Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bills are now easily recognizable for the visually impaired

The government discriminates against blind people by printing money that all looks and feels the same, a federal judge said Tuesday in a ruling that could change the face of American currency.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson ordered the Treasury Department to come up with ways for the blind to tell bills apart. He said he wouldn't tell officials how to fix the problem, but he ordered them to begin working on it.

The American Council of the Blind has proposed several options, including printing bills of differing sizes, adding embossed dots or foil to the paper or using raised ink.

"Of the more than 180 countries that issue paper currency, only the United States prints bills that are identical in size and color in all their denominations," Robertson wrote. "More than 100 of the other issuers vary their bills in size according to denomination, and every other issuer includes at least some features that help the visually impaired."

Government attorneys argued that forcing the Treasury Department to change the size of the bills or add texture would make it harder to prevent counterfeiting. Robertson was not swayed.

"The fact that each of these features is currently used in other currencies suggests that, at least on the face of things, such accommodations are reasonable," he wrote.

He said the government was violating the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in government programs. The opinion came after a four-year legal fight.

Electronic devices are available to help blind people differentiate between bills, but many complain that they are slow, expensive and unreliable. Visually impaired shoppers frequently rely on store clerks to help them.

"It's just frankly unfair that blind people should have to rely on the good faith of people they have never met in knowing whether they've been given the correct change," said Jeffrey A. Lovitky, attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Others have developed ways to cope with the similarly shaped bills. Melanie Brunson, a member of the American Council of the Blind, told the court that she folds her bills into different shapes: $1 bills stay straight, $5 bills are folded in half left to right, $10 bills in half top to bottom and $20 in quarters.

The Treasury Department had no comment on the ruling Tuesday. The government has 10 days to decide whether to appeal.

U.S. bills have not always been the same size. In 1929, the government standardized the size and shrank all bills by about 30 percent to lower manufacturing costs and help distinguish between genuine and counterfeit notes.

Since then, the Treasury Department has worked to stay ahead of counterfeiters. Security threads and microprinting were introduced in 1990. The portraits were enlarged in 1996, and an infrared feature was added to encourage the development of electronic readers for the blind.

The latest redesign is under way. New $10 bills, featuring splashes of orange, yellow and red, hit the market this year, following similar changes to the $20 bill in 2003 and the $50 bill in 2004. The $5 facelift is due in 2008.

In court documents, government attorneys said changing the way money feels would be expensive. Cost estimates ranged from $75 million in equipment upgrades and $9 million annual expenses for punching holes in bills to $178 million in one-time charges and $50 million annual expenses for printing bills of varying sizes.

Any change to the dollar's design could ripple into the vending machine industry, which participated in discussions regarding previous redesigns. The American Council of the Blind is not seeking changes to the $1 bill, according to court documents.

The Treasury Department spent $4.2 billion on printing over the past decade, Robertson said. Adding a raised number to the bills would have increased costs less than 5 percent over that period, he said.

"If additional savings could be gained by incorporating the new feature into a larger redesign, such as those that took place in 1996 or 2004, the total burden of adding such a feature would be even smaller," Robertson wrote.

Visually impaired models make an impression

Twenty-year-old Ekta Rangani walked down the ramp in a designer saree, swaying to the beat of a pop tune and giving no indication of her visual impairment.

Ekta and 30 other participants from across Gujarat participated in the country's first beauty and fashion show for the visually impaired held on Sunday morning in Surendranagar town, 112 km from Ahmedabad.

"This is the first time that a fashion show of this nature is being organised in India wherein the models and their groomers are all visually impaired. Only the choreographer is sighted and she guides the models," Muktaben, who heads the NGO Pragna Chakshu Mahila Seva Kunj that organised the event, said.She added it was a major challenge to organise the beauty contest due to "inexperience in the field" but the NGO was happy to get an overwhelming response from across the state.

