A Vision for Inclusion

A Guide to the European Blind Union

1. About the European Blind Union

2. About blindness and partial sight

3. The demography of blindness and partial sight

4. Discrimination and rights : the European Blind Union and the policy agenda

5. The realities of blindness and partial sight

EBU Contacts

1. About the European Blind Union

The European Blind Union (EBU) is a non-governmental and non-profit-making organisation founded in 1984.

We are one of the six regional bodies of the World Blind Union (WBU).

EBUís objects, as set out in our Constitution, include :
    1.to work towards the advancement of the well-being of blind and partially sighted people with the goal of equality and full participation in society;

    2.to provide a European Forum for the exchange of knowledge and experience in the field of blindness and partial sight and;

    3.to promote the prevention of blindness and partial sight in Europe.

EBU currently has 45 member countries. The EBU network has a wealth of expertise in all areas relating to the consequences of sight loss. Our members provide services, training and advice as well as representing the rights of blind and partially sighted people. We undertake research, promote public awareness and empower blind and partially sighted people to take up their rights and lead active lives. The detailed work of EBU is carried out by a number of Commissions , each focused on a particular field of activity, reflecting our major interests and concerns. These include: Liaison with the EU, Mobility and Transport, Access to Information, Access to Technology, Development, Culture and Education, Rehabilitation, Vocational Training and Employment, Rights of Blind and Partially Sighted People. Steering groups have been set up to help EBU to adequately address the needs of specific segments of the visually impaired population (Elderly, Youth, Women, Partially Sighted, Deafblind, Blind or Partially Sighted with additional disabilities ).

The Office of EBU is based in Paris. It is responsible for communication within EBU and for information to the general public. It produces a Newsletter in English, French, German and Spanish.

EBU is funded by member subscriptions, sponsorship and grants from the European Commission for coordination and project activity.

The decisions taken by the European Union have a significant impact on the daily lives of blind and partially sighted people. EBU works to make sure that the interests of blind and partially sighted people are taken into account in all EU decisions which affect them. To achieve this, we actively seek to influence EU policies. We have good links with Members of the European Parliament, European Commission officials and European Expert groups and the European Disability Forum, as well as with national government officials participating in the EU decision making process.

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2. About blindness and partial sight

The term "people with sight loss" covers a full range of people who have uncorrectable sight loss. Blindness is associated with old age more than any other disability.

The definitions of blindness and partial sight, as well as the registration criteria and mechanisms, vary between European member states. However, to give a general idea doctors (ophthalmologists) in several European countries decide if someone can be registered as blind or partially sighted on the following conditions:

Some people are born with sight problems whilst others may inherit an eye condition, such as retinitis pigmentosa, which gets gradually worse as they get older. Some people may lose their sight as the result of an accident, whilst illness can lead to conditions such as diabetic retinopathy.

People with sight problems come from all kinds of backgrounds and lead all sorts of lives. Each person is affected in a way that is individual to them - it is not the same experience for everyone.

Age-related eye conditions are the most common cause of sight loss in Europe. Eyesight in older people may be affected by conditions such as macular degeneration or cataracts.

In the poorer countries of the world millions of people suffer sight loss due to the effects of what should be easily controlled diseases. A common myth is that blind people cannot see anything. In fact the majority of blind people have some useful residual vision. Some see everything as a vague blur. Others have no central vision but can see at the sides, while others have Ďtunnel visioní. There are many different types of eye defects, each of which produces its own pattern of distortions.

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3. The demography of blindness and partial sight

There are nearly 30 million blind and partially sighted people in the 45 member countries of the European Blind Union. This figure is based on the premise that 1 in 30 people are blind or partially sighted, and takes into account the varying definitions of visual impairment.

3.1 Older people

Blindness and partial sight are closely associated with old age, and as people live longer the number of people with a visual impairment is set to increase. Nearly 90% of all blind and partially sighted people in Europe are over the age of 60, and two thirds are over the age of 65. Older people losing their sight may have additional health problems such as hearing loss or mobility problems. They find it more difficult to learn new ways to cope with daily tasks and are less likely to have the opportunity to go on rehabilitation programmes or register as disabled, because they feel it is Ďjust part of growing old.í Agencies providing services to older people may have low awareness of sight problems. Consequently older people may be less aware of the support services available to them, and are at increased risk of isolation.

3.2 Children and young people

It is vital for young blind and partially sighted people to have a good education to give them the skills needed to lead a full life. They and their parents should be involved in decision making both about their education and other important aspects of their lives, in the organisations representing them and in society generally as contributors, not merely recipients of welfare. Inclusive education helps to build an inclusive society as able bodied and disabled children grow up together and learn about differences. Children and young people with sight loss may also choose to be educated in a specialist setting.

3.3 Women

Blind and partially sighted women often face double discrimination, in terms of both gender and disability. Some blind and partially sighted women have a greater struggle to participate fully in social, economic and cultural life, and to have a family of their own. The EBU Womenís Commission, now integrated into the Equality and Diversity Commission, has done important work to empower blind and partially sighted women to overcome the obstacles to full participation both within their organisations and in daily life. The Commission has, for example, run a pilot project, co-financed by the EU, to examine and raise awareness of the particular issues faced by blind and partially sighted women suffering from abuse and violence.

3.4 People with multiple disabilities

Many younger blind and partially sighted people have additional disabilities, due to congenital and neo-natal problems. Those with complex dependency needs are often Ďthe most excluded amongst the excludedí. They and their families are often denied the respect, support and solidarity needed from their communities to help them overcome the challenges they face.

Parents and professionals working with multi-disabled blind and partially sighted people need the right training, support and services, such as specialist schools for the young, and supported employment opportunities for adults whose disabilities are such that mainstream employment is not a possibility. In multi-disabled people their blindness or partial sight may not be properly recognised or treated. For instance, amongst all people with severe learning disabilities it is estimated that at least 25-30% are also blind or partially sighted. Older people often have both sight and hearing loss, as well as mobility problems.

3.5 Partially sighted people

There are far greater numbers of people with partial sight than blindness. Many fall under the category of people losing sight as they grow older. The solutions and measures needed for people with partial sight are often quite different to those for blind people. Low vision aids, such as magnifying equipment and Closed Circuit Television are important and products and environments designed to meet the requirements of partially sighted people make a real difference.

3.6 Deafblind people

Deafblindness is a unique disability and deafblind people should not be considered as blind people with additional impairments. There is a specific organisation representing the needs of this group, the European Deafblind Union, with which EBU cooperates closely. The term deafblindness describes a condition that combines in varying degrees both hearing and sight loss. Two sensory impairments multiply and intensify the impact of each other creating a severe disability which is different and unique.

3.7 Ethnicity

Some ethnic groups are at a high risk of acquiring certain eye conditions. For example