East wind official Newsletter of the World Blind Union Asia Pacific



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EAST WIND

Official Newsletter of the World Blind Union Asia Pacific



Message
Yoshihiko Sasagawa

Chairman, National Committee of Welfare for the Blind in Japan


I am always grateful to the tireless efforts and firm dedications by all the member organizations and individuals of the World Blind Union-Asia Pacific, for the promotion and improvements of the status of the blind and visually impaired persons throughout the Asia Pacific Region.

The year 2007 was one of the most important and remarkable years for us blind and visually impaired persons. Countries are gradually signing the UN Convention adopted at the UN General Assembly on December 12, 2006, and the world has just started moving toward the realization of the ideal set forth in those Articles. Although only a small number of countries have so far ratified, every country in the UN has the obligation to pursue early ratification and putting into the vision into reality. We may have to deal with various circumstances of each country, but nonetheless, we must indeed keep working hard together and do our best so that every person with disability will lead valuable, meaningful and happy life as a human being.

Let’s keep ourselves informed of what our colleagues are up to, and work together toward our common goal.

I hope that East Wind will play a part of the role for that purpose.

Details of the 9th WBU General Assembly have been announced. Looking forward to seeing you in Geneva with hope, aspiration and smile!
******
FROM THE WORLD BLIND UNION OFFICE

Penny Hartin

Chief Executive Officer

World Blind Union


At the beginning of this quadrennium, the WBU Officers undertook a Strategic Planning exercise in order to determine the key priorities on which to focus its work during the four year term. These priorities were identified as:

  1. Establish a WBU permanent office

  2. Capacity building and organizational development

  3. Advancing governance and democracy within the WBU

  4. Generating and managing financial resources

  5. Developing and implementing internal and external communications

  6. Developing and implementing advocacy and lobbying strategies

  7. Achieving a world accessible to blind people

  8. Planning of Seventh General Assembly

Specific initiatives and performance indicators were developed in order to advance the implementation of these strategies and a number of committees and working groups were established to advance the work. Achievements on all initiatives are monitored regularly and reported on at the Officers and Executive meetings by means of an Operating Plan that was developed to support the Strategic Plan. We are happy to share any of these documents with our members.

One of the key priorities was the establishment of the WBU Permanent office. Following the development of a business plan to support the creation of an office for the WBU, the Executive approved the plan and a number of WBU’s members offered sponsorship to support the first few years of operation of the office. Subsequently a decision was made to house the office within the CNIB headquarters in Toronto Canada and a CEO was recruited.

The office has now been open for approximately one year now. It has been a busy year since our opening. During that time we have been registered as a not for profit corporation in Canada; have assumed the membership database; have initiated regular communications with our members through the bi-monthly E-bulletin; provide organizational support to all WBU Officers and Executive meetings as well as the General Assembly organizing committees. We will take over dues collection in 2008 and are also in the process of moving the website to Toronto.


While it has been a very busy year in which we have focused on establishing a firm foundation for our operations, it has been a very rewarding one. Our members are beginning to use the office as their central point for information and regular contact with the WBU. We can only be effective however, when our members do communicate with us and keep us informed about changes within their organizations, in particular their contact information.

WBU’s work in advocacy at the international level has also been significant. In particular, our United Nations Working Group played a key role in the development of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that was brought before the UN General Assembly in December of 2006. This UN Convention contains many articles that not only improve human rights for all persons with disabilities, but which also incorporates specific rights important to blind persons, such as the right to Braille. The UN Working Group is presently working on tools to assist our national members to advocate with their local governments. Through our involvement with the International Disability Alliance, the WBU is involved in initiatives with the World Health Organization and UNESCO to ensure the inclusion of blind persons in their initiatives. Moreover our WBU Copyright and Right to Read Working group has worked very hard with the World Intellectual Property Organization and other groups to help break down barriers of access to information for blind persons across borders.

These are but some examples of the work that has been going on within the WBU at the international level. We report on these and many more topics via our bimonthly E-bulletin which is sent to all members. We invite your comments on that and in particular invite your input so that we can ensure that the E-bulletin reflects the work that is being done both internationally but regionally and nationally as well.
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GREAT NEWS FROM THAILAND; SENATOR MONTHIAN BUNTAN
We are more than proud to announce here that Mr. Monthian Buntan, WBU Executive Officer representing WBUAP, has been officially appointed as Senator of the parliament of Thailand, by their selection committee in February.

Monthian was the head of Thai delegation to the ad hoc committee since 2002 to draft the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was first presented to the United Nations in 2001, and has been more than active in the pursuit of putting our ideals into the draft convention. As President of Thai Association of the Blind, he has been working tirelessly to bring our voices to the government of Thailand and to the platform of the world. He has also been representing WBU at the World Summit on Information Society, to achieve the information society which is accessible for all blind and visually impaired persons around the globe.

I am sure his new role in the parliament will give him enormous opportunities to work for persons with disabilities and the civil society at large, within Thailand and eventually to the Asia Pacific Region and the entire world.

