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Archive for November, 2009

Bookbole.com is seeking ideas on creating a sustainable and scalable user verification system. The goal is to ensure that Bookbole is reaching its intended users i.e. print-impaired, caregivers of print-impaired or organisations /individuals accessing for the print-impaired and NOT sighted users who are none of the above.

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A couple of weeks earlier, Yoshi joined us as a new member on BookBole. She is a young aspiring social entrepreneur whose dream is to set up a reading caravan project in Thailand. And she is currently in the final stages of completion of a one year course at the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurship(IISE) in Kerala, India. So here’s a Japanese girl who is studying in India and would be setting up a venture in Thailand! So that pretty much sums up what Braille without Borders is all about!

Yoshimi Horiuchi giving a lecture to the IISE class (smiles)

Braille Without Borders (BWB) is an international organisation for the blind in developing countries. It was founded in Lhasa, Tibet by Sabriye Tenberken and Paul Kronenberg in 1998.

Sabriye & Paul

Sabriye Tenberken was born in Cologne in Germany.At age 12 she became blind. She studied Central Asian Sciences at Bonn University. In addition to Mongolian and modern Chinese, she studied modern and classical Tibetan in combination with sociology and philosophy. As no blind student had ever before ventured to enroll in these kind of studies, she could not fall back on the experiences of anyone else – and had to develop her own methods in order to follow her course of studies. Out of this need, Sabriye developed the Tibetan Braille Script. Sabriye initiated the project for the blind in Tibet along with Paul. Paul was born in Venray in the Netherlands. He has a technical background, and is responsible for all technical and maintenance aspects in the project.

After tasting success in the Tibetan project they started the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurship (IISE) in Kerala, India. IISE focuses on participants who are blind and/or partially sighted. Over a one year’s course the participants will be practically trained in management, fundraising, PR activities, project planning, computer technology, English, communication and soft skills. After this training they will be in a position to fight for their rights, to negotiate with governmental leaders and help to change the attitudes towards marginalized groups through setting up social and/or environmental projects in their own regions or countries.

Whilst embarking on the project the doubting thomases did ask them “Where will you find partially sighted and blind visionaries who are committed and talented enough to be able start their own social projects?” “Where will you find suitable trainers?

I guess those doubts have been put to rest, the first batch of IISE passes out in a couple of weeks from now. 23 participants from 14 different countries, each with passion, commitment and their own dreams.

Students at IISE sharing a lighter moment outside the classroom

Our best wishes to the first batch & the entire team at BWB , and we are confident that all of them will go places. As they rightly point out, they have right to be blind without being disabled.

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Inclusive Planet is very happy to collaborate with ‘Beyond Profit‘, a magazine that covers people and ideas from the social enterprise sector. In their first guest contribution to our blog, they draw attention to three organizations that have moved away from a victim-centric view of disability by productively employing persons with disabilities. Hats off to the tireless efforts of the Diya Foundation, Blind with Camera and Enable India.

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We may not have a problem building a few ramps in movie theatres and malls or reserving desk-jobs. But what about areas where the average person has long held a monopoly? Or areas where we may feel disabled persons cannot be ‘accommodated’ easily. Like the army. We seem to be unwilling to even let disabled students apply to a military school. Should we draw the line here and designate some areas as ‘off-limits’ for such people? If we do, are they really equal citizens?

For the second time in ‘Geekable’, Vivek explores the meaning of equality in the context of disabled persons. This time, he takes a closer look at the issue of admitting disabled persons into military schools. Agree or disagree…your comments would make this debate more interesting.

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It might be a bit strange to pick a site where all of the content is in video, but our research shows that Youtube is a pretty popular site for our users. So, today, we would like to feature the Khan Academy.

The Khan Acadamy was started by the efforts of Sal Khan to realize his goal of using technology to educate people.  Sal received his MBA from Harvard Business School. He also holds a Masters in electrical engineering and computer science, a BS in electrical engineering and computer science, and a BS in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He started remote tutoring with his cousins and now reaches over 50,000 students and adult learners around the world.

