Governor General advocates for blind welfare

GIS:-Blind and visually impaired students need to be given the very best chance for success, she said.

The Saint Lucia Blind Welfare Association (SLBWA), along with partners, the Caribbean Council for the Blind, Sight Savers International, the West Virginia University Eye Institute, the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Trust Fund, and the Lions Clubs of Saint Lucia, are deserving of the highest commendation for their sustained advocacy, effective leadership, and creativity; so said Patron of the SLBWA, Her Excellency, Dame Pearlette Louisy.

The Governor General’s comments came as the Saint Lucia Blind Welfare Association ended its observance of Blindness Awareness Month on May 31.

According to Dame Pearlette, despite its challenges, the SLBWA has been able to successfully undertake several initiatives. Of those was a six-week reflexology training course for six blind and visually impaired women, and the attendance of Jessica Jacobie, a visually impaired Saint Lucian woman at an international workshop in Canada, in April, at the invitation of the World Blind Union.

“The workshop was geared towards the training of a group of potential young leaders from around the world to advocate for the ratification of the Treaty of Marrakesh—a treaty which aims to guarantee people with blindness and vision impairment unconditional access to all print materials. The trained advocates will be required to lead a campaign for the ratification of the treaty by their respective governments. Blind and visually impaired citizens of countries which ratify the Treaty will be automatically exempted from copyright conditions. I urge you therefore to rally behind Jessica and the SLBWA as they campaign for ratification.”

The Governor General also called on the Cabinet of Ministers to place this issue high on its legislative agenda, to give blind and visually impaired students the very best chance for success.

“In this year’s Throne Speech, we spoke to paying special attention to our special needs students, to create an enabling environment that will allow them to reach their fullest potential. Unconditional access to all print material is an opportunity not to be missed. Our Ministry of Education will also be asked to accept the new international Braille code.

“We welcomed too the visit last month of two ocularists, Chris Antonini and Phil Bowen who made and fitted prosthetic eyes and shells for over 20 of our patients who had been referred by the Kids Insight 2017 Team, and by Opthalmologist Dr. Darra Burt. To them we express sincerest thanks.”

Meanwhile, the Governor General congratulated Rebecca Coakley of the Kids Insight Project for receiving the Migel Medal—the highest honor bestowed on a professional or volunteer whose dedication and achievements improve the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired.

The Caribbean Council for the Blind has asked the West Virginia University Eye Institute to extend the Kids Insight Program to Antigua and Jamaica. Ms. Coakley will therefore be making a first technical visit to Antigua next month, accompanied by local eye health officer, Denise Godin.