Congratulations, Monthian, we are so proud of you!


******
4-Nation Fact-Finding Mission 2007

Ivan Ho Tuck Choy

Secretary General, WBUAP
The President of the National Council for the Blind, Malaysia, Dato' Kulasegaran, in his capacity as the Chairman of WBUAP South-East Asia Regional Committee and the Executive Director of NCBM, and myself as the Secretary General of WBUAP, made the trip to Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam from 23 - 30 September 2007. At the conclusion of seven meetings some recommendations and actions were agreed upon and the notable ones were:
1. Myanmar:

(a) The Chairman persuaded the Education Centre for Blind Affairs to join, and the Myanmar National Association of the Blind to accept their membership. The two organisations, which were not on friendly terms for the past ten years, have agreed to work together to achieve national goals.

(b) Also persuaded MNAB to set up the National Committee on Education For all Visually Impaired Children (NACOMEFAVIC) with ECBA holding the chairmanship.

It is heartening to know that MNAB has now been admitted into WBU as a full National Member with six delegates.


2. Laos:

The Lao Association of the Blind has just been registered on 17 September and they would need all the advice and assistance they could get. It will be up to WBUAP, SEARC and other more established organisations for and of the blind, to find ways to help them. It is heartening to know that the Danish Association of the Blind through the DANIDA Project is assisting LAB with their capacity-Building and encouraging blind women there to be active members.

LAB is in the process of applying to WBU to be a member. Hopefully, they will be sending a delegation to the 7th WBU General Assembly in August.

As a result of our discussions, LAB has just started their Computer Unit and has purchased two sets of computers for the purpose. Also, they have started exploring with other organisations to set up the National Committee on Education for All Visually Impaired Children.


3. Cambodia:

While in Cambodia we visited an organisation operating services for deprived children, including the blind and deaf. Despite the many disappointments, Mrs. Cheam Kosal of Krousar Thmey is doing an excellent job in that country. She has agreed to form NACOMEFAVIC and to work with all bodies connected with the education for blind children.

The other organisation we visited in Phnom Penh was the Association of the Blind in Cambodia. Although ABC was formed in 2000, they have made remarkable progress, owning a two-storey building and having excellent success with their micro-credit projects.
4. Vietnam:

The Vietnam Blind Association also appears to be doing fine when compared to the standard of living of other citizens or neighbouring countries. VBA, with a membership of 55,000 out of a population of 600,000 blind people in Vietnam, still has much work to do. However, the officers are very optimistic and they even spoke of helping their neighbours and of regional co-operation.

We visited their Training and Rehabilitation Centre where massage, ICT technology and other skills are taught. We recently learnt that VBA, with the assistance of the Japanese Embassy, have procured several Braille and Ink-print embossers to produce dual format books for their children and teachers.

Another meeting was held with the National Institute for Education, Strategy and Curriculum Centre. Dr Nguyen Duc Minh, the Deputy Director, is very confident that his country will be able to achieve the goal of Education For All Visually Impaired Children by 2015.


******
Update from Pacific-Oceania Sub-Region

Kevin Murfitt

Chair, WBUAP Pacific-Oceania sub-region
*Launch of Equipment Recycling Web Site*

At the Regional Assembly of the WBUAP in China, Mr. Andrew Daly, Executive Director of the Royal Society for the Blind of South Australia (RSB), with the support of the Australian delegates, presented a proposal to create a web based equipment recycling scheme. This proposal was endorsed by the Regional Assembly and it was agreed to conduct a pilot within our sub-region.

The aim of the website is to recycle surplus low-tech equipment to other people who are blind or have low vision in Pacific countries.

A website demonstrating this concept has been created and can be viewed at:

* www.rsb.org.au/wbu
A report of the development and success of this initiative will be presented at the WBU Asia-Pacific meeting during the WBU General Assembly (August 2008) to be held in Switzerland.

Initially, access to this equipment will be through either blindness agencies of/for the blind or other allied organisations and not individuals.

We encourage you to have a look at the equipment registered as available on the site already, and we are encouraging all organizations in Australia and New Zealand to contribute equipment to the site. If equipment listed on the site is needed by people who are blind or have low vision in your area, you just need to open the contact link alongside the equipment and you can submit a request. You can also request low tech equipment that you need but is not already listed as available by following the appropriate links.

I believe that this is a great initiative and an effective way of assisting all in our sub-region by the use of any surplus equipment. If you have any questions regarding the above please do not hesitate to contact either Andrew or myself on:


*adaly@rsb.org.au

*Kevin.murfitt@visionaustralia.org


Steve Rothstein from the Perkins School in the U.S. recently visited Australia and is keen for his organization to be linked to the equipment site as well. The Perkins School has a vision that every child who is blind or has low vision has access to a Perkins Brailler. The Perkins site also has repair and other useful information. The link will be available very soon on the equipment site.

