For your reading convenients below you will find all the International Perspective published in 2018
By Karen Santiago as told by Keao Wright
A Bit about Hawaii:
Oahu is the third largest island in the Hawaiian chain of 132 islets. Located on Oahu is the state capital, and the largest city, Honolulu. Oahu is Known as the Gathering Place. It is Hawaii's most populous island.
Some places to see while on the island of Oahu include the beaches of Waikiki, Diamond Head, Pearl Harbor, Iolani Palace, and a host of other wonderful attractions.
With beautiful weather nearly all year long, outdoor sports and recreations activities are plentiful. Some activities include surfing, kayaking, whale watching, skydiving, hang gliding, or a relaxing dinner cruise. The island is full of wonderful music. Most weekdays, and weekends you can enjoy an evening out in a local bar and listen to some great lively music.
Schools for the Blind:
Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind is in Honolulu. Students who are hard of hearing, deaf, or deaf blind attend this school from preschool to grade 12. Initially this school was designed for blind and visually impaired students.
Now a days, most blind students are mainstreamed into the public school system. Depending on the school district, TVI (teachers of the visually impaired) and O&M (Orientation & Mobility) teachers work at the schools. In addition, sighted teachers are instructed on how to teach and work with blind students.
Students learn braille and can submit their assignments in braille, and via email. Mobility is also taught within some of the school districts.
The University of Hawaii (U H), is difficult to get into. However, the state agency collaborates with the U H disability service office in providing assistance to students. They help with signing up for BookShare, NLS services, and other accessibility needs.
The state agency provides a transition summer program for students from age 15 to 24. Interested students can choose, or be paired up with a company for four weeks in the summertime as an intern.
The state agency provides classes on what one needs to know when being interviewed for a job. Furthermore, they teach interviewing skills, and conduct mock interviews.
Like the others states in the US, blind individuals in Hawaii are able to receive either Social Security Income (SSI), or Social Security Disability Income (SSDI).
HandiVan is a transportation system available for persons with disabilities. Individuals need to call to arrange for rides three days in advanced. The fair is 2 dollars per ride.
The public buses are not available throughout Oahu. The fair for all to ride the bus is currently 2 dollars and 50 cents per trip. However, the rate will increase to 2 dollars and 75 cents beginning in January. Not all buses have automated announcements, but it is getting better.
Uber and Lift are available in Hawaii. These two options tend to be a bit pricey.
Many rural regions do not have sidewalks. However, the business and tourist areas have tactile markers and curb cuts on the sidewalks. This also holds true for the presence of audible signals at intersections.
In Oahu, braille is not consistently seen in the public. Some restaurants have braille menus, some companies provide their documents in braille, and some public buildings have braille on doors, restrooms, and in elevators. Keao says that the best thing to do is to request items in braille.
Blind individuals living in Hawaii are able to sign up with the National Library Service (NLS). With this agency, blind and visually impaired people can call and request a book in either braille or audio format. These materials can be mailed, and at no cost to the individual.
Guide Dog Schools:
There are no guide dog schools in Oahu, or throughout Hawaii. However, guide dogs are allowed in Hawaii, and all must enter via Honolulu International Airport. The guide dogs have access to public buildings as stated in the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). people and business owners are getting accustomed to the reality of blind individuals using guide dogs.
Ho Opono Services for the Blind: this is a branch of the Department of Human Services. They provide comprehensive and specialized services that meet the varied needs of those across the state who are visually impaired, blind, or deaf/blind. These services are provided free of charge. Some of the services they provide include:
White cane awareness
Prevention and blindness awareness
Vocational rehabilitation services
Low vision clinic
Instructional services in mobility, braille, computers, living skills, and more.
New Vision Program: Students are enrolled in program classes that run from 6 to 9 months. Program students commit to full-time participation. Curriculum includes such classes in braille, mobility, computers, athletics, personal and home management.
Island Skills Gathering: ISG seeks to inspire people with disabilities to discover solutions of assistive technology while serving as a role model; a trusted mentor and end-user of technology.
Guide Dogs of Hawaii: Members are offered technology aides, adaptive aides, and guide dog placements. One can explore the benefits of technology, gain safety and independence, and experience mobility freedom with continued orientation and support.
Hawaiian chapters in both ACB and NFB.
Keao would like to see more pedestrian audible signals throughout Oahu, and a reduction in transportation fees for those with disabilities.
Keao believes that blind people in Hawaii are accepted and treated well. She agrees with her friend, Derrick who says, ďDiversity is a strength. The fact that different cultures can live together on a small island is certainly a positive. We learn about each other by sharing our customs, food and music.Ē Keao believes that Oahu is a great place to be blind!