The Sal Academy features over 800 videos (all made by Sal) covering everything from Biology to Calculus, Linear Algebra and Finance. Sal makes use a blackboard while teaching, but in most cases his lectures are quite easy to understand even without the visual aides. However, even if they weren’t, I for one would like to point to Sal as an inspiration of what one person can do to make a difference.

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Pandu

The Fayre couple visited India to adopt a 5-year-old boy who was born blind, abandoned at a hospital gate, and who had subsequently spent the last five years isolated in an orphanage with virtually no human contact.

Reading this blog gave me cheer and hope…. Lots of hope. Read about this loveable family and the adventurous journey they have Raising Pandu. I hope you will make an effort to drop a comment to cheer this family that stepped up lovingly to adopt a special needs child.

Here is an excerpt on their first meeting with Pandu

Wow! It finally happened. We went to Ashraya and met Pandu today! And… he’s not nearly as bad off as we had orginally thought he might be. He is walking around on his own, playing with toys, and oh my god, full of energy! He is still in the todlers room. He isn’t speaking, as we suspected, but he is deffinately understanding some words. We were able to spend around 2 hours with him before the children were put down for a nap. We then went back to our hotel for about 2 hours and then came back to the orphanage for around half an hour.

Pandu seemed to be really interested in me. I’m not sure if this is my magnetic personality, or just that he has been around very few, if any, male caregivers. He came up to me several times and grabbed onto my leg. He also let Lalena and I hold him for a while. Lalena played with him and got him laughing. He does have a long way to go, but I’m sure he will improove exponentially once he gets some one-on-one attention. It was very obvious that the orphanage is very understaffed. They just don’t have time to give each child the attention they need. As one of the workers put it, “the volunteers tend to gravitate towards those children who are the most vocal in seeking attention.” Pandu just isn’t one of those kids.

All the children in the todlers room were very fascinated with us. I’m sure they are for any new adult that comes in and pays attention to them. Because I’m blind, and carying a cane, they were that much more interested.

After we left the orphanage, we went out to dinner at a really nice restaurant downtown. The bill came out to 1000 rupees, which is around $20. That was for a restaurant on the 13th floor of a shopping complex with an incredible view of the city. I am now sitting in our hotel room writing this posting. Lalena is fast asleep. 22 hours of traveling and then 4 hours of sleep will tend to do that to a person. I’m gonna as soon as I finish this posting, if my head doesn’t hit the keyboard before I’m finished!

So, that was our day. I’ll let Lalena describe the hair-raising auto-ricshaw ride downtown to the restaurant. She’s much better at that sort of thing than I am. She did see her first cow walking down the middle of the road though. Well, not her first cow, but the frst cow in the middle of te road amoung tons of other traffic. Anyways, good night everyone out there in blog land! We’ll post more tomorrow.

Follow the Fayre family at their blog Raising Pandu

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In today’s staff pick we feature Sandi Wassmer’s blog which is on the Action for Blind website. Sandi is a businesswoman based in UK, who registered blind a year ago, and blogs about the ‘shenanigans of visual impairment’.

Her posts cover her day to day experiences as a blind person, and tend to address a lot of relevant issues which  sighted persons are totally unaware off.

Here’s her take on accessibility with a simple example  “You would think that, in my job and with my burning desire to make sure that all disabled folk are getting the best out of technology, I would be able to get more people to understand why it is so important for the Internet to be Inclusive and that Accessibility isn’t something that you think about as an add-on after you have built your website. It is an integral part of every website. You wouldn’t build a 50-story building without a lift now, would you?”

Her article in the guardian you don’t need sight to have vision was an attempt to open the eyes of people to change their inaccurate perceptions of disability.

We need many more Sandi’s to stand up and keep writing to raise awareness, and we hope that the perceptions will change for good, sooner than later.

SJ

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