"It was tough initially to wear the clothes and to walk to the beat of music. But the choreographer has been very patient and we enjoyed it," Ekta said.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Employment rises amongst the visually impaired

One of Elmira’s least known small businesses, operated by the Southern Tier Association for the Visually Impaired, is weeks away from wrapping up an expansion project that will allow the operation to add more workers and expand the activities those workers will do.

The $188,000 expansion will add 3,456 sq.-ft. of manufacturing and warehousing space to the existing building at 719 Lake St, which houses a small not-for-profit business that hires visually impaired workers . The new space will initially be used for a new product line — nine varieties of surgical and industrial face masks, although the agency’s executive director Timothy Hertlein said additional product lines would be coming the future.

Presently, the workers employed by the agency refurbish laser toner cartridges.The construction is scheduled for completion in December and the new products will be distributed in January.

Monday, November 20, 2006

School for the visually impaired make families hopeful!

Alicia Shackelford, 24, has been bringing her daughter, Jenesis Rose Adkission, to Anchor Center for Blind Children for two years. The center has applied for a Season to Share grant.

Her answers to questions about the school, and those of teacher Cathy Smyth, have been edited for space and clarity.

What brought you to the school?

My little girl was shaken when she was 5 weeks old. Now she's got a brain that's like swiss cheese - it's got a lot of dead parts in it. So we've got to find a way to make the live parts connect, so that she can talk and see.

How did you hear about the school?

Social services.

How has the center helped you?

When Jeni first came here, she wouldn't let anyone touch her. Now, she'll let anyone get close to her. She sits up by herself and can stand.

If I had to do this without the Anchor Center, we wouldn't be half as far along. They help show you how to make a child who doesn't see, see.

It also gives you hope. Every parent who comes here gets frustrated. Sometimes, when I look at Jeni, I think she should be out playing with her sister in the yard, instead of sitting in her playpen. But my fairy tale didn't turn out. Coming here makes me realize not everyone's fairy tale turned out the way they thought.

What do you see for Jeni's future?

I do believe that one day Jeni will get to the level where she can read and write. My biggest hope is that some day she'll walk down the street and make a friend.

Teacher Cathy Smyth has taught at Anchor Center for seven years and has worked with visually impaired people for 20 years.

How and why did you get into this line of work?

Anchor is my dream job: I've wanted to be a teacher to the visually impaired since I was 13. I like to work with families one-on-one, and visually impaired kids can be anywhere from multichallenged to geniuses. That makes it a challenge.

How have your clients changed over the years?

We used to have a lot of premature babies and babies whose mothers got measles in pregnancy, causing deafness and blindness.

Now we see congenital optic nerve defects, problems stemming from a lack of blood to the brain during childbirth and a lot of shaken babies.

Tell me about a time where you really made a difference.

We had a little boy who was diagnosed with severe eye damage. Doctors wanted to remove his eyes. When he came here, he was drawn to a black light box, which shows colors in high contrast.
Most people don't know this, but vision has to be taught. We worked with him and he started to learn to use the vision he had. By the time he left, he was using shadows to help him navigate as he walked down the hall. Now he's in Denver Public Schools, doing very well.

Another time, a 6-month-old girl came in. We showed her a red-cap flashlight, and for the first time in her life, she reached for an object. Her mother was weeping. We give parents hope.

What keeps you up at night?

Not a whole lot. This is a pretty happy place. We are a family.

What's your biggest joy?

Watching the preschoolers go off to graduation by themselves and go on to kindergarten.
In general, we celebrate the little things here. Even when a child can reach out with their feet to touch something. Anytime a child reaches a milestone, however small, it's worth celebrating.
What's your motto?

We at Anchor Center feel visually impaired kids have no limits. They are kids first and visually impaired last.