By Karen Santiago as told by Chee Chau
A bit about Malaysia:
Malaysia is a multicultural country located in southeast Asia. Its borders are Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, & Brunei.
Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia. In comparison, its size is a bit larger than New Mexico. The population of Malaysia is estimated at 30.3 million. The official language is Malay, however, English is taught in the schools, and is often used as the business language.
There are coastal plains that rise up to hills and mountains. The climate is tropical and rainy. Tourism is popular, as visitors engage in hiking, scuba diving, and relaxing on the many beaches. A must see site is Petronas twin towers (1483 feet), the tallest twin skyscraper in the world. These buildings are joined together by a sky bridge at levels 41, which is 558 feet off the ground. The worldís largest cave chamber, by area is in Gunung Mulu National Park.
In 1953 Princess Elizabeth opened the first residential school for the blind in Johor Bahru, simply called Princess Elizabeth. Students attended this school from grade one through grade 6, to receive their primary education. Basic braille was taught here, however, mobility was not. Students just had to feel their way around.
As for recreation activities, there was a school band, and some sports played. However, these two areas did not provide any formal training. Chee joined the school band playing the keyboard. He stated that it was like a free for all, if you wanted to play, you could, but there were no proper instructions.
Chee attended his secondary education at an integrated public school. It wasnít until seventh grade when he received his first cane. However, mobility instructors were scarce and Chee learned to navigate the school mainly through his peers.
Braille textbooks were not common while Chee attended his secondary education. He had to rely on his brailled notes, and the occasional audio cassette with class information. Chee said when he was in his final year of secondary education, only two of his 9 courses had the textbooks in braille. He was quite unhappy and discouraged with the shortage of accessible braille textbooks. He created three course braille textbooks based on the notes he compiled. Therefore, the next blind student could have five accessible textbooks, as opposed to just two.
After secondary school, many blind students are encouraged to attend the training center. Here, students are basically told what to do, whether to be trained as a massage therapist or a phone operator. Chee went on to say that he has heard firsthand accounts that the training is less than adequate.
Chee wanted to continue to study, and in the field of music. While attending a college fair he applied to a local college. He was accepted, however, when he informed them that he was blind, the college withdrew his application based on not being able to accommodate his needs.
That however, did not stop Chee. He applied at a college in Singapore, and there too, they never had a blind student attend. But, this college was willing to give Chee a 6 month trial period. I am happy to say that things did work out, and Chee received a degree in music.
There is very little assistance with accessible technology for the blind. Blind students may receive their first version of Jaws, but with little training. Any subsequent upgrade is the individualís responsibility. Chee added that the process of upgrading is very time consuming, and not as easy as one would think.
Blind individuals can receive the white cane at a reduced cost, or free.
Blind people can receive discounted rates on transportation. However, it depends on which company one uses. Discounts range from 30 percent to 50 percent off. There is no reduced fare if using the cab service.
There are audible announcements on trains, although they can be very long, hard to hear, or not enough information is given.
There are some volunteer organizations that will provide free transportation for the blind. This service is limited, as it is based on the number of volunteers and their availability.
There are very little walking accessibility features in Malaysia. Only in a few areas are there curb cuts and guide tracks (tactile strips), and these are not always positioned correctly. Audible pedestrian signals have been placed by blind organizations, and where the population of blind people is thought to be numerous.
The only places where braille is seen is on restroom doors and in lifts (elevators).
There are no guide dog schools in Malaysia. There are only three malls, of many that will permit dogs inside. Access to public buildings is not currently a law in Malaysia. Although one can have a guide dog in Malaysia, it is very difficult due to limited access.
Malaysia does have a reading service but it has a limited supply of materials and is very slow. Individuals can request a braille book or talking book, but it can take quite some time before receiving it. One can ask that a document be read and recorded for them. However, the process is so slow that by the time it is done, you probably donít need it.
If one is disabled and meets the income guidelines, then a monthly check is granted. Chee added that the monetary value is not much.
Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) mission is to empower persons with visual impairment by providing them with services & opportunities for greater participation, involvement and integration into society as well as to promote prevention of blindness.
Some of the services they provide include:
*Vocational Training: provide rehabilitation & vocational training.
*Orientation and Mobility
*Resource centre for information technology
*Training in adaptive equipment / devices
*Sports & Recreation: to organize and provide sporting events and recreational activities for the visually impaired.
