Tuesday 17 October, 2017

Spotlight on independence for the visually impaired

 Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn, Minister of Social Development and Family Services congratulating Dr. Subash Sharma, Head, Optometry Programme/Lecturer, UWI (inner right). They are flanked on the left by Research Assistants of the Faculty of Food and Agriculture, the University of the West Indies, (left) Romalisa Bonald, and Brandon Murphy (right) who were part of the team that conceptualised and built the Visually Impaired Grow System which was developed for visually impaired persons.

Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn, Minister of Social Development and Family Services congratulating Dr. Subash Sharma, Head, Optometry Programme/Lecturer, UWI (inner right). They are flanked on the left by Research Assistants of the Faculty of Food and Agriculture, the University of the West Indies, (left) Romalisa Bonald, and Brandon Murphy (right) who were part of the team that conceptualised and built the Visually Impaired Grow System which was developed for visually impaired persons.

Minister of Social Development and Family Services, Cherrie Ann Crichlow-Cockburn, has promised to continue to place focus on persons with disabilities, including persons with visual impairment, with respect to education, training, and opportunities for greater employment.

The Minister was speaking on Friday, May 19 at the Symposium on Independence for the Visually Impaired, which the Ministry hosted in collaboration with the UWI Optometry Department.

The Symposium was held at the Amphitheatre A, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Mount Hope.

In attendance were a number of persons representing various civil society organisations which advocate for persons with visual impairment, representatives of Academia, as well as UWI Optometry students, and other Government stakeholder agencies.

According to a media release from the Ministry, during her feature address, the Minister expressed the view that, “Independence for persons with visual impairment suggests that the community of visually impaired persons neither wish to be constrained nor treated differently. They want to be provided with the same opportunities that are available and accessible to others,’ i.e., access to skills development, equipment, and strategies that will allow them to live life as safely and independently as possible."

The Minister announced that very soon, public consultations will be held on the Draft National Policy for Persons with Disabilities, where the national community will have the opportunity to contribute to the finalisation of the document.

Attendees were also informed that discussions have commenced with the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development with a view to developing an employment strategy for persons with disabilities.

Also in attendance was Professor Terence Seemungal, Dean of the Faculty of Medical Science UWI, who provided some insights into the Draft National Eye Survey of Trinidad and Tobago (NESTT) Report and some of the work the Department of Optometry has been undertaking to preserve vision for the population. Professor Seemungal extended an invitation to participants to register at the Department for free eye care and anticipated the establishment of a full eye care clinic in the near future.

Health Systems and Services Advisor, Trinidad and Tobago Country Office, PAHO/WHO Dr. Edwin Vincente Bolastig also brought remarks and indicated his organisation’s support to rehabilitation strategies, plans, policies and standards related to visual impairment.

According to the release, the session was a very interactive one, inviting recommendations from participants.

One recommendation was that there needed to be “more involvement and sensitivity of the business community in providing special discounts and concessions for items like coins, talking watches, tactile braille labelling, audio and voice recognition software.”

The Symposium was one of the activities which was held to commemorate Blind Awareness Month, which is also recognized by the Caribbean Council for the Blind - established in 1967, with the aim of ‘giving sight whilst creating opportunities for persons whose sight could not be repaired.’