Post-News Season To Share, a fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, last year gave more than $1.73 million to 56 agencies serving children, people who are hungry, homeless or in need of medical care. Donations are matched at 50 cents for each dollar and 100 percent of all donations go directly to local charitable agencies. To make a donation, see the coupon on page 10A of today's paper, call 1-888-683-4483, or visit

Anchor Center for Blind Children

• Mission: To teach life skills to visually impaired children and their parents • Year founded: 1982 • Clients helped each year: 480 • Number of staff: 21 • Number of volunteers: 20 • Budget: $1.1 million • Web site:

A center for the visually impaired receives a $30,000 grant

The Visually Impaired Center Inc. has received a $30,000 grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to be used for consulting costs to help the organization with fundraising and operational expenses, among other issues.

The center serves Genesee, Shiawassee and Lapeer counties and has been helping the visually impaired since 1970.

It assists more than 200 people each year with Braille instruction, computer classes, use of low vision aids and acquiring independent living skills. The VIC also has an extensive program with the Hurley Diabetes Center to help the visually impaired with diabetes.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Proposal of apartments for the visually impaired

A Buffalo-based non-profit agency is looking for the go-ahead to build an apartment complex for the visually-impaired on Davison Road.Representatives from the Olmsted Center for Visually Impaired, Silvestri Architects, LLC and Savarino Construction gave an initial presentation of the project Tuesday during the Lockport Town Planning Board’s work session.

The company wants to build a $4 million, 24-unit apartment building at 5556 Davison Road, a skinny 2.2-acre site in the Ulrich Business Park. see ulrich on page 4aulrich ...continued from page 1aOlmsted’s Chief Financial Officer Milissa Acquard said the building will include a talking elevator, signs in Braille and contours on the staircases.

A property manager and maintenance technicians will work in the complex. There also will be a part-time service coordinator to help residents pay bills or find services nearby.“This is completely independent living,” Acquard said.There will be 20 1-bedroom apartments with rent around $350 and four 2-bedroom apartments with rent around $400.

The complex itself will not be subsidized. The tan building with red brick trim will occupy the front half of the site, while a gazebo and storm water retention pond will take up the back half.Olmsted has similar apartment complexes in Cheektowaga, North Tonawanda, and three in Buffalo.

Residents are primarily visually-impaired, but Acquard said the complex cannot turn anyone away who is deemed disabled by a doctor.Acquard said Olmsted will need to have the site approved by mid-December in order to apply for project funds through the Department of Housing and Community Renewal. The project will be funded primarily through federal tax credits and money from the New York State Housing Trust Fund, with funds to close the gap from state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane.

The time crunch to find land for the project set in after the original Town of Lockport site was deemed incompatible, said Savarino vice president David E. Pawlik. He said he was told the first site would be difficult to re-zone because of an unspecified long-term project in the area. Pawlik said the new site’s location near the commercial districts on Davison Road and Lincoln Avenue will make it easier for residents to run errands while maintaining a good quality of life.“This site is in a very safe environment,” Pawlik said.

Members of the planning board said informally they thought the project looked pretty solid overall except for a few issues.Town engineer Rob Klavoon cited an ongoing issue with development within David Ulrich’s business park.“The whole underlying goal is planning for the entire complex,” Klavoon said. “We need to see Mr. Ulrich’s plan.”Both Klavoon and town planner Drew Reilly said they want Ulrich to come up with an overall plan for storm water drainage rather than handling it piecemeal with retention and detention ponds on each site.

Ulrich is expected to be in attendance for the planning board’s regular Tuesday session and discuss his plans. Klavoon said he understands Ulrich wants the detention pond behind the Olmsted project to service future projects on that side of the road.Olmsted will have to get variances to have fewer than two parking spaces per apartment and to have apartments smaller than the 850-square-foot code standard.

The apartments are expected to be about 600 square feet each.The project plan will be sent to the town board to amend the business park’s Planned Unit Development to allow the Olmsted project in. Representatives for the complex will return for Tuesday’s regular meeting.In other planning board news:n The plans for the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter will be sent to the county’s planning board next week. Reilly said sites near state or county roads must be reviewed by the higher board.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Education for visually impaired children

There are about 600,000 people with visual impairments in Vietnam, and 20,000 of them are children, according to a 2005 Central Eyes Hospital report.