*LOUIS BRAILLE BICENTENARY*

The WBU is encouraging celebrations worldwide to commemorate Louis Braille’s bi-centenary in 2009. Braille is central in the lives of people who are blind or have low vision, and we all should take this opportunity to highlight the benefits of and need for Braille in our communities. It is also an opportunity to highlight to your community the talents and needs of people who are blind or have low vision more generally.

SOME ELEMENTS OF A CELEBRATORY PROGRAMME as described by WBU President William Roland include:


  • Issuing of commemorative coins

  • Issuing of commemorative postage stamps

  • Naming of roads for Louis Braille, particular in vicinity of blindness agencies

  • Publication of commemorative brochures

  • Production of documentary films

  • Formation of braille authorities

  • Establishment of braille production units

  • Establishment of braille sections in public libraries

  • Launching of braille literacy projects

  • Launching of campaign whereby all blind children will have text books in braille by 2009

  • Holding of conferences on development and promotion of braille

  • Making of awards to recognize outstanding contributions in braille development and provision

  • Staging of essay competitions for blind children - “What braille means to me”

  • Staging of braille reading and writing competitions

  • Organizing of awareness campaigns - “The importance of braille”

  • Addressing of schools and service clubs on the heritage of Louis Braille and the innate abilities of blind people

For example, Vision Australia has submitted a proposal for a commemorative stamp to be issued in 2009 for the Louis Braille bi-centenary.



*Inclusive Education Workshop Fiji October 2007*

This recent workshop was hosted jointly by the Pacific Islands Forum, UNICEF, UNESCO, SPBEA, and the Pacific Disability Forum, with representatives from the ministries of education and major NGOs of 15 Pacific Island countries (their attendance was sponsored by AusAid). The recent UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and the focus on inclusive education, has stimulated regional governments to look at current educational service delivery. Almost half of the countries in the Pacific have very limited education options for children with disabilities. They share the challenges of poverty, geography and culture in achieving inclusive education for all.

Another workshop held in Fiji late in 2007 involved parents of children who are blind or have low vision and other interested parties.

The following is a summary of the workshop from Margaret Verrick of the Australian Blindness Forum, from a report prepared by Gayle Skinner (Australian Association of Parents of Vision Impaired) and Paul Manning (Parents of Vision Impaired NZ).

The primary aims of the workshop were to increase parent participation within the Pacific region and assist with the development of a national parent structure.

The workshop focused on:



  • Programs that support parents

  • Parents learning through supporting the education of their children

  • Problems and struggles faced: lack of timely information; lack of understanding the value of social support systems; financial hardship; lack of family support or understanding; isolation and lack of transportation; lack of positive planning for the future

  • The difference made by the support from the CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation) is helping overcome parental/cultural challenges and stimulating belief in education

Workshop outcomes included:



  • Sharing of personal experiences

  • Greater understanding and respect for parents’ knowledge of their child

  • Realisation of the role of education in helping shape a more positive future

  • Need for regional parent networks

Actions over the next year were identified as:



  • CBR team to assist and encourage regional parent networks in their respective regions

  • A national parent forum to be held with representatives from each regional group

  • A National Parent Association to be established

  • Australian and New Zealand parent groups to continue to provide support including exploration of NZ Aid and AusAID funding to support the Fijian National Parent Body

More information about the Australian and New Zealand parent groups can be found at http://www.aapvi.org.au/

(AAPVI) and

http://www.pvi.org.nz/

(PVI-NZ).


*The Education For All (EFA) Campaign*

The EFA Campaign launched by the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) in partnership with the World Blind Union is gaining momentum. For example, ICEVI and the Vietnamese Government have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will allow the implementation of campaign activities from 2007 until 2010. The National Technical Task Force that will be working in this country has a plan that includes capacity building, production of Braille literature, and awareness programmes to create a demand for education. The goal in the region is to provide access to education with a target of 100% access for all children by the year 2015.

In the Pacific region Frances Gentle, (Chair, ECIVI Pacific) is leading the implementation of the Education For All initiative in collaboration with a committee including Dr Jill Keeffe, currently Senior Vice President of ICEVI, James Aiwa, Garoka University (PNG), Tricia d’Apice, Doreen Roebeck, Setareki Macanawai, CEO Pacific Disability Forum Fiji, Karen Stobbs, Sandie Mackevicius, President of SPEVI, Kevin Murfitt (Chair of World Blind Union Pacific-Oceania Sub-Region), Cheng Hock Kua (President of World Blind Union Asia-Pacific Region); Paul Manning (Executive Officer of Parents of Vision Impaired NZ), and Gayle Skinner (President of Australian Association for Parents of Vision Impaired Inc). (sorry for those I couldn’t find titles for).

The Education for All (EFA) initiative in the Pacific region has just recently made great progress in the establishment of the Fiji EFA Committee that will oversee the development and implementation of EFA initiatives in Fiji.


*Papua New Guinea Blind Union (PNG-BU)

With support from the Danish Government through John Hilbren from the Danish association for the Blind, the PNG-BU is attempting to increase and spread their membership nationally, and organize a national assembly where they can hold elections for a representative Board, and hold workshops and training to better enable PNG-BU to become an effective advocacy and peer support organization for PNG people who are blind or have low vision.