National Council for the Blind, Malaysia (NCBM): objectives include the introduction and progressive improvement of policies and implementation of services governing the education, rehabilitation, employment, and general welfare of the blind and the prevention of blindness in Malaysia.
Chee believes two important things need to happen, and they go hand in hand. First, the blind community in Malaysia needs to advocate more for themselves. This means asking for assistance when needed; donít assume sighted people know what you need or donít need. Secondly, he feels that blind instructors need to be more educated in teaching and working with the blind community. These instructors need to make appropriate recommendations, suggestions, and prepare blind individuals with the skills and tools they need for home and work. One more thing chee added is educating the sighted society. Let them know such things as blind people can do things, donít automatically feel sorry for them, and most importantly, treat the blind equally.
By Linn Martinussen
A bit about Norway:
Norway is a country situated in Northern Europe and is part of Scandinavia. Itís large in size, but has a small population of about five million people. Norway is extremely wealthy due to the discovery of crude oil in 1969 and ranks top on the UNís list of countries with the best standard of living.
Schools for the blind were phased out during the 1980s. As someone who started school in 1992, I was among the first batch of blind students to be integrated into the public school system. I donít know why the schools were phased out, but I can imagine that with such a small population, the schools werenít exactly over populated. Besides, sending children away to reside in a school far away from their families at the age of seven was seen as quite cruel.
Braille & Mobility:
After the closure of all residential schools for the blind, what had previously been schools, turned in to resource centres which provided Braille and mobility lessons to teachers in mainstream schools, as well as directly to blind students. For example, my mainstream teacher, I had a separate one from the class, but was still in class for most of the time, taught me Braille and mobility, but I also had visits from the resource centres. These centres also held annual courses for blind students to make sure we had all the skills we needed and didnít lag behind our classmates.
Sports & Recreation:
There are sports clubs for blind people and for people with other disabilities, but blind people usually have their own. For example, there are running clubs with volunteer guide runners. There used to be a Goalball team, but it has dissolved. The Norwegian Association for the blind, especially its youth organization, arrange a lot of sports activities however on weekends away at holiday and activity centres for the blind around the country. These are quite varied from Yoga and pilates to skiing.
Blind people are encouraged to get a higher education. Higher education in Norway is free, and blind students get braille displays, unlimited hours to employ a reader or secretary, doing all the visual aspects of uniwork. So in principle education should be a breeze. Especially since the Norwegian Library for the blind (NLB) now provide ebooks which are fast to produce. However, itís not always possible for students to read and research as easily as their sighted counterparts, but I personally believe that the solution to making university easier for a blind person, is to have better guidelines about what to read so it is easier to do well with a smaller number of books.
Unfortunately, getting a job is not very easy in Norway due to bad attitudes, or little knowledge of blind people by employers. In a survey conducted in 2008, employers were asked who theyíd rather employ. A convicted Somali, a lesbian woman, a gay man, a wheelchair user and so on and ranking bottom was a blind woman without a guide dog. Unfortunately not much has changed since then. I was forced to move back to Norway from the UK because of family stuff. Having worked a few years in the BBC and with a masterís degree under my belt, I thought I wouldnít be unemployed for long. However, three years later and I have now decided to leave Norway because Iím getting nowhere. Although blind people are encouraged to get educated, theyíre also encouraged to get straight onto benefits once theyíre finished. This trend is slowly changing, but the change is very slow and there are problems with blind ghetto cultures and alcoholism among blind individuals who could hold at least part time work.
For people who are more disabled, there are special taxis. For the blind, there is not, but we do get taxi cards and use public transport on familiar routes.
With cabs, there is a fixed fare for a ride, though there are some variations on this around the country. In most counties you can only use your taxi card inside that county. So if I travel to another town, I canít get reduced fares.
Public buses are very inaccessible because you have to press a touch button to open the doors. However, the electronic announcements are quite good now and Ruter, the traffic company for the Eastern part of Norway, is working on an accessible travel app that will guide you at bus and metro stops and tell you what bus or metro are coming. Metros are a lot easier to use as you can feel the button for opening the doors, however itís still quite stressful to actually locate the door, so I wish they would just open. Trams are like buses, quite hard to use, but doable.
What really annoys me about the Norwegian transport system, especially in Oslo, is that unlike in the UK, you canít get help to travel around the city. So thereís no assistance at the most buzzling metro stops and no way to book it. Only if you travel by railway, can you actually book assistance, but this has to be done 24 hours in advance which is ridiculous since you canít always know when youíre travelling. I personally only use the over ground railway to travel between cities, so I think more local assistance like they have in London on the underground and buses would be a huge relief for many blind people.