The need to support these children's education and social integration was the question at hand at a seminar held by the Viet Nam Association for the Blind and the Swedish Association of the Visually Impaired (SRF) earlier this month in Hanoi.

Dao Soat, chairman of the Viet Nam Association for the Blind, believes that the key to preventing the social alienation of children with visual impairments is to make it possible for them to participate in the main-stream education system.

"If they go to school at a suitable age, visually impaired children develop the ability to integrate into the larger society," he said.

Limited awareness of State policies regarding disabled and visually impaired children has led to the small numbers of visually impaired children studying in schools.

Many schools refuse to accept these children, and those accepted to normal schools generally do not receive exams and grades, so they study mainly as observers.

As a result of this discriminatory treatment, visually impaired children tend to drop out of school or apply for special training schools.

These children's educations also suffer from a lack of materials such as Braille books, plus the majority of teachers do not know Braille.

A recent report by the Department for Special Training under Ha Noi Pedagogical University shows that since the introduction of education for teaching visually impaired students in 1999, only 23 graduates have completed the full certification course.

"There are no support policies for teachers majoring in teaching children with disabilities. They do not receive any special benefits so those studying to be teachers tend not to choose this major," said Hoang Thi Nho from the university's Department for Special Training.

Ha Tay, the province bordering Hanoi, has around 500 children under 15 with visual impairments. According to Nguyen Van Minh, director of the Ha Tay Commission for Ideology and Culture, many of those children either live in low-income, remote areas or have been sheltered and pampered by their wealthy parents, instead of integrating into mainstream society.

Minh says the high cost of educating children with visual disabilities has been a major hurdle.
"It costs about VND100-200,000 to purchase a set of books for an ordinary child, but books for visually impaired students cost VND2-3mil," Minh said.

"The budget is limited and most of them come from poor families so they can only attend school when we raise fund from sponsors. That's why some are much older than their classmates."
There are around 40 students attending classes at schools both in and outside the province, thanks to domestic and foreign sponsors.

Deputy Minister of Training and Education Dang Huynh Mai said that at present, there are more than 30 students with visual impairments attending courses at colleges and universities.
The ministry has approved the establishment of six special training faculties in colleges and universities.

In addition, the Institute of Education Strategy and Programme, under the Ministry of Education and Training, has co-operated with Nguyen Dinh Chieu, the School for Visually Impaired Children, to build the Vietnamese Braille Symbolic System.

As the first guide for Vietnamese people with visual impairments, the system still requires continual adjustment.

Many provincial representatives assert that for students with visual impairments, Government funds are necessary to support the teaching of Braille and the printing of books in Braille to allow these children to enter ordinary schools, with the same rights as other students.

Help is available for the visually impaired who can't afford medical treatments

Africa is home to one fifth of the world's visually impaired and at least 300 000 of them are South African. A medical team in KwaZulu-Natal is diligently working to help people who can't afford specialist care.Cataracts - which are preventable and treatable- are the main cause of blindness in the country.

Stanger Hospital plans to do more than 70 cataract operations during its cataract camp. In only six hours 13 operations were successfully completed. Patients are discharged after 24 hours, and many can see for the first time in years.More than 800 patients have already had cataracts removed. "In Stanger in the Ilembe district we made sure that no patients are moving around without getting any help.

If people have cataracts they should come to us to have them removed," Dr Azim Chowdury, a cataract surgeon, says.The operation would cost around R10 000 at a private facility, but a satellite operating centre will soon perform surgery in the poor rural areas. What is needed most now are the skills of committed specialists like Dr Azim Chowdury.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Visually impaired student can now see better

Students with serious vision problems have a great deal of support in School District 27.

That was evident last month when a travelling clinic set up shop at Cataline elementary to assess students with vision problems and match them up with the most appropriate tools to enhance their education.

Some of the items are fairly well known such as talking computers and computers that can enlarge the size of print many times over.

But some of the visual aids available are on the cutting edge of technology for the visually impaired.

