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!