Visually impaired people need I.C.T. more than most but do not have easy access to specialist advice and support. Working in partnership with other local voluntary organisations Wales Council for the Blind (WCB) are developing a network of specialist assessors trained to help visually impaired people select and use the best ICT solutions to improve their quality of life and retain their independence.
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Meeting the ‚ÄúICT need‚Äù of visually impaired people is not as straightforward as it might appear and it is an area open to abuse by sales orientated providers. Poor analysis of both the sight and technological needs can lead to expensive mistakes and poor solutions. This project aims to deliver that service free to ‚Äúunsupported individuals‚Äù as well as to those whose service can be paid for because they are in employment or education. Access for people with a visual impairment has specific and additional meaning. 90% of our intake of information is through our eyes so sight loss is critical. It is a disability that often results in specific and distinctive problems. It means losing the ability to read letters, bank statements, newspapers, notices and advertisements, books for study or pleasure. Above all, it means access to information. In such circumstances v.i. people are being discriminated against: - in their personal lives - in managing their households and finances - in education - in employment - as potential and actual volunteers In short this means that their independence is threatened, as well as their standard and quality of life. This is why assistance with these functions is crucial. For some of us, even if we can't get out of the door, we can have access to the wide world through books, the media, the Internet. For visually impaired people the book, the media and the Internet have to be in an accessible form. If this is delivered through appropriate assistive technologies it can facilitate the independence that most of us prize and which is the central plank of social policy. WCB has no intention of filling the gap single handed, but instead would like to build up a network of advisers within the field. In this way we could agree standards and methods relating to technology support for visually impaired people. The network will deliver assessments, specifications and on going support for v.i. people to enable them to use ICT. The key element in the success of this scheme will be our ability to offer this service free at the point of delivery to individuals who are outside the spheres of employment or education. The total number registered at present is nearly 20,000 with an additional 40,000 with a serious non-correctable sight loss who are not registered. Every year at least 2,000 more people are registered as blind and partially sighted. This signifies a minimum of 2,000 more people for whom computer technology would be the main means of independence, social inclusion and quality of life. Those are only the cases of serious sight loss that we know about. There is evidence of a considerable additional number who are not registered.
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