I and one of the parents attending the session tried on one of these technological gadgets and were suitably impressed.

The vision goggles magnify whatever you are looking at and bring the image to the screen right in front of your eyes.

With the touch of a button you can bring the image in so close that you can see the pours on a person's face from several feet away.

Wide range of aids

Steve Vander Burgh, who tried out the vision goggles, attended the clinic with his daughter Katelyn who has a condition called retinitis pigmantosis which stops the blood flow to the back of the eye. Now 17 Katelyn was diagnosed seven years ago. Vander Burgh says the condition doesn't usually happen to people until they are in their 60s and so far there isn't a cure.

He says Katelyn now has tunnel vision and they attended the clinic to find out what visual aids might be best for her.

A wide range of technological aids are available for visually impaired students including large print books, braille writers, night glasses; closed circuit television with up to 70 times magnification; computer adaptations, and simple things like hand held magnifiers.

The vision team for the Children's Low Vision Project of British Columbia is based in School District 23 near Kelowna and includes specialists in vision technology; orientation and mobility; an education specialist; a low vision specialist, an optometrist; a pediatric ophthalmologist, a director, and an administrative assistant.

The team in Kelowna holds clinics in districts around the province and works closely with Dyane Willis, the vision specialist for School District 27 who helps students in Kindergarten through Grade 12 whose level of visual impairment puts them at risk educationally, socially or emotionally.

Willis a vision specialist

Willis has taught at Cataline elementary for more than 20 years.

For the past two years she has also become the support teacher for the visually impaired students in the district.

Last year she taught four days a week at Cataline and worked one day a week in supporting visually impaired students.

This year she is working four days a week as a vision specialist and one day a week as a classroom teacher at Cataline. Willis is also taking her masters degree on line through the University of British Columbia which includes spending three summers on campus courses. She expects to graduate in September 2007.

She says there are currently 10 students in the district who have been assessed with serious vision problems which qualify for support through the Ministry of Education.

Willis's job is to make sure students get the necessary vision testing they need and the supports they need so they can be successful in school not only academically but socially and emotionally.
She works closely with the student's regular classroom teacher, other educators, support services staff, and parents to modify, adapt, or develop a program of study that is suitable for the visually impaired student to follow in the regular classroom.

Willis is also developing an in-service program for other teachers and educators on effective educational interventions for students with visual challenges.

She also acts as liaison between special classroom teachers and regular classroom teachers; coordinates teacher assistant time for visually impaired students and helps to develop appropriate materials and plans for use by teacher assistants working with visually impaired students.
"We are really lucky to have a program like this in our community," says Diane Wright, support services district principal.

She says the large size of School District 27 poses more challenges than other districts in providing needed orientation, mobility aids and supports for students with serious visual impairment.

Hamlet and the visually impaired

The play's the thing for a team of University of Toronto and Ryerson University researchers aiming to bring quality visual descriptions of dramatic works to the visually impaired.

On Nov. 25 at 2 p.m., the team will present Hamlet Described, a Hart House Theatre production of Hamlet with an additional creative element unlike any other live performance in Canadian theatre. This matinee performance marks the first time blind and visually impaired audience members in Canada can hear live audio descriptions of the play as it is being performed.

Hamlet Described began when Laurel Williams of U of T’s Adaptive Technology Research Centre (ATRC) at the Faculty of Information Studies approached Paul Templin, managing director at Hart House Theatre, about developing live audio description for theatre. Live description of visual information that can’t be heard — for example, the costumes, set and the action — will be created with the help of LiveDescribe, software developed by Carmen Branje at Ryerson. The software lets the describer — in this case, OISE/UT student Paul Leishman — know when it’s appropriate to insert descriptions.

Conventional film and television audio descriptions are currently created independent of the original production. The describer does not have any creative liberty with the material and is trained to take a neutral tone. “A lot of what is available can be distracting and a lot of blind people don’t like it because it gets in the way of the rest of the show,” said Ryerson professor Deb Fels, the principal investigator on the ATRC-initiated project.

