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Copyright © 2007
M. S. Thirumalai
Problems of Visually Challenged -
J. Sheela, Ph.D.
With Special Reference to School Children
in Coimbatore District, Tamilnadu
Disability is a condition or function judged to be significantly impaired related to the usual standard of an individual or their group. The term is often used to refer to individual functioning, including physical impairment, sensory impairment, cognitive impairment, intellectual impairment or mental health issue.
The World Health Organization (WHO, 2006) has produced the International Classification of Functioning (ICF) on Disability and Health. It distinguishes between body functions (physiological or psychological ex-vision) and body structures (anatomical parts eg. the eye and the related structures).
Visually challenged/blindness is the condition of lacking visual perception due to physiological or psychological factors. Various scales have been developed to describe the extent of vision loss and define "Blindness". According to WHO estimates in 2002, the most common causes of blindness around the world are: Cataracts (47.8%), Glaucoma (12.3%), Ureites (10.2%), Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) (8.7%), Trachoma (3.6%), Corneal Opacity (5.1%) and Diabetic Retinopathy (4.8%). The normal vision in any human being can be made vision less due to the poisoning such as exposure to chemicals. A well-known example is methanol, found in Methylated spirits, which is sometimes used by alcoholics as a cheap substitute for regular alcoholic beverages (Canada Safety Council, 2005).
1.2. Types of Blindness
Some of the types of blindness are as follows :
1. Total Blindness: Total blindness is the complete lack of vision which is clinically recorded as "NLP", an abbreviation for "No Light Perception".
2. Legal Blindness: Legal blindness is defined as visual acuity (vision of 20/200, 6/60) or less in the better eye with best correction possible. This means that a legally blind individual would have to stand 20 feet (6m) from an object to see it with the same degree of clarity as a normally sighted person could from 200 feet (60m).
3. Color Blindness: Color blindness is also known as Dyschromatopsia or color vision deficiency, in humans is the inability to perceive differences between some or all colors that other people can distinguish. It is most often of genetic nature, but may also occur because of eye, nerve or brain damage, or due to exposure to certain chemicals.
4. Cortical Blindness: Cortical blindness is the total or partial loss of vision in a normal appearing eye caused by damage to the visual area in the brain's occipital cortex.
5. Night Blindness: Night blindness or Nyctalopia is a condition making it difficult or impossible to see in relatively low light. It is a symptom of several eye diseases. Night blindness may exist from birth, or be caused by injury or malnutrition.
6. Stereoblindness: Stereoblindness is the inability to see in 3D using stereovision, resulting in the sufferer's inability to perceive stereo scopic depth. While individuals with only one eye necessarily suffer from this condition, the condition also results when two eyes do not work in proper concert.
1.3. Causes of Blindness
Serious visual impairment is caused due to several reasons. Most visual impairment is caused by disease and malnutrition followed by abnormalities and injuries and genetic defects. Vision can also be lost due to the poisoning and willful actions.
1.4. Blindness in India
In every age, the handicap of blindness has stirred the sympathy of civilized peoples, but until comparatively recent times that sympathy generally expressed itself in the giving of alms to the wayside mendicant, rather than in constructive effort on his behalf. Men have been slow to realize the justice of the blind man's claim to education, employment and all that goes to make "the good life".
Less than a century and half has passed since the first school for the blind in England opened its doors. In India the earliest school for the blind was founded at Amritsar by English missionaries, followed by schools at Calcutta and Ranchi. Even to-day there are only about twenty organizations for the blind in the whole of India, and of these, few have resources adequate to care for more than a dozen or two of the thousands of blind children.
Although the vast size of India and the fact that up to now only the fringe of the problem of blindness are touched. The problems of prevention of blindness is then a more pressing one; which might, by its very immensity, paralyze effort, unless there were another side to the picture. Although no exact figures are available as to causation, it is indisputable that a great part of India's blindness is due to infantile ophthalmia, to neglect to simple eye-diseases in children, to the application of irritant remedies, to small pox and to trachomoa, all of which are preventable, or can be remedied by proper treatment. The following quotation from a statement of infantile ophthalmia by the Census superintendent, Madras, which appears in the report of the 1931 census, brought this out : -- "The chief tragedy of blindness," he writes, "is that so much of it in India - probably more than half - is preventable, and that the majority are incurable or partially blind. Ophthalmia neonatorum is in any case preventable after birth by a simple precaution which every woman ought to know, but which many, including dais, unfortunately do not". It may, however, be added here that all trained midwives are being instructed in the application of the crede method, and that by slow degrees the hereditary of indigenous dais are being succeeded by trained workers.
1.5. Blind's Education in India
Problems of the women in rural areas are much more severe as they also lack exposure, access to welfare organizations and non-availability of loans from Financial Institutions for initiating any enterprise. "Visually challenged women suffer more, particularly in rural areas, because they are denied education'' (Madhavan, 2007). The inquiries made in 1930 showed that although there were rather more than twenty schools for the blind in India, the majority of these were small, probably not accommodating more than about a dozen pupils. Only the most elementary curriculum of reading, writing and arithmetic was attempted, together with a little handwork, and few children remained at school long enough to receive the real benefit. The fact that there was no system by which the child could pass from school to training centre, and from training centre to workshop, made a dead end of education in many of the schools, and parents were disinclined to allow their children to attend.
