The President of the Barbados Association for the Blind and Deaf, Elviston Maloney, is pleading with Government to offer subsidies to members of the blind community to assist them in getting special education materials to accommodate their study needs.
Speaking to the media today, during a tour of the association’s centre by St Patrick’s Roman Catholic School students that coincided with World Sight Day, Maloney said they faced challenges accessing needed material for study purposes.
He stressed that while the association tried wherever possible to assist blind members who were studying, there was need for Government to aid in that process.
“The cost of the JAWS [Job Access With Speech] screen reader [software which provides speech and Braille output for computer applications] is about $1,350 to have a legal copy. That is kind of a prohibitive figure for those persons who are not working,” Maloney said.
“But if there is some way where Government can put measures in place where there can be some subsidies to assist that process, then I am sure that it would go a long way in assisting those blind and visually impaired persons to obtain software that would help them in those areas of studies.”
Maloney also identified crossing at traffic lights as a challenge for most blind and visually impaired persons who often had to rely on kindhearted pedestrians or motorists to assist them.
He therefore called on officials to install beepers to alert the blind
when it was time to cross the road.
“If you go into the area of Jemmott’s Lane or Bay Street, there is a beeper that comes on when the sign indicates walk. Now we would love to see more of those, especially in the heart of the City,” the president said.
He also indicated that the association was having a hard time obtaining statistics about the blind and visually impaired population.
The last survey done in 2010 indicated that there were about 11,000 people living with disabilities. An estimated two per cent of that figure represented the number of blind or visually impaired.
Maloney said he believed that figure could be higher with diabetes and glaucoma being two of the leading causes of blindness in Barbados
and the region.
“I am hoping that we can have a real figure in the not too distant future so that we can really have a good idea of sight loss and those with sight problems,” he said.
The Lions Club of Bridgetown collaborated with theBarbados Association for the Blind and Deafin hosting today’s activity.
The students got the opportunity to tour the facility and see trainees in the workshop making mops and caning chairs and in the specially equipped computer lab.
The students also received a brief lecture from ophthalmologist Anne-Marie Hinds who spoke to them about the importance of eye care and getting their eyes checked at least once a year.