of the population. The theme for this year’s Blindness Awareness Month is “I am more than what you see.”

For years, braille has been the only form of direct access to the written word for persons living with blindness. The St. Lucia Blind Welfare Association (SLBWA) in its thrust for inclusion, resilience and increased opportunities for its member organized a week-long ICT training programme to build competencies whilst equipping its members with the added tools for employment and job creation. Anthony Avril is the Executive Director of the SLBWA.

“The computer technology is certainly opening the world in many ways so that we can communicate with people who can’t read braille but can read regular prints. This is where the computer gives us an advantage. I am saying us because I am part of the community as well being physically blind.”

The SLBWA advocates for the inclusion of everyone regardless of their visual status and thus has embraced the opportunity afforded through ICT to balance the playing field for its members.

“Of course, there is always a constrain of resources to engage regular IT Teachers because we have to provide the access not just to school children but also to those who are interested in continuing education, interested in employment and you know these days online employment has become one of the ways to go for many of our persons who through no fault of theirs would be restricted and homebound…And we are very grateful for this.  So you will notice that we have a group of our people and that they are really enjoying the opportunity. We want to expose many, many, many more and we also what to do it in the south of the island as well.”

Lance Prospere was the tutor for the ICT training session at the SLBWA. He is currently the IT teacher at the Dame Louisy Primary School.  He said though it was challenging teaching computer skills to low vision and blind persons he was impressed by how quickly they picked up the tips and techniques he taught.

“This programme should show that ICT is something that should be implemented fully because those persons with disabilities are able to navigate the computer and this programme really demonstrates that they should be introduced to ICT at an early level.”

The World Health Organisation estimates that over 2.2 billion people globally are impacted by some form of visual impairment or blindness, this includes everyone who wears some form of corrective lenses.  Lina Theophilus is a member of the SLBWA who participated in the computer training.  She advocates for increased opportunities for blind and visually impaired persons.

“I don’t think that persons with blindness or visual impairment keep themselves back. I think that people don’t give blind and visually impaired persons a chance to show what we can do or what we can learn. Because, not because we cannot do it the same way that visual persons can that doesn’t mean that we cannot learn to do it differently. So I don’t think we keep ourselves back, I think persons don’t give people with blindness or visual impairment a chance to learn something new.”

John Joseph expressed his appreciation for being included in the ICT training programme and hopes for increased opportunities for persons like himself.

“I have used a typewriter in a secretarial school I attended but to literally use a computer it’s my first time and that programme honestly through my heart, I love it.”

The ICT training was organized for both basic and advanced participants. The Executive Director of the SLBWA encourages individuals in the wider community to share their time and skills to make a positive impact on the lives of persons living with blindness and visual impairment.

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