If I lived in a more rural area, my problems would be a lot bigger as the buses have no announcements and they are less frequent, so living in the towns and cities is something most blind people tend to choose when they grow up.
We have curb cuts and tactile strips. There are audible signals at most intersections.
In train and metro stations there are tactile dots or lines to mark the beginning and end of stairs and platforms. And in smaller towns there are audible signals to say youíre approaching a station on foot.
There are no Braille signs anywhere except numbers in lifts.
Braille can only be found in lifts and on medication. Some restaurant chains have Braille menus, but thatís rare. I also canít receive Braille correspondence from banks and other public instances. Luckily though, Norway is far more digitized than many other countries, so I can receive e-mails and most menus these days are online. I do like a Braille menu though and miss this from living in the UK.
There are three guide dog schools in Norway. Guide dogs are very popular. They do have access to public buildings in theory, however discrimination occur a lot.
Most blind individuals receive benefits. I fall into a rare category of blind people who have no benefit rights because I didnít have my education plan approved by those who are responsible for benefits. Good benefits is really a big curse since it demotivates blind people from seeking employment and encourage the system to keep blind people on the benefits.
This is where Norway is great. You can get everything you need due to your blindness funded by the government regardless of whether you receive benefits. For example, your computer wonít be funded, because most people would naturally have a computer these days. However, Braille displays and screenreader licenses do get funded because you wouldnít have them if you didnít have to. Canes, GPS and other practical aids you can prove you need for the sole reason of being blind, are also always funded.
You can get Braille and audiobooks through the Norwegian Library of the blind (NLB) for free. Audiobooks can be provided on daisy or downloaded via an app. Braille books are printed on demand and sent in the post. Itís also possible to become a member of other countries reading services through the NLB, such as Bookshare.
In Norway we have a national organization Norges Blindeforbund, or the Norwegian Association of the blind. They help with everything concerning blindness from rehabilitating people who lose their sight, to arranging activities and holidays.
There is also a Christian organization for the blind that in some ways rival the national association for the blind by providing many of the same services. However, many people are members of both organizations and they never tend to arrange activities over the same weekends.
All in all, Norway really isnít a bad country in which to be a blind person. I get everything I need in terms of equipment and I can live comfortably thanks to the wealth of the place. However, I do think a lot can be improved when it comes to accessibility, work and opportunities. Attitudes needs changing and Norway needs to become more liberal in its thinking when it comes to solutions and trying new things.
The anti-discrimination law is not as strong as it ought to be and I think some of the problem is that the population is so small that finding new opportunities are hard when youíre blind. I often say that if Norway had the wealth it has paired with the forward thinking of the UK, where accessibility is better, it would be a paradise for blind people. London is the place in the world I considered the best place for blind people to live.
Iím glad Iíve been born blind in Norway and experienced such a great superficial standard of living. Because my dream is to use my experiences good and bad, to work to better the lives of blind people in other countries around the world.
Ukraine; as told by Anya Fuller
A bit about Ukraine:
In Eastern Europe, along the Russian border, sits Ukraine, the largest country in the region. Ukraine also borders Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, and Belarus. The Carpathian Mountains to the west protect Ukraine from fierce northern winds. The Ukraine has some of the richest farm land in Europe, over 1,000 miles of flat plains known as steppes. It also has rich supplies of oil and gas.
Kiev is the capital city. Ukrainian is the official language, although many people mainly on the eastern side speak Russian. Hungarian, Romanian and Polish are popular languages spoken in Western Ukraine. The population of Ukraine is just over 47.1 million.
Many ancient traditions are carried on in Ukraine today, like traditional dances and music. One Ukrainian tradition is the decorating of Pysanka, or Ukrainian Easter egg during Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter. Pysanky are intricately decorated using a wax-relief method, though there are many variations on design and techniques for creating these eggs.
Blind Schools: Anyaís remarks reflect the experiences she had with the school she attended.
There are five schools for the blind throughout Ukraine. These residential schools are Lviv, Kiev, Odessa, Kharkov and Slavyansk. Anya attended the Kharkov school from the nineties to the early 2000ís. She started at the age of seven, although students can begin preschool at an earlier age. Students receive education through grade twelve.
The only sport type of activities were checkers, chess, goalball, and swimming with outside assistance.
Students at this blind school were fortunate enough to receive exceptional music instructions, due to the collaboration with a nearby music institution. Students could learn how to play two or three instruments, and all were required to be part of the choir. This was a very comprehensive music program as the students were also required to take classes such as music literature and history.
