Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 1, Issue 33, Tuesday January 13, 2004







Hope for the visually impaired

Dear Editor,
My name is Fauzia and I am a regular reader of lifestyle magazine. I find this magazine to be the most informative, delightful and helpful to read. I have a friend named Susan. She is 20yrs old. She's been having a problem for a very long time and I hope you can please help her out and I think this is the best place to get the right information and advice.

My friend is visually impaired. She lost her vision 2yrs back and till today she is unable to do anything independently. She studied in an English medium school and was unable to complete her education due to her lost sight. She gets all the love and support but she still feels like a burden in the family, as she is unable to make a living or socialise anymore. She wants an independent life. She gets more upset when everyone feels pity for her. Being her only friend I feel it is my duty to help her out, so please help me to help her out, to make a difference in her life with some freedom. Can u please advice some suitable jobs or some website addresses or information on like what visually impaired people do, what institutions to go to learn the use of Braille's and get skilled in different activities. I will be very grateful if u please reply to my letter. Once again I thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. Keep up the great work!
A regular reader, Fauzia

We had received this e-mail from a valued reader, and it has taken us the last two weeks to do a thorough research on the topic. We hope that the following information shall help all our readers out there.

Firstly, anyone who becomes visually impaired after a certain period of schooling has to attend courses, which teach the use of brailles. Learning the use of brailles may be a tenuous process, but without this initial course it would be impossible to move on.

Assistance for Blind Children (ABC) has been educating visually impaired children for more than 25 years now. It provides courses at its hostels located at different districts of the country, for school aged kids of upto class-10. However they shall be able to provide braille education on special arrangement for older students.

ABC's effort has been laudable in this sector; the organisation has expanded and increased general awareness about the visually impaired around the country. It selects students from a community-based evaluation carried out by its field representatives and hence provides good coverage for these unfortunate children. However, admission to one of its programs is easier if one goes straight to their office or the hostel itself and talks to the resource teachers. Added to its education programme, the ABC also has a successful Eyesight restoration programme. ABC provides food and lodging as well as education for these children at its hostels, and at no charge at all. Occasionally, the parents of the children are asked to pay a nominal tuition fee per month. However ABC has struggled over the years to cope up with its programmes. Although its budgets are well planned, the donations to the organisation have been scarce during the years. The whole project requires a lot of dedication from its members, and definitely gets it. It has to be said that it lacks government support. According to Shafiqul Islam, the Executive Director of ABC, the awareness about the abilities of the visually impaired needs to be thoroughly increased. He also adds that "The supply of education material for the blind has to be ensured, and the teachers should be trained to accommodate these unfortunate children into primary schools around the country. The attitude towards the visually impaired has to be changed" Although this seems like a far-fetched probability, the ABC is trying its best to ensure quality education to as many students it can accommodate. The ABC is situated at 47/14, Ground floor, Indira Road, West Razabazar. Tel no. 8119320.

Bangladesh Nation Society for the Blind (BNSB) is a national voluntary organisation and member of the World Blind Union. It also provides education to the blind, and its courses are quite good. The organisation also provides eyesight restoration programmes and this is an added advantage. BNSB can be contacted for braille education courses. BNSB is located at Section No-1, Mirpur 10, Dhaka 1216.

Finally, we come down to the one organisation that can provide skills that one can use in the working society. The Vocational training centre for the Blind (VTCB), is the one organisation that provides computer and PABX training for a group of lucky visually impaired individuals. It has an active programme, which provides computer as well as telephone receiving courses on a yearly basis. VTCB was formed in 1976 under local management and was initially funded by CBM Germany. The project moved on and soon became an active participant in this field. We would like to recommend VTCB for individuals like Susan, however one has to master the use of brailles before joining the course. The VTCB accommodates students between the age of eighteen upto even twenty five years. The training helps develop confidence of the visually impaired participants, and also enhance their chances of getting a job.

However getting jobs is hard for these students, although they are well capable. This is pretty harsh and is mainly due to the lack of awareness amongst business entrepreneurs of the country. Apart from the computer courses, they also provide courses on candle making, tailoring, chalk pencil making and operating power looms. This adds to the skills of these students. The VTCB does not have any residential facilities, and this is mainly because it wants its students to achieve a sense of self-responsibility. Its doesn't teach the use of brailles, but does teach movement for the blind. VTCB intends to increase awareness itself and also tries to find jobs for its graduating students. Although one may have to wait for the next course date, the courses at VTCB are definitely worth it, especially the computer training. The programme uses a software called JAWS, which aids the students significantly. One student of the programme, Shireen Akhtar, says that "When I was at Dhaka University, my hall-mates used to get computer training, however I used to stay back and feel bad about myself. This soon changed when I realised that I could learn it here." She also adds that the organisation has great facilities and aids them with anything they need. The teachers are well trained with all the programmes. The VTCB is located at 4 Main road, Mirpur 1, Dhaka. Tel. 9003610, 9000439

Although getting a job maybe tough for all of us, it is really much harder for the visually impaired. However, most of these individuals do not lack the skills or knowledge required in their jobs. We just have to open our eyes to these gifted individuals. We at Star Lifestyle hope that the information is of help to your friend and many more out there.

By Mishel Ali Khan



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