Another year closing…..
|Blind & Visually Impaired and young volunteers being|
briefed before entering the forest
|Listening attentively to the briefing by the Forestry officer|
Adult Blind Association, Selangor (
Persatuan Orang Dewasa Buta dan Penglihatan Terhad Selangor (Adult Blind Association Selangor), a newly registered organization has been set up to focus on raising awareness about adults who are loosing their sight (Adult Blindness). the special needs in rehabilitation, emotional support and counseling to Adult Blind and their caregivers, and, more importantly, a support platform for Adult Blind and their care givers to come together to share and learn how to cope and manage the traumatizing acquired sight disability during adulthood years. There are many causes of adult blindness and to name a few they are eg. glaucoma, retina pigmentosa, diabetes which are progressive. There are cases where blindness came about suddenly like accidents, and like my case, infection.
Flashback, those agonizing and traumatizing, depressive moments when I could not see are still very fresh in my mind despite becoming blind almost 5 years ago, as a result of a severe bacterial infection. I could still recall vividly, the difficulties that my family and I had to endure, `fight and crawl’ to rebuild our lives the hard way, so to speak. My wife, Hong, being a trained nurse, was the pillar of strength for the family during those testing times. We were almost devastated as we could not seek out such specialized counseling support services that could offer some degree of hope to both my wife, a care giver and myself, Adult Blind. As an Adult Blind today and living through it, I can attest that there are significant differences in rehabilitation needs for those who became blind in adulthood and for those who are born blind. `Crossing the bridge’ from a sighted world into the world of darkness is an experience which, I could describe in a few simple words, simply terrifying and probably the most scary moments in one’s life. I wished that there were more help and support services available then, which we could seek advice and guidance from.
Picking up the pieces and moving on with our new life, I have gotten to meet many adult blind friends who had similar stories to share. Some of the stories were good but many were sad which brought tears to my eyes whenever I recalled those touching conversations I had with my adult blind friends and their family members. There is a real, urgent need to create awareness about this so called `acquired disability’ that could inflict any one of us at anytime at any time of our lives. Disabilities such as becoming blind, becoming wheelchair bound, becoming hearing impaired are typical stories we read and hear almost daily, especially as age advances or one is struck with diseases that leads to disability e.g. diabetes.
As an active volunteer for the past couple of years, reaching out to the blind community, I have receive many requests from strangers seeking help and guidance in coping with adult blindness as a result of eye diseases, genetic, age related and accidents which can be most depressing and worse still, causing the family to break up. These are real possibility of occurrences today and tomorrow. Our society needs to be reminded, and to be made aware about the need to provide the support services to offer the much needed help when needed at the crucial moments in one’s lives.
Adult Blind Association is set up with the aim to fill in the gaps which is currently lacking when a person loses his sight e.g. support and counseling for both the affected adults and their care givers who need to know how to cope and manage their love ones during the initial difficult period, provide immediate basic rehabilitation in terms of orientation and mobility within and around their own homes, the daily independent living skills to regain their confidence.
Sad to say, in our society, the social and cultural stigma forces the newly blind adults to be confined to his/her own home. There is an urgent need to reach out to these Adult Blinds to offer them hope and regain confidence to continue to live a fruitful life. We hope to set up support groups, reach out to these people via the medical professionals, and through awareness initiatives.
Adult Blind Association, Selangor need your support, financially or otherwise, to carry out programs such as home visits to the newly adult blinds, to provide them with tools - basic assistive and adaptive devices/gadgets to improve their independence in the daily living needs, and skills training e.g. basic orientation and mobility, technological training to equip them to become computer literate with the use of screen readers.
The end in mind is to enable a newly adult blind to accept and come to terms with his blindness and to be able to live as independently as possible with regained confidence, and for the caregivers to be armed with the knowledge to support and help their loved ones.
If you can help in any way, or need more information, please contact mobile +6012 3053853 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
More challenging times ahead!..
Louis said, “My daily challenges: due to my poor hearing, I find it difficult to communicate with people in noisy environments such as busy roads, and big gatherings. It also drowns my confidence in crossing roads on my own. Being deaf-blind also kept many people away from knowing me because I could not hear and communicate with them easily. My current employment is as a masseuse. Some clients do not want to take the chances to try my therapy. They will try after much persuasion and only after they know I am a sociable and friendly person. It is difficult to go shopping and doing banking on my own due to my additional disability.”
Louis’ wish list, “Well I feel that the NGO and GOVT could assist us with providing financial aids to enable us to purchase the high tech hearing aids to assist the hard of hearing blind individuals. In cases where hearing loss is extreme, they could assist us with supplying technology such as Braille displays or Braille style computers. The NGO and GOVT could also employ the Deaf-Blind in handwork jobs that does not need much of communication such as packing jobs or even serve at blind societies where Braille is a means of communication among the blinds concerned. The public could also come forward to help the deaf blind in crossing roads, getting into the LRT, Monorail trains and the Commuter trains.”
My thoughts and my wishlists for the year 2012..
A year of action, paradigm shift for all with the ultimate goal in mind, that is, making a real difference to the lives of the blind and the partially sighted community. An important year too, whereby the community will come together, join hands and stand united, making their voices heard loud and clear. Today, it's time for the community to impress upon the NGOs/relevant authorities about our needs and not waiting for others to decide what the blind and partially sighted community need. Who is in a better position to know our needs other than ourselves?.. So, borrowing from the well known World Blind Union's slogan, "Nothing about us without us." A timely rallying call reminder that the blind and partially sighted are also human beings with equal rights.
The much pacifying phrase, "assimilation to main stream" still, sadly, remains a `feel good' talking point without dedicated action plans. The UN convention resolution for persons with disabilities act which Malaysia is a signatory, has not made much positive impact to the disabled for the simple reason, half measured commitments and exclusions of penalty clauses.
NGOs, in keeping up with changing times and rapid technological revolution, need to be more pro-active and be more effective to stay relevant as leaders and champions for the blind community. More educated and blind professionals, either born blind or adult blind, should be given the due respect and likewise, respect them for what they are, look at their capabilities, not their disabilities. To many educated and professional blind and partially sighted, blindness is considered an inconvenience. More of such persons need to be included in decision making and management roles. A good opportunity for NGOs to walk the talk, providing equal career opportunities while simultaneously, advocating and championing equal rights.
Blind NGOs need too, reach out more effectively to the newly blind young and old, parents of children being born blind or progressing going blind and offering professional counseling which is badly lacking. NGOs need to employ professional counselors and not turning away those requiring assistance, regardless of age and background. NGOs need to develop systems or revamp their systems to quickly rehabilitate the blind to get them back to the mainstream society. Perhaps, a long term plan, such as a 5 year plan to help the blind and partially sighted should be highlighted to all, a yardstick in KPI measurement of NGOs achievements and ultimately, this helps to garner better financial support from the public.
NGOs need to be pro-active in advocating for improved accessibility needs, such as access to public transportation hubs, public amenities, access to technology, etc. All blind NGOs need to employ and have qualified accessibility experts to help in making more public locations as barrier free environment with suitable access facilities for all.
Assistive ICT technology, continues to revolutionise the lives of the blind and partially sighted community. Its vital importance in enhancing the independence and empowerment of the community by opening up more windows of opportunities in career choices and making the community a K-economy community cannot be ignored today. NGOs and government blind schools should make ICT a compulsory subject in their syllabus for the education and rehabilitation programs. Efforts too, needed to either lower or subsidise the high costs of the assistive devices which are beyond the reach of many blind and partially sighted community.
Truly, an exciting year for the blind and partially sighted. A year where their voices will be heard.
More challenging times ahead!