Maryanne Diamond, International Development Manager for Vision Australia, and First Vice-President WBU, myself as Chair WBU-AP (Pacific-Oceania), John Heilbren and Suzanne Coch from the Danish Association for the Blind, visited PNG in 2007 to assist the PNG-BU develop a strategy to achieve their goal of a national assembly. With the assistance of James Aiwa from University of Garoka, and Ruth Sankil from St Johns in Port Moresby, a lot of progress was made. A committee of people who are blind or have low vision representing different PNG Provinces has been established to assist PNG -BU Chair Daniel Aindo and other current Board members to gather memberships and organize the assembly.

Over the past few months progress has been slow, but is being made, and a couple of highlights are:



    • PNG-BU has been represented at disability forums in PNG where membership has been promoted;

    • and new memberships are being gained by the representatives in the provinces.

We wish PNG-BU luck in achieving the aims of the project.
Finally, two National Conventions of organizations of people who are blind or have low vision were held in our sub-region in 2007:
1. Martine Abel reports that in early October the Association of Blind Citizens had its national Conference and the theme this year was: Building Relationships - Living with Blindness. We received quite positive feedback about it and corporate, employment, personal, sexual, inter-personal relationship matters were raised as well as stuff such as if your vision changes, how might it affect those around you at home and so on, etc.

For further information about the conference or ABCNZ go to www.abcnz.org.nz


2. In Australia, the Blind Citizens Australia AGM and National Convention was held in Melbourne: with the theme: ‘Forging Links Beyond tomorrow’. Similar to the ABCNZ conference, the BCA Convention’s 125 attendees (with many others listening to the proceedings live from home on their computers) explored topics such as peer support, education, employment, parenting, sexuality and relationships, and self advocacy. For further information and proceedings of the convention go to www.bca.org.au
******
REPORT FROM EAST ASIA SUB-RETION

Chuji Sashida

WBU Executive Officer representing WBUAP
I will be in the post of acting Chairperson of the East Asia Sub-Region tentatively until the upcoming WBUAP General Assembly which will be held in Geneva in August during the WBU General Assembly. Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments, suggestions etc.

Here are a few reports from countries of our Sub-Region.

The 8th WBU Asia Pacific Regional Seminar on Massage for the Blind was held In Tsukuba, Japan, from September 22 to 24, 2006, co-organized by the National Committee of Welfare for the Blind in Japan and the National University Corporation Tsukuba University of Technology. The theme of the seminar was: “Striving for Massage Professionalism and Extending Job Opportunities--through Knowledge and Skills Sharing”. There were country reports from 13 countries and territories, 23 presentations for plenary sessions, 8 technical workshops, 2 symposiums, and the Board meeting of the WBUAP Regional Massage Commission. There were ca. 300 participants from 17 countries/ territories including Japan. Presentations and other oral communications had simultaneous interpretation in Mandarin Chinese, Korean and Thai, in addition to Japanese and English. 9 out of the 11 interpreters were blind or visually impaired. The services enabled active exchange of opinions and techniques throughout the seminar, and also suggested chances of blind and visually impaired persons working as interpreters. If you would like copies of the official report of the Seminar, please contact me or the National Committee of Welfare for the Blind in Japan. Contact details are on the last page.

In May 2006, the constitutional court in Korea judged that the regulations to only allow blind and visually impaired to run massage clinics is unconstitutional. Following the decision, and at the same time the movement from the blindness communities, the medical law was revised in August 2006. Instead of allowing only vision impaired masseurs to open their clinics, in the new framework of regulation, the restriction is in place in terms of training and education. The masseur qualification will only be given to those who receive designated education and training, which is in practice limited to those graduating from schools for the blind and rehabilitation centers where newly blinded persons receive training. In other words, instead of stating that the job of massage is limited to the blind and visually impaired, the law now implies that only the blind and visually impaired can receive qualifications.

There has also been a big struggle for our friends in Mongolia. Three of the Mongolian National Federation of the Blind (MNFB) members went on hunger strike from April 27 2007 in protest against legal changes which reduced financial assistances to persons with disabilities. In addition to protest against budget cuts and urges for measures for vision impaired persons, members were demanding talks with government officials. They ended their successful 5-day strike when government officials promised to change their laws back so that the former assistance will be ensured. Congratulations our colleagues in Mongolia!
******

BRIEF UPDATE FROM DANIDA PROJECT


Here’s a very bried update on the Capacity Building Project sponsored by the Danish Government through DANIDA, their development aid organization.

In Laos, a a leadership training seminar took place mid November 2007 with a facilitator provided by the Thailand Association of the Blind. The seminar was highly appreciated for its valuable inputs and discussions. Various ideas were presented for further actions. The work on research and mapping regarding visually impaired women in Laos has been initiated, and a survey has been carried out.

