ABU(Senior group) Fine Work
Blind Community, Is it versus inclusive society
Pakistan
Sajid Majeed(29,Male)

Blind people still do not have access to education and are discriminated against in different institutions, in the job market and family members often still do not want to interact with them.The result is that this group in our population continues to live in abject poverty.
Their lives are characterised by unemployment, poor housing, inadequate health care, barriers to life long learning, culture, sports and recreation. It would be no exaggeration to say that visually impaired persons are among the poorest people in the society which leads them to suffer oppression, marginalisation and exclusion.
Addressing the challenges they face requires giving attention to their educational programmes by providing the needed resources and trained personnel. There is need to support and expand the Community Based Rehabilitation and other Disabled Persons Organisations. These can be achieved if the bill on disability rights is enacted by parliament.
 
CHALLENGES FACED BY BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED PERSON
Blind and visually impaired person face several challenges which makes them prone to powerlessness, inability to participate in decision making and development programmes that affect them and their fundamental rights.

  • The lack of an act on disability right is a major reason for the continuation of many challenges faced by Blind and Visually Impaired Persons (BVIPs) in our society today.
  • There is a high level of illiteracy among BVIPs which makes most of them unqualified for employment in today’s job market.
  • Cultural beliefs also hinder the development of BVIPs in society.Any of the achievements of BVIPs are seen as “counting for nothing” that they may have made those achievements with the help of evil spirits. As a result many BVIPs prefer to sit back and become dependent on relatives for almost everything.
  • Ignorance of the capabilities of BVIPs is also a major challenge for members of the community. Many of them see BVIPs and other disabled persons as stubborn and good for nothing.As such they are not included in family matters, in decision-making, community development programmes and even denied access to basic services in the community like education or a social life.
  • It is worth noting that the education of blind and visually impaired children requires specially trained teachers. However, the teacher training colleges do not cater for special needs education. As a result, teachers who graduate from these colleges are not well equipped on how to handle these children. Little attention is therefore given to them in the classroom.
  • The lack of resources to enhance the education of BVIPs in schools is an especially important factor affecting those who are ready and willing to learn.There are no trained personnel in many schools to ensure their integration and even in the few schools for the blind, the resources are not available. This means there are no Braillers, writing frames, Braille papers, Braille books, typewriters or tape recorders. Most of the prescribed text books in the schools and colleges are in ink print which blind students cannot read. The process of having this in Braille is not only time consuming, but tedious.Not all the schools for the blind are approved by government.
EFFECTS OF THESE CHALLENGES ON BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED PERSONS
As a result of the challenges set out above, BVIPs are amongst the poorest of the poor.They are often seen in the street begging with their children who are meant to be at school and are therefore also deprived of their right to education. These children are likely to become a menace to society because they have inherited poverty.
As most BVIPs are uneducated they cannot gain useful employment.Even where they may have acquired some level of education, some work places refuse to accept them to join their staff.
Since many blind people in our communities cannot secure jobs or become involved in other gainful employment, family members see them as good for nothing.In fact many families do not want to have the blind in their houses. They do not help them to move about or provide food regularly for them.
 
ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES
To address the above challenges, it would be necessary to start by developing a robust educational programme which should be made accessible to all blind and visually impaired persons. Sally Hartley supports this fact when she states that “providing education is a powerful tool for economic empowerment of people with disability.”
There is an urgent need for the inclusion of special needs education in the curriculum of all Teacher training colleges in the country. This can be done by equipping the special needs education section in the ministry of education, to enable it carry out its functions. Effective collaboration with the special needs desk can be very important in the implementation of programmes for BVIPs and other disable groups.
One step that could be taken by the government, members of Parliament, local councils and traditional rulers is to work effectively towards the enactment of a law on disability rights which recognises the challenges those BVIPs and other people with disabilities face in their communities. Members of parliament should have in mind that the proposed bill on disability rights will not only benefit the blind and disabled persons but their children and other family members. It will reduce their dependence on family members and the community.
Another way to address the challenges is to support Community Based Rehabilitation programmes (CBR) and to work closely with the Disabled Peoples’ Organisations.“CBR attempts to restore or maximise the full potential and functions of persons with disabilities in their natural environment within the family and the community” (Hartley, 2001).
Community sensitisation is also vital in addressing the challenges faced by BVIPs.The role of the newspapers, radio discussions, jingles and posters can go a long way to making community members become aware of their roles in CBR programmes.
Negative attitudes can be challenged by supporting disabled people to accept their disability and think more positively about themselves.
 
CONCLUSION
If the government is to achieve its dream of poverty reduction, then some serious attention should be given to addressing the challenges BVIPs face.Support for their education and their social inclusion through the CBR programme and DPOs should receive more government attention. The enactment of a law on disability rights would be a step in the right direction.




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