At Hart House, Leishman will be in the theatre talking through a microphone in real time. His voice will be blended with the show’s audio and broadcast through an FM transmitter to audience members wearing wireless headsets. Hamlet Described blends the current strategy with more of a play-by-play style where the describer has more creative license. “It’s important that the describer is part of the creative team, so that there isn’t any disconnect between what the describer thinks should happen and what the director thinks should be described,” Fels said.

Hart House’s Templin said it’s an exciting project. “There was no reason not to do it and every reason to give it a try,” he said. “I thought Hamlet would be the right project because of the language that’s in Hamlet. I thought it would be of most interest to a broad audience and I like the fact that it’s never been done before.

“Hamlet is a very descriptive play to begin with,” Templin added. “You could listen to it and still get great enjoyment out of it. But there are elements that go into a production that are visual.” A touch tour prior to the show’s start will also allow audience members to get a tactile sense of the space. A walk on stage and a chance to touch the set, props and costumes will help to build the world that a sighted audience would have when they sit down to a performance.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Shortage of teachers for the visually impaired

Recognizing that shortages for teachers of the visually impaired were only going to get worse, the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired partnered with New Mexico State University's College of Education to develop preparation programs for specialists in the field.
Four years after the inception of the programs, NMSU has had 31 students complete the teachers of the visually impaired (TVI) program and 10 students have become state certified through the orientation and mobility (O&M) program, which focuses on living skills.

Originally intended to be a five-year partnership, the NMSBVI Board of Regents recently extended the life of the partnership.

"It is a fundamental right of all students who are blind and visually impaired to be educated by personnel who are specially trained to work with them," said Dianna Jennings, NMSBVI superintendent.

Recognizing the need for certified teachers, the NMSBVI Board of Regents has invested more than a million dollars in the personnel preparation programs, Jennings said.

"The students of New Mexico need these certified specialists," said Jackie Wood, coordinator of the TVI program, which is part of the special education and communication disorders department at NMSU.


distance education programs are intended to assist teachers and O&M specialists who do not want to leave their communities to pursue the needed coursework for state certification.

Although there are 40 face-to-face hours required, students are part-time and can complete a majority of each semester through the Internet. Required internships can be conducted in their own communities.

Through the partnership, NMSBVI will pay for student tuition if the student agrees to stay in New Mexico for five years after finishing the program. Any student who does not complete the commitment through the scholarship is required to pay back a portion of the expense.

"This scholarship has really made the programs successful," Wood said.

Wood and Janice Duseau, an instructor for the NMSU O&M program, said that national shortages made it important for professionals in the field to look at training people locally and keeping them in the state.

"Adding even one or two professionals to the field in New Mexico makes this program successful," Jennings said.

Previously there were some New Mexico communities with no specialists, but now many school districts have been able to hire their own TVI, which makes a huge impact on the services to students with a recognized visual impairment because trained teachers are aware of the challenges faced by visually disabled students.

Jennings said there is great value to having students stay in their local school districts, primarily because it keeps them at home with their families versus having to move to a residential school for the visually impaired.

Gail Melpolder, who teaches orientation and mobility and coordinates summer youth programs for the Commission for the Blind in Alamogordo, was one of the first to complete the O&M program at NMSU.

"I was really grateful to get my certification because it is so relevant to what I do," she said.
Melpolder, who has worked in the orientation and mobility field for 15 years, said the NMSU program and coursework added more tools to her repertoire.

"Learning to use professional journals, make tactical maps and other information delivery methods has made an impact on my ability to get more services out to the public," Melpolder said. "I am a better teacher. These programs have really contributed to elevating the profession."

Jennings said that the personnel preparation programs have been a good step forward, but that there are many challenges still ahead for blind or visually impaired students in New Mexico.
She said that she would like to see the state mandate that professionals have to be certified through these preparation programs in order to work with blind or visually impaired students.
Currently a school district can hire an individual with a generic special education certification to work with students with visual disabilities when a TVI or O&M specialist is not available.