In Mongolia, a strategic planning workshop was held for 4 days at the end of November 2007. 3 long-term and 3 short-term goals for the Mongolian National Federation of the Blind were identified, and a plan of action has been developed. A plan for the women’s research has been established. The research works continue from December up to February, and a women’s workshop is scheduled for March 2008.

In addition, a traiing program for instuctors on follow-up issues will take place, possibly sometime in the midle of the year 2008.

WBUAP highly appreciates this project, which will surely benefit the blindness organizations of the two countries. We hope to hear more from our colleagues as projects progress.
******
The 5th WBUAP Onkyo Braille Essay Contest*
The 5th WBUAP Onkyo Braille Essay Contest 2007 for persons with visual impairment in the Asia-Pacific Region was organised by the World Blind Union-Asia Pacific (WBUAP) and sponsored by the Onkyo Corporation Ltd. and the Tenji Mainichi (Braille Mainichi) Newspaper of Japan.

The contestants submitted an essay on one of the three given topics as follows:


(a) How I Make the Best Use of Braille and Audio Devices to Enrich My Daily Life.

(b) What Must a Person with Visual Impairment Do to Become a Successful Musician?

(c) My Concept of World Peace from the Viewpoint of a Person with Visual Impairment.
The results from the 23 entries in the contest are as follows:

The Ootsuki Prize: The Ootsuki Prize of US $1,000 and a trophy, opened to both the Junior and the Senior groups, went to Yau Wai Lok Billy (male, 22-year-old, Junior) from Hong Kong-China with a score of 86.25 marks.

According to the judges, Billy Yau showed that, when Braille and audio devices are combined and put to the proper use, they can help a blind person to live a normal and useful life. He also showed that, sometimes as an individual, we cannot "fight against the inevitables", such as being caught in a traffic jam, but we can find useful things to occupy our time. For instance, instead of grumbling, Billy Yau just listen to some interesting talking-books or magazines. Blindness is a nuisance but blind people learn to overcome difficult situations all the time. Billy Yau related how he used Braille, computers and audio devices to get the information he wanted and to keep in touch with friends, the local community and with the world - all these have made his life interesting and meaningful. He cited an incident when a blind person mistook salt for sugar in making a cake. By simply putting Braille labels on items, a blind person would not faced such a situation. In fact, he would gain a certain degree of independence and not always have to depend on sighted assistance. He made a comparison to the message delivered by the first Marathon runner and the message sent by the Braille dots to his brain.

Without doubt, Billy Yau, by harnessing the usefulness of Braille and audio devices, has managed to stay connected with the world, to access information advantageous to him; but, above all, to be an independent and useful person. In short, Braille and audio devices have enriched his life and made education possible to him.


Group A - Junior (those whose ages were between 14 and 25 years old)

(1) The Excellent Prize of US $500 and a trophy went to Ma Maria-Makhon (female, 23-year-old, Junior) of Myanmar with a score of 75.25 marks.

(2) The two Fine Works of US $200 each were awarded to Wong Chi Wai (male, 20-year-old, Junior) from Hong Kong-China with a score of 74.25, and Phoung Sophea (male, 24-year-old, Junior) from Cambodia with a score of 73.75 marks.
Group B - Senior, (those whose ages were 26 years old and above)

(1) The Excellent Prize of US $500 and a trophy went to Choo Kim Yoon (male, 39-year-old, Senior) from Malaysia with a score of 79.6 marks.

(2) The two Fine Works of US $200 each, went to Daw Roi Saing (female, 30 years old, Senior) from Myanmar with a score of 72.6 marks, and Stefan Slucki (male, 50-year-old, Senior) from Australia with a score of 71 marks.
******
Silent but Deadly?

Kevin Murfitt

Chair, WBUAP Pacific-Oceania sub-region
Even given the great developments in GPS tracking systems, for people who are blind or have low vision, getting behind the driver’s wheel is a risky Business. However, it now may be just as deadly for us to walk out on the streets with the emergence of ‘silent’ or ‘quiet’ cars.

On a search of the internet, I found an article published in the Wall Street Journal in February 2007 that encapsulates the story. I have pasted it below, and will continue my commentary below the article.


Subject: Blind Pedestrians Say Quiet Hybrids Pose Safety Threat

Outlet: The Wall Street Journal

Date: February 13, 2007

Blind Pedestrians Say Quiet Hybrids Pose Safety Threat

By RAYMUND FLANDEZ
For blind people, crossing the street is becoming even more of a challenge.

Michael Osborn, a blind marketing consultant from Laguna Beach, Calif., and his guide dog, Hastings, were in the middle of an intersection one morning last April when the yellow Lab stopped short. Mr. Osborn took the cue and halted -- just in time to feel the breeze from a car passing right in front of them.

"Half an inch and it would have hit us ... it wasn't making any noise," says Mr. Osborn, 50, who has been blind for 12 years. Witnesses say the car was a Toyota Prius, a hybrid vehicle.