Schools for blind, as existed depended mainly on private benevolence, at least in their initial stages, though government grants are usually made towards the upkeep of schools which reach a reasonable standard of efficiency. The above gloomy account of the education of the blind as it existed in India when the National Institute for the Blind made its inquiry that it should be supplemented by the statement that there are in the vast country perhaps half a dozen schools which are doing magnificent work in difficult conditions.
1.6. BRAILLE: A Method of Learning
The question of the education of the blind is immediately bound up with that of Braille, and here those concerned with the improvement of conditions are confronted with considerable difficulty. The "battle of the types" which raged in this country during the first half of the nineteenth century, and was finally won by those who sponsored Braille, was the first step in the educational emancipation of the English blind, who, so long as a multiplicity of embossed types existed, could never hope to have an adequate supply of books, either for use in schools or for general reading. In India to-day there is a multiplicity of Braille codes, which makes it impossible for anything like an adequate supply of Braille literature to be attempted, and renders the ideal of an up-to-date educationists in India that even if no single code can be devised which would be applicable to the many languages and dialects of India, there might be two codes, one for the languages which are Aryan in origin, and the other for the four mainly Dravidian languages of the south. It is a problem which can only be solved by those who know India from within, and when its solution is found the education of the blind will be in a position to make a notable advance.
1.7. Problems of the Visually Challenged Persons
Visually challenged people are in many parts of the world. They face a lot of problems in their life and they have to depend on others for satisfying their needs. One percent in the World goes blind every second, one child every minute. There are 135 million visually handicapped people in the World (and the numbers are increasing as we speak).One fourth of them are right here in India. 45 million is the number of corneal blind, of which 90 per cent are below the age of 45 (including 60 per cent below 12 years) and here is the clincher-80 per cent of the blindness is curable (Srinivasan, 2007). People in developing countries are significantly more likely to experience visual impairment as a consequence of treatable or preventable conditions than in the developed countries. While vision impairment is most common among people over 60 years of age across all regions, children in poor communities are more liberally to be affected. Blindness can be present at birth, acquired through illness or accident, or associated with aging (glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, optic nerve atrophy, diabetic retinopathy). According to the American Foundation for the Blind, almost 1 person in every 1,000 under the age of 45 has a visual impairment of some type, while 1 in every 13 individuals older than 65 has a visual impairment which cannot be cured with glasses. With current demographic trends toward a larger proportion of elderly, the prevalence of visual impairments will certainly increase (School of Public Health and Health Professions).
1.7.1. Access to Computer and Document
The blind people do not have the advantage to make use of recent development in information displayed on the screen. However, mandatory use of a mouse or other pointing device requiring eye-hand co-ordination is also a problem. Special programs exist to provide individuals with the ability to magnify the screen image. There are also programs which allow the individual to have the content of the screen read aloud. Individuals with low vision may also miss messages, which pop up at different points on the screen, since their attention is usually focused on only a small area of the screen at any time.
Written operating instructions and other documentation may also be inaccessible if they are not provided in electronic or alternate form (e.g. audio tape or Braille) and even then people may have difficulty accessing graphic or pictorial information included in documentation.
The blind are treated as burdens to their families and society, when; if properly trained they can live perfectly normal lives. At times the degree of blindness ranges from total loss to a fair degree of vision. Therefore all blind children can not be educated or treated alike. Their individual problems and needs, need to be taken into consideration. To keep this in to mind an attempt is made here to study the problems faced by the visually challenged female children at schools and at their homes. It is a known fact that a person with a sensory handicap is gifted with a talent or innate ability that needs to be tapped. We should encourage them to learn and master their disability and lead a fairly independent life. They can even be taught to take care of themselves and earn their own living.
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Evaluation of English-Manipuri Bilingual Dictionaries | Internet Projects of Language Learning - A Student-Centered Approach | Skype Voice Chat - A Tool for Teaching Oral Communication | Noun Classification System in Mizo | How Authority and Leadership Evolve - A Study of Leadership Functions and Authority in the New Testament Community | Trends and Spatial Patterns of Crime in India - A Case Study of a District in India | Problems of Visually Challenged With Special Reference to School Children in Coimbatore District, Tamilnadu | Tenor in Electronic Media Political Discourse in BBC News - A Functional Analysis of English-Arabic Translation | Materials Development in English as a Second language in India - A Survey of Issues and Some Developments at the National Level | An Eyewitness Account of the Third Indian National Congress in 1887 at Madras - Excerpts from Dr. Henry Lunn's Book A Friend of Missions in India | HOME PAGE of December 2008 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
J. Sheela, Ph.D.
Centre for Women's Studies
PSGR Krishnammal College for Women
Peelamedu, Coimbatore - 641 004
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