Duseau said there are many misconceptions about visual disabilities even among those in the special education field, such as that the other senses of visually impaired or blind individuals are stronger.

"Visually impaired individuals may learn to use their other senses to their advantage, but their other senses do not become better because their sight is impaired," Duseau said.

In fact, Wood pointed out that there are very few individuals who are considered "vanilla blind," meaning their only disability is visual. She said 98 percent of those identified with a visual impairment have other impairments.

Although there are about 40 TVI and 20 O&M programs throughout the country, this is the only one established through a partnership between a university and a school for the visually impaired.
"I really give NMSBVI a great deal of credit for having the vision to work with the university," Wood said.

Jennings said she appreciates the response from NMSU in establishing the programs. She credits Robert Rhodes, department head of the special education and communication disorders department, for his passion to serve all students in New Mexico.

"What can we do to meet the needs of this population was his focus," Jennings said.
Both NMSU programs have received accreditation from the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired.

White Cane Path Project to be in use next year

The "White Cane Path Project", a 500m guided passageway for the visually-impaired and blind from the St Nicholas Home to the Midland One-Stop Centre in Burmah Road, will be ready by early next year.The RM200,000 project, funded by the Georgetown Rotary Club, will benefit more than 80 trainees of the St Nicholas Home and enable them to catch a bus or take the pedestrian crossing to the Penang Adventist Hospital.

The project's organising chairman, Ong Jin Cheng, said Tuesday the visually-impaired or blind had opted to walk along the busy Jalan Bagan Jermal and Jalan Burmah to the Midland One-Stop Centre because the walkway provided for them was uneven or obstructed by unwanted objects."Many of them fell into the drain and this prompted us to build the guided passage for them which will provide them with a sense of security, independence and pride," he told a news conference after the project's ground-breaking ceremony here.

Ong, a past president of the Georgetown Rotary Club, said funding for the project was raised through the Rotary Charity Golf, Rotary Car Wash and Long Island Youth Orchestra performance organised by the club."We hope the Penang Island Municipal Council will jointly carry out this project with our club through their consent to build the pathway and also to provide additional funding," he added.He said the club planned to build another pathway for St Nicholas trainees from the home to Gurney Plaza, located about a kilometre away, at a cost of RM300,000 to RM400,000.

Program made available to train the visually impaired in technology

CHENNAI: Considering the potential of information technology to provide jobs to the physically handicapped, the Union Ministry of Information Technology has embarked on a programme to provide job-oriented training in IT to the visually impaired.

Announcing this here on Sunday, Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology Dayanidhi Maran said 20 schools, half of them in Tamil Nadu, were selected for the programme. The rest were in Delhi.

The programme included training for jobs at call centres, he told the fourth anniversary celebrations of Nethrodaya, a self-help organisation for the visually impaired. He also inaugurated a browsing centre for the visually impaired, set up with the support of Sify Limited and Satyam Computers.
Appreciating the initiatives of Nethrodaya and its founder C. Govinda Krishnan, Mr. Maran said that as per the last census, there were 2.20 crore physically challenged people in the country.

Though 43 per cent of them were educated, only 34 per cent (around 70 lakh) were employed.
Tamil Nadu Commissioner for the Disabled V.K. Jayakodi said the State Government decided to provide computers meant for the visually impaired to the schools. This would benefit students of Standard X and Plus-Two. It would also provide pre-recorded audiocassettes and tape recorders to the schools.

He said orders would be issued shortly for launching a scheme under which top rankers in public examinations among the visually impaired would get cash awards and assistance to pursue higher education.

Mr. Govinda Krishnan said that a team, led by the Revenue Secretary, recently visited Tiruvallur district and identified a land to house the facilities of Nethrodaya. Managing director of Force 1 Guarding Services, president of Sify V. Sivaramakrishnan and Nethrodaya patron R. S. Vasan and playback singer Shalini spoke.