Hybrids deliver better mileage and less pollution than traditional cars by switching between a gasoline engine and an electric motor. But when operating on the electric battery, especially when idling at a stop or running at low speeds, the engine in a hybrid is almost silent. A hybrid vehicle is generally quieter than a vacuum cleaner.

"I'm an environmentalist, and I'm all for quiet cars," says Mr. Osborn. "But it poses a particular problem for somebody who has no vision."

Blind pedestrians using a guide dog or cane are largely dependent on the sounds of traffic to cross streets safely. For a blind person, "it's very important to be able to gather auditory and tactile cues from the environment," says Sumara Shakeel, of Toms River, N.J., who is a rehabilitation teacher for the New Jersey Commission for the Blind.

Hybrid cars became commercially available to mainstream consumers in 2000 and are gaining in popularity. Nationwide, registrations for new hybrids more than doubled to 199,148 in 2005 from 83,153 in 2004, according to R.L. Polk & Co., an automotive research firm. At least a dozen states and several cities are encouraging drivers to buy fuel-efficient hybrids by offering tax breaks and other incentives, and the vehicles are being added to municipal fleets.

Still, the total 392,000 hybrids on the road reflect just over 1% of all new vehicle registrations in the U.S.

The National Federation of the Blind, an advocacy group, says all hybrid vehicles should emit a sound while turned on and is calling on the auto industry to make changes. The group says the sound should be loud enough to be heard over the din of other ambient noise.

Members of the NFB's Committee on Automobile and Pedestrian Safety have discussed sound cues that hybrids could use to alert pedestrians, including a device built into the axle that could make a sound as the wheels rotate, or a sensor that blind travelers could carry that would indicate when a hybrid is in the vicinity. The committee has yet to have a formal meeting with auto industry representatives.

Quiet cars pose a problem for not only those with limited vision, says the NFB's Debbie Stein, but also for sighted pedestrians, cyclists and the elderly who rely on sound to gauge the position and speed of cars.

While there are no national data on pedestrian injuries or deaths related to low-noise cars, the NFB argues that a link will be more discernible as quiet vehicles become more common. Police reports often don't record what kind of automobile caused a pedestrian-vehicle collision, and the insurance industry says it doesn't have those figures. In 2005, 4,881 pedestrians were killed nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an increase of about 2% since 2000.

"We want to get ahead of this and not have to wait until five blind people end up seriously hurt or dead," says Gary Wunder, who is on the NFB's Committee on Automobile and Pedestrian Safety.

Some businesses are taking action. Several guide dog schools are planning to use hybrid vehicles when training animals to acclimate them. Guide Dogs for the Blind Inc., with campuses in Oregon and California, uses electric golf carts to simulate the quiet cars.

So far, advocacy groups' pleas for louder hybrids have failed to generate much noise in automotive circles. A spokesman for the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers, an industry group, says he wasn't aware of the issue. "We're interested in hearing about the concerns of the blind community, and we'll work with them to ensure that they're addressed," says alliance spokesman Charles Territo.

Sev MacPete, founder of the Toyota Prius Club of San Diego, dismisses the idea that hybrids pose a safety threat. He says blind pedestrians are easy to spot because they usually have a special white cane with red tip. "And if you could say anything about hybrid drivers, they are more aware of their surroundings than other drivers," Mr. MacPete says.

Toyota spokesman Bill Kwong says he wasn't aware of the issue and believes that the responsibility lies with drivers and pedestrians to watch out for each other. Mr. Kwong adds, "One of the benefits of the vehicles is that they don't contribute to traffic noise."

Sounding Off: Noise levels of common sounds, in decibels

Garbage truck 100 

Busy Urban Street 90 

Vacuum Cleaner 70 

Toyota Prius electric power (accelerating) 53 

Conversation at home 50

Sources: WSJ research; dangerousdecibles.org  


It is me, Kevin, again:

It seems to me that demanding ‘louder’ ‘quiet cars’ is a challenging exercise given the environmental and aesthetic purpose of the cars is to be quiet. As a blind person, one of my pet hates is those beeping buggies’ that pollute our airports. Drivers should share the responsibility for pedestrian safety. Where pedestrians may be crossing roads with no signal protection, drivers of quiet cars should have the responsibility to be able to alert pedestrians. There are also suggestions that people who are blind wear ultra-sonic devices to detect ‘solid’ objects in their path. This technology may be beneficial for some people and for some purposes, but is this ‘blaming the victim’ in the case of quiet cars? I think it misses the point that we have just as much right as our sighted peers to travel safely around our community.

The National Federation of the Blind in the U.S. is doing a lot of work on this issue, and the WBU has an opportunity to assist and encourage other advocacy and blindness organizations around the world to ramp up efforts for more accessible and safe environments for people who are blind or have low vision.

I live in a city where I walk out into the middle of the road in front of cars every day to catch my tram to work. This is not at traffic lights but the drivers know that they cannot at any time drive past a stationary tram in the middle of the road. So in addition to ‘tax incentives’ for people to purchase these ‘quiet cars’ they could be required to have training on additional requirements for drivers of ‘quiet cars’.

