ARMENIAN INTERNET SOCIETY’S
INTERNET CENTER FOR VISUALLY IMPAIRED PEOPLE
The best thing we can do for blind people is to help them to get connected with the world.
- Sounds a little strange though, but on the continuum of human development there has not been a better period for being blind. After invention of Braille alphabet it was the internet that provided the biggest opportunity for people with severe visual impairment to maintain independence in their daily life.
- Internet made it possible for those people to create a huge network and exchange various experiences.
History of creation of the Internet center for blind people of Armenia
In 2012, the Internet Society of Armenia applied to the International Internet Society for a grant to create an Internet center for people with vision impairment in the Culture House of the Armenian Society of Blinds.The International Internet Society awarded a 10,000 USD worth community grant and the Internet Society of Armenia added 2,500 USD. The grant period was one year.
In parallel, the initiative group of Internet Society and Culture House developed a concept of transformation of Culture House into a rehabilitation center for people with visual impairments. Three main directions of rehabilitation were envisaged: sporting-recreational, information and, of course, cultural. The third of floor of the building was allocated for information technologies.
Photos depicting the process of establishment of the Internet Center for blind people can be seen here. With the grant funds two rooms were renovated – the center itself and a recreation room. Six computers, tables and office chairs were purchased. Two more computers, a color printer, air conditioner, drinking water station and numerous furniture were donated to the center by the American organization “International Relief and Development” (IRD).
The opening ceremony of the center took place in April 2013. At the end of May 2013, the center of attended by the First Lady of Armenia Mrs. Rita Sargsyan, famous writer and essayist Mr. Zory Balayan, Minister of Culture of Republic of Armenia Mrs. Hasmik Poghosyan, Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Mrs. Jemma Baghdasaryan and others.
In September 2013, Mrs. Rita Sargsyan invited the President of Armenians of Russian Federation Mr. Ara Abrahamyan to visit the center. He pledged to support with full reconstruction of the entire building.
This is a very positive example of how a small grant for establishing an internet center triggered a much bigger project resulting in a functional rehabilitation center and a communicational platform for blind people of Armenia.
Here is how it all started..
In November 2011, within the framework of a partnership between International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and UNESCO Institute of International Technologies in Education, an internet center for people with vision impairments was created in Yerevan. The main goal of the project was to support the inclusiveness policies and with the help of information-communication technologies establish an accessible informational-educational environment for people with vision impairments.
The ITU invested 100,000 USD in that project. The center was opened within a framework of the Internet for Blinds project implemented by Ministry of Transport of Armenia, Haypost csc., UNESCO and Internet Society of Armenia. The latter provides continuous operational support to the center.
- On November 21 of 2011, opening ceremony of the Internet Center took place, with participation of representatives of various ministries, international organizations, including Deputy Secretary General of ITU Khoulin Chjaho, Head of the ITU Regional Office of FSU countries Orozobek Kayhikov, Director of Moscow Office of UNESCO Dendef Badarch, Secretary General of National Commission of Armenia in UNESCO Vahram Kajoyan, Minister of Transport and Communication of Armenia Manuk Vardanyan, Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Jemma Baghdasaryan. There were also media representatives and NGOs.
On November 22 and 23 of 2011, a seminar was conducted at the internet center, using the methodology and technical opportunities of information-communication technologies for education and social rehabilitation of vision impaired people. 20 specialists participated in the seminar, among them – representatives of schools for children with special needs, schools of inclusive education and IT companies.
On 18-21 June of 2012, at the internet center a series of seminars on how to use information-communication technologies in educational processes of disabled people took place.
The first seminar of 18-19 June was a general overview of using those technologies in educational processes of disabled people. It was conducted by Natalya Kozireva, specialist of UNESCO Institute of International Technologies in Education (Moscow), and terry Waller, independent expert from Great Britain. Óīėėåš.
- The second seminar of 20-21 June was devoted to using information-communication technologies in education of blind people in particular. It was conducted by Anatoliy Popko, Head of Department of Youth of Cultural and Sporting Rehabilitation Center of Russian Union of Blinds.
- The seminars were under the auspice of UNICEF and UNESCO and greatly benefited the audience comprised of representatives of various educational institutions of Armenia.Unfortunately, the venue and premises appeared to be not convenient, hence, currently the issue of relocation to the House of Culture of Union of Blinds of Armenia is on the agenda.