Thursday, August 20, 2009

Meetings in the dark!..

“Alright! Let’s begin with a roll call” I said to the recently elected Cyber club committee members of the Malaysian Association for the Blind, MABCC, as we sat down comfortably in the meeting room for the first official meeting. Yes, I was chairing the first official MABCC meeting and was conducting the business of the day, so to speak! The new Cyber club committee was elected at the recent Annual General Meeting held in late March 2009. I was elected as the Chairman for the 2009/2010 term. Now, back to the roll call, it was important for me to know the respective exco member by names and their sitting positions. This would definitely allow and enable me to picture the overall scenario in the meeting room. It too, has always, been my good cultured habit to always look at the persons I am talking to, and vice versa. So despite having lost my sight, I would continue to do the same..a totally new experience.. chairing a meeting in the dark!..

Admittedly, I was a bit nervous and unsure if I was able to chair/conduct my first ever meeting in the dark, without the luxury of having any written notes, visual aids and to top it off, a meeting with a committee of seven visually impaired members. It was truly a challenge and a case of full focus and concentration game that had to come into play!

The meeting proceeded with interesting sugggestions and creative ideas thrown in for the brainstorming cum meeting session. The key objectives, to assist and promote IT literacy among the blind community through various programs/projects targeted for the year were highlighted and discussed. Another important task agreed then was to set up an internet chat forum to keep all members posted and updated about the happenings of the MABCC. Undoubtedly, the chat forum would help create a virtual platform and a cyberspace ‘meeting room’ enabling the MABCC blind community to come together to highlight and discuss IT related issues, learn new technology, exchange information, etc. Since the launch of the MABCC Googlegroups chat forum in June 2009, there have been positive responses and active participation from several members.

“Hello, are you still here?” I coolly asked, noting that there was a total dead silence in the room when I was halfway briefing and delegating the tasks and roles of each committee member, the rules of engagement that needed to be adhered to by all MABCC members. My quiet concern was..”Hope the elected secretary would be able to remember and jot down all the issues highlighted and discussed in the meeting as she would be preparing the meeting minutes for follow up action in the next scheduled meeting” I said to myself.

Now, fast forward, a month later.. Again, we sat down for the another monthly meeting, the secretary passed around the copies of the past meeting minutes for all to refer. Well, the minutes were in Braille! My Braille literacy had yet to come of age, still learning the ABCs of Braille, so I had to rely on the secretary to read out the agenda for the meeting, the various matters arising that needed follow up, etc. This inconvenience got me to quickly put on my thinking cap to think of alternatives, etc and perhaps, initiate another new format suitable to all. “Yes! Let’s go ‘paperless’ I said, explaining that we need to move with the technological advances and utilize all the assistive tools available to help us along. So, the minutes for the next forthcoming meetings were circulated to all via electronic mails and I had it downloaded into my mobile phone and was able to read it during the meetings if required, apart from the notebook screen reader being used at the meetings.

Fast forward again, Another initiative plan mooted was the online meetings via Skype conferencing which has progressed well since. There were some minor hiccups initially but now, it’s a breeze. The committee could come together and have a online meeting from the comfort of one’s home..

More Challenging times ahead!

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