Technology may have made life easy for many, but it has turned out to be a bigger barrier for the visually impaired, said Professor Fredric Schroeder, president, World Blind Union (WBU), a global organisation representing blind and partially sighted people.
Prof. Schroeder spoke to The Hindu on the sidelines of a media conference to announce the 5th Say Everything National Technology Convention organised by the Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled on Saturday and Sunday. Eminent personalities will present papers on a wide range of themes and issues with regard to disability, inclusion and application of assistive technology followed by a panel discussion.
Excerpts from an interview
How do you see the opportunities in terms of jobs and workspaces, and their accessibility for the visually impaired?
The conditions are improving gradually worldwide. There are certain technologies that are not designed for the use of blind people. It is necessary to get in designs for the use of blind people, what we call as the universal design. Companies and manufacturers should think of non-visual access at the design stage so that the things don't have to be retrofit. Later on, all of this has a direct bearing on employment. In other words, it is not necessarily the blindness, but often technology that creates a barrier.
Have enough policies being implemented keeping the blind in mind?
The common threat is that throughout the world blind people are looked as dependant, helpless and unable to contribute. This is at the core of the denied opportunities. I believe technology is an important aspect of employment for blind people. It opens up avenues for employment. There must be a rethinking of national efforts and policy in the area of literacy for the visually impaired.
What has been the biggest breakthrough so far?
Self organisation and coming together of all the blind people as one.
What do you think of transport accessibility for the blind?
That is a chronic problem. Self-driving vehicles are coming along. If we are vigilant and make sure accessibility is designed at the front end, it will expand opportunities and ways that were not practical before.