Equal opportunities for Moldova’s visually impaired

Published: Nov 23, 2022 Reading time: 4 minutes
Equal opportunities for Moldova’s visually impaired
© Foto: tereza hronova

COVID-19 has been hugely disruptive for all of us, but for people with visual impairments, the pandemic has been particularly challenging. From simple tasks like accessing information and medical assistance during lockdowns, to staving off loneliness, the last two years have been an endless maze of difficulty for those with vision loss. 

This is why our partner organisation, Asociația pentru Dezvoltare Durabilă Integrată (Association for Integrated Sustainable Development - ADDI), launched the “Covid-19: From Isolation to Equal Opportunities” project in Moldova, as part of the EU-funded Covid-19 Solidarity Programme for the Eastern Partnership.

The aim of the programme is to improve the quality of life of blind and visually impaired people in Căușeni district of Moldova. With the provided assistance, ADDI will support marginalised young people in the context of the economic crisis generated by COVID-19 to help ensure equal and non-discriminatory access to social services for the blind.

How to be helpful to vulnerable people

ADDI has been training young people within various volunteer activities, including how to support and advocate for the visually impaired. The project team, in collaboration with the Directorate of Social Assistance and the Territorial Organisation of the Visually Impaired in Căușeni, will identify and support blind people who live alone and encounter difficulties coping with everyday tasks. This exercise aims to promote changes in social attitudes toward blind people, inviting citizens to show empathy and support.

“These people have an increased necessity for visiting the doctor, but their mobility has been limited due to the restrictions,” says ADDI’s Rodica Sirbu. “Many of [the people we work with] need assistants and other facilities [but] the pandemic has left them isolated in their homes, despite their greater needs.”

Oxana Groza, a local student, participated in one of the workshops for volunteers. “I’ve never questioned how people with disabilities are dealing with the pandemic. Within this activity, I’ve learnt that it would be very useful to have a group of volunteers that could assist them, that could support them both emotionally by offering certain services. For example, the volunteers could help them do the groceries.”

Physic and psychosocial support

ADDI does not limit itself to physical support. In an ever-changing digital world, digital skills have become essential for everyone, regardless of social status. Beneficiaries will thus be trained in using mobile phones and special applications for visually impaired people. One tool, Be My Eyes app, is an application that connects users to volunteers by video, who in turn provide visual assistance for tasks such as matching colours and preparing dinner. This app is free, can be installed on both iOS and Android systems, and is also available in Romanian. At the same time, beneficiaries will be trained to install and use the TalkBack screen reader feature. TalkBack reads aloud screen content that the user touches. It is a tool that facilitates interactions with the device for visually impaired people.

Beyond these challenges, solitude is perhaps the most insidious psychological killer of people struggling with disabilities, and especially the blind. A kind word, encouragement, or just the presence of another human being is something we all need. Within the project, ADDI organised a visit to the local museum for some of its beneficiaries. The feedback exceeded all expectations. For many of them it was their only visit to the museum in their entire life. “Since the pandemic started our society has faced multiple challenges. First of all, we haven’t had the possibility to communicate live, to meet, to organise the events that were planned,” says Raisa Țigai, a president of the Society of blind people from Căușeni rayon, which includes 175 members.

Along with the visit, ADDI organised various social activities such as a district chess and checkers competition for the blind, partially sighted, and socially vulnerable young people. ADDI also supported the blind members of the Bastina Folklore Ensemble who performed at various cultural events organised in other institutions, such as the nursing home.

So far, ADDI has helped more than 300 vulnerable people in Căușeni. The project was funded by the European Union COVID-19 Solidarity Programme for the Eastern Partnership to mitigate the adverse effects of COVID-19 and to contribute to the longer-term socioeconomic resilience of vulnerable groups in Eastern Europe. Implemented by People in Need (PIN), in partnership with the Netherlands Helsinki Committee and AFEW International, the project includes interventions in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

This material was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of People in Need and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.
Autor: Tereza Hronova, Mihai Cotorobai

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