But the biggest opportunity for us is to demand technologies such as audible traffic signals at intersections so we know independently when it is safe to cross. I am always surprised when I leave Melbourne where I live and go to places where there is a lack of audible traffic signals. It immediately makes me feel disabled and trapped. ‘Stop’ signs could also be used more widely, especially in residential areas, to assure pedestrians in less busy areas that cars will stop.

If any of you are interested in further information about this issue, there is a listserv that you can subscribe to and interact with others who are working on this issue. See below.


This listserv is a forum for persons who are interested in the issue of quiet cars and pedestrian safety.  It is a place where we can share information and exchange ideas.  We welcome participation by anyone inside or outside the blind community.  By working together, concerned citizens can address the problems posed by quiet vehicles and move toward viable solutions.

The list is moderated by David Andrews. You can reach him at:

dandrews@visi.com
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NEWS FROM JAPAN
World First! Innovation in prescription information for the blind
In Japan, there are approximately 300,000 people with vision loss. Among them, only 10% or less can read Braille. Now Japanese vision-loss peoples can obtain the information of prescription drug in voice at drug store or home.

In 2004, MHLW (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare), JFB (Japan Federation of the Blind) , PMDA (Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency) and JAVIS (Japan Association for the Visually-impaired Information Support(URL: ww.javis.jp/indexenglish.html ) decided to convert all of prescription drugs information into Speech Code to hear in voice through symbol reading machine for the blind citizen in Japan.

At the first stage, RAD-AR (Risk/Benefit Assessment of Drugs- Analysis and Response URL: http://www.rad-ar.or.jp/english/index.html)of Japan converted 5,600 prescription drug information into Speech code in 2004 and now almost all of drugs were encoded. Speech Code is a tiny 2-dimensional code, invented by JAVIS, which can be stored more than 1,400 bites of text information in 0.7 inch square size. All of these prescription drug information packed in Speech Code can be obtainable through internet by every prescription drug stores in Japan. The local drug stores shall print this information by their lazar or ink-jet printers at the store for the blind patients. The blind patients can hear the contents of medicines or usage through the symbol reading machine at their home or store. The symbol reading machines are appointed as the item of government expenditures and the blind citizen in Japan can obtain it upon application. This method is very simple and inexpensive as all of required prescription drug information can be printed on the sheet of paper, not on the plastic.
Sight World—exhibition designed for the visually impaired persons

“Sight World” is the synthetically organization exhibition in Japan designed for the visually impaired persons. The exhibition was first held in November 2006. It holds a show of every equipment, software and guidance system which are related to the goods for the visually impaired persons, lectures by specialists from various institutions, symposiums, seminars, movies with audio description, and all other events of our interest.

The second Sight World in 2007 welcomed 8 institutions from Germany, Austria, US, Australia and Korea, in addition to organizations and companies in Japan. The variety of the latest technologies were attracting many visitors, but at the same time, many people were gathering at booths selling simpler tools which will make our daily living more convenient, and the booth showing electric household “talking” appliances such as washing machines, electromagnetic cookers and dish washers. You can really feel the theme of this event which is ”Go & touch everything, from daily life support to the latest technology”. Wight World proves to be a very good opportunity for presenters and users to exchange information, ideas, requests etc. while at the same time experiencing what you often hear in the media but never have the chance to actually experience. Sight World 2008 will be held early November this year. If you have any plan to come to Japan at this time of the year, why don’t you go check the exhibition? The admission is free!
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WBUAP Needs Your Help!!
Geoffrey Gibbs

WBU Executive Officer representing WBUAP


The World Blind Union Asia Pacific Region is seeking leaders to take us forward from the time of the Seventh General Assembly which is to convene in Geneva, Switzerland during the month of August 2008. Dr Geoff Gibbs (former Treasurer, Past Regional President and Honorary Life Member) is receiving expressions of interest from individuals who are willing to volunteer to act in any capacity as 2008 draws near.

The positions of Regional President, Regional Vice President, Regional Secretary General and Regional Treasurer all need to be filled as do three positions on the Executive Committee and three sub-Regional Chairs (South East Asia/East Asia/Oceania Pacific).

We are also looking for people to volunteer their skills to benefit the region in other ways. If you feel you have the ability and the time to assist with projects that involve capacity building, organizational development and mentoring Dr Gibbs would be delighted to hear from you.

Support and training will be offered to all who come forward so please think about what you can do to assist the region and facilitate changing what it means blind.

Dr Gibbs is waiting to hear from you and can be contacted as follows:
Email: geoffgibbs@woosh.co.nz
Standard Mail: 1A Wairua Road, Remuera, Auckland 1050, New Zealand

Telephone: 64 952 31322

Fax: 64 952 31302

Mobile: 64 219 69403


Please give this request every consideration as your gift to the WBU as it approaches its Silver Jubilee.
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COMING UP…..
9th WBU Asia Pacific Regional Seminar on Massage

4 to 7 May, 2008, Beijing, China


The China Blind Massage Administration Centre was appointed by the WBU Asia Pacific Regional Massage Commission to be the host of this Regional Massage Seminar. The theme of the Seminar is “Developing, Advancing and Sharing”. It will be held at the Friendship Hotel in Beijing, China; for blind massage teaching professionals, operators of massage centres and blind masseurs. This conference will discuss and exchange ideas on new massage techniques and theories, new applications and related training and employment for the blind.

