NEW AMSTERDAM, BERBICE – The Disabled People’s Network in Region Six is appealing to kind hearted persons for assistance in acquiring computers and Braille equipment such as the slate, writer, paper and other like paraphernalia.
The members are also inviting visually impaired persons and those with physical challenges to make use of new training programmes – Braille and information technology. The sessions are free and are open to persons in and around East Berbice/Corentyne.
Dawn Benjamin, Treasurer of the Disabled People’s Network in Region Six said the group meets at the New Amsterdam Special Needs School in Vryman’s Erven on the first and last Friday each month. The aim of the organisation is to help prepare those living with physical and other challenges to be better equipped to survive in today’s society.
For those visually impaired, the Jaws System is offered. This special audio software is installed on a regular computer and provides all the commands and instructions for those without vision. The physically challenged persons use the normal computer. Both groups are now being taught the parts of the computer.
This programme began on January 11and is expected to run for three months. This first batch consists of six visually impaired and four physically challenged persons from in and around New Amsterdam. At present, the Braille classes are conducted orally until the necessary equipment can be had. The five computers the group uses are the property of the New Amsterdam Special Needs School.
Ms. Dawn Benjamin said the world, at times, can be cruel to those who are different in whatever way. “We, the persons with disabilities, want to be better equipped to deal with modern technology and not left behind. In many instances, if given the chance we can function like normal people and at times even better. So give us a chance and see what we are made of.”
Ms. Benjamin is visually impaired herself but does not see the world as a dark hole, “After all I do not see myself as a cripple. I have the ability to take care of myself and have been doing so for the past 20 years. Actually I see the world in a whole different light.”
Learning to use the computer was not an easy task for her and peers but there is a schedule to follow and one way or the other the group has to shape up. She explained that none of them used a computer before but within two sessions (six hours) they had to learn to identify each key on the keyboard.
“We started from the bottom row and basically crammed it but now I can identify each key on any keyboard even though I am blind.”
Week two saw the group preparing a document on the computer which was dictated by the Tutor, Zoya Crandon, “We are all excited about this new venture and see it as a challenge which we know we will excel at. We have all felt left out at one point or the other in our lives but now we are given a chance to show what we are made of.”
Ms. Dawn Benjamin, 35, of Sandvoort in West Canje, lost her sight when she was 15 years old as a result of an eye infection. During the earlier days she underwent two eye surgeries but to no avail.
When she lost her sight, about 12 months after the problem was detected, she was a student of the Berbice High School, “It was just after the first surgery I became blind. The problem was first detected when I realised that my vision was blurred, days later a doctor diagnosed an eye infection and treatment started.”
After no improvement she moved to different doctors but none made a difference, “Despite of my disability I know I am still somebody. I am intelligent, beautiful and an independent woman.”
It is now nine years since Ms. Benjamin has been making floral arrangements and stuffed toys but this is not enough for her to survive on since patronage is not always forthcoming.
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