Visually impaired to be taught living skills as 2nd phase of O&M programme launched


The second phase of the Orientation and Mobility (O&M) programme for the blind and visually impaired was launched on Friday thanks to a partnership between the Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities (GCOPD) and ExxonMobil (Guyana).

GCOPD’s Programme Manager, Ganesh Singh revealed that the second phase of the programme would be implemented in Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven and 10.

Through the programme, he noted, approximately 500 persons who are blind or visually impaired will be taught independent living skills and how to use the “white cane”.

As part of the programme, 500 “white canes” will be distributed.

The team providing the training for the 500 beneficiaries will include eight blind and visually impaired persons who are trained as orientation and mobility instructors.

Speaking to the gathering at the National Library Conference Room, Singh said, “For those of you who are blind or visually impaired, you know those skills are critical for our day-to-day living. You need to be taught certain skills as a blind or visually impaired person to be able to function.”

He said that when it comes to using smartphones, blind and visually impaired people are just as capable as sighted people—they only need to be trained on how to utilise special software.

He emphasised that Guyana has been devoid of a formal programme to aid blind or visually impaired people in receiving rehabilitation services so they can become independent and reintegrate into society for a very long time.

As a consequence of this absence, GCOPD implemented the first phase of the (O&M) programme in January 2022.

Through the programme, he said, the GCOPD made a special effort to employ persons who are blind or visually impaired as trainers.

“These are the people, in my view, who are in the best position to teach someone who is blind or visually impaired the skills they need. They are teaching lived experiences. They are teaching skills they have used themselves.”

These skills “can take them very far,” he said. Singh stated that people who are blind or visually impaired can operate just like everyone else, “but they must be facilitated”.

Lasawhna Prescott, Community Relations Advisor – ExxonMobil (Guyana), assured that as part of its corporate social responsibility, the US oil giant will continue to lend support to GCOPD.

“It is through the support of organisations like GCOPD and their partners that people with disabilities are empowered to make significant contributions to their families and communities,” said Prescott.

According to her, for persons living with the challenges of visual impairment, having access to information, resources, and support can be life-changing for them and their families.

She promised that the business would keep assisting these people in leading more fulfilling lives in this regard.

Outlining the programme, she added, “The programme aims to help participants travel safely and to develop independent living skills. This initiative brings inclusion, allowing visually impaired people to access their communities and get more valuable qualities for society.”

“Increased inclusion will hopefully effect real change and enhance the quality and quantity of social contacts and real integration into the community. Bringing awareness of the difficulties and obstacles facing people with disabilities and exploring ways in which we can become a more inclusive society will certainly help achieve the goal of affording deserved rights to an often marginalised group,” Exxon’s Community Relations Advisor noted.

Keep pushing barriers, breaking stigmas, and breaking glass ceilings,” she encouraged the participants.

ExxonMobil’s partnership with GCOPD began in 2019 when the company supported the STEM Club programme for children with disabilities.

Lata Devie Jagmohan, a visually challenged orientation and mobility officer, also gave a speech during the launching ceremony.  Jagmohan talked about her experiences working with individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

One of the first phase’s recipients, Graceann Lewis, spoke about how the training changed her life.   She referred to the training as a blessing.  She said she now goes around with a “white cane” and uses her tablet computer as a blind person.

Over 400 persons benefited from the first phase of the programme.