Braille and Mobility:
Braille was taught in school. However, there was a shortage of braille materials. For example. There was only one English book, and no math books for high schoolers at all. As curriculums were constantly changing, there were hardly any Braille books for other classes either.
Mobility was not seen as an important skill to teach or learn. Students generally felt their way around or relied on those who had some sight. Canes were passed out during the mobility class, which was once a week, if that. Anya received her first cane when she was a senior. By that time, most students did not use their cane because it wasnít ďthe popular thing to do.Ē
Until recently, blind children could be educated exclusively in the residential schools. In 2011, the Lviv Regional Fund of Social Protection and Recovery of the Blind, USI organized inclusive education for blind children outside specialized boarding schools. They have created many innovations that allow blind children to study in ordinary schools.
There are still things that need to improve such as the training of teachers, increase funding, and more accessible materials. However, enrollment at the boarding schools are decreasing, which indicates a growing desire of parents for inclusive education.
High school students are encouraged to attend university. Should they have good grades, letter of recommendation, and meet the necessary requirements, tuition is fully funded. Students also receive a monthly allowance while studying, as long as they maintain an average of a B grade.
There are no disability service departments available at the higher educational facilities. The blind student is basically on their own when it comes to accessible material. This is not an easy task, as most textbooks are not available in braille. If students are not fortunate enough to have a scanner, then they need to have great listening skills, and rely on other studentís assistance. Anya created her own contraction, or shorthand braille in order to keep up with class notes. Anya stated that many teachers pass the blind students, instead of the blind student passing the class.
Blind individuals are categorized into three different groups; first, totally blind, second, partially sighted, and third, high partial. So, the level one is, determines the benefits one receives.
As for disability pension, the greatest monthly amount would go to the first level, and decreasing with level two and three.
Individuals with the first level receive free rides on buses and trains (suburban area), as long as they show their proof of blindness identification. A person can travel with them at no cost as well. If the train ride is a long one, then the person will get a reduced rate.
Level two individuals will receive a discounted rate for buses and trains. Finally, the third level will receive no reduction in fare, but they are still entitle to certain benefits.
There are very little accommodations out on the streets for the blind community. Things such as curb cuts, tactile strips, and audible signals are few and far between throughout Ukraine. Anya said that other obstacles in the way of blind people are the cars that are parked on the sidewalks, or, in certain places, uncovered sewers.
There is no braille what so ever in the public. It is deemed obsolete.
While students are taught braille it is not widely used. Parents of partially sighted children do not even want their children learning it. They would rather have other accommodations such as large print or better lighting.
Blind schools are equipped with some accessible equipment. However, if you want accessible devices in your home, you had to get it yourself. Many blind people have to resort to cracked version of JAWS or other software.
Ukraine does have libraries for the blind. Although there is material in various formats, they are very outdated. The libraries are no longer in high demand since most people can download books from the computer.
Guide Dog Schools:
There are no guide dog schools in Ukraine. It is seemed as a nuisance, and not much is known. Anya stated that she knows of no one owning a guide dog in Ukraine. She added that the majority of blind individuals travel with a sighted guide.
Ukrainian Association of the Blind (UTOS):
The state-sponsored association is involved in the social, employment, medical and vocational rehabilitation of the disabled citizens of Ukraine, who cannot compete in the labor market. It provides employment, health and social protection for the visually impaired. This locally generated primary organization, and in areas where there is a need to also organize training and production company. Blind people get the full range of social protection, the ability to fully implement opportunities to live and to work. Destination of selected features of blind people to perform a particular job.
*Note: these statements are taken right from the association's website. Although this sounds great, the hard reality is that they do not do much for blind individuals in any way.
Ukrainian center for physical culture and sport for the disabled:
Works with youth and adult in various sporting activities. Teaching, training, and competing with other schools, regional, national, and international teams.
Paralympics: Ukraine is involved with Paralympics, and has performed very well in past events.
Anya believes that there are many people who see blindness, as well as other disabilities in a negative way. Furthermore, the more visible the disability, the more a stigma is attached to it.
Some people in this society shame those with disabilities, and may take advantage of them. Many see the blindness, or disability, before seeing the person.
Anya would like to see a lot of changes made with respect to blindness issues in Ukraine.
*Use the American model of teaching those with disabilities; there needs to be more advanced training of both the teachers and the individuals.
*Greater awareness and education to the general public about people with disabilities.
*Awareness to employers that blind people can work too.
*Access to materials in accessible formats.
*Providing Office of disability services in colleges and universities.
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