The Conference Secretariat is at the Hong Kong Society for the Blind via email rsec@hksb.biz.com.hk, fax: (852) 2788 1047 or by post to 4/F, East Wing, 248 Nam Cheong Street, Shamshuipo, Kowloon, Hong Kong. The deadline for registration will be 3 April, 2008.



For further information, go to the website of the Hong Kong Society for the Blind at: www.hksb.org.hk
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The 7th WBU General Assembly and 4th Women’s Forum: August 16 – 22, 2008, Geneva, Switzerland
The 7th WBU General Assembly and 4th Women’s Forum will be hosted by he Swiss Federation of the blind and visually impaired, the Swiss National Association of and for the Blind (SNAB), the Union Suisse des Aveugles (USA), the Association pour le Bien des Aveugles et Malvoyants (ABA) and Retina Suisse that Switzerland.

The General Assembly will include business sessions as well as interesting theme sessions and workshops. A women’s forum will precede the general assembly and an exhibition on assistive technology will be held.

The venue for the General Assembly and Women’s Forum is the International Conference Centre of Geneva (ICCG). For more details refer to www.wbu2008.ch/e/iccg.php
THE 6TH WBUAP ONKYO BRAILLE ESSAY CONTEST 2008
The Onkyo Corporation Ltd., The Tenji Mainichi Newspaper "The Braille Mainichi" and WBUAP announced the start of the 6th WBUAP Onkyo Braille Essay Contest for blind and vision impaired people in the Asia Pacific Region. Cash prizes of US$1,000.00, US$500.00 and US$200.00 will be awarded respectively to the best seven entries from two age groups from all countries in the region. This year, to celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille (1809 - 2009), the Sponsors have very generously offered to pay the accommodation and return airfare to Paris for the first prize winner, who will join the celebrations of the World Blind Union in France on 4 January 2009.

The closing day is May 15, 2008.

For further details, please contact Ivan Ho Tuck Choy at the contact details at the end of this newsletter.
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FROM THE EDITOR
At long last, the promise at the Mid-Term Assembly is coming true and East Wind is finally resurging. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to those who wrote for this second-time new borne baby WBUAP newsletter. I would also like to give my hearty appreciation to the National Committee of Welfare for the Blind in Japan, and my employer, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd., who both financially supported my volunteer works at the WBUAP and the re-issuance of East Wind, which is one of the key communication tools among our friends and colleagues in the Region in the blindness-related fields.

We are mostly keen on hearing messages and feedbacks from you, Dear Readers. Please let us know whatever you felt about this resurgence.

Michiko Tabata: Editor-in-Chief

Editorial Committee: Kua Cheng Hock

Kevin Murfitt

Dato Kulasegaran


We Are Waiting for Your Contributions!!

Send in your writings…reports, essays, poems, commentary, just about anything, that you might want to share with your friends and colleagues in the Region.


Your Donations Is Always Welcome!!

Help us make a difference of what it means to be blind. Your donations will help our international blindness movement in particular from our friends in less economically privileged circumstances.

Your generous contribution is very much appreciated. Please direct your payment to:

The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd.

Takatanobaba Branch

USD A/C No.0083899

Name of account: WBUAP
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CONTACT DETAILS
President, WBUAP

Kua Cheng Hock

E-mail: adaptive@singnet.com.sg

Independent Society of the Blind

469 Mac Pherson Road, #03-03

Singapore 368186


Editorial:

Michiko Tabata

E-mail: tabacchi@par.odn.ne.jp

National Committee of Welfare for the Blind in Japan

E-mail: ncwbj@mbm.nifty.com

1-9-23 Takatanobaba, Shinjuku, Tokyo 169-0075 Japan


Secretary General:

Ivan Ho Tuck Choy

E-mail: ncftb@po.jaring.my

National Council for the Blind

94B Jalan Tun Sambanthan

50470 Kuala Lumpur


East Asia Sub-Region

Chuji Sashida

E-mail: csashida@nifty.com

National Committee of Welfare for the Blind in Japan

E-mail: ncwbj@mbm.nifty.com

1-9-23 Takatanobaba, Shinjuku, Tokyo 169-0075 Japan


Pacific-Oceania Sub-Region

Kevin Murfitt

E-mail: Kevin.murfitt@visionaustralia.org

1-368 Church Street

Richmond, Victoria, 3121, Australia
South East Asia Sub-Region

Dato Kulasegaran

E-mail: ncftb@po.jaring.my

National Council for the Blind

94B Jalan Tun Sambanthan

50470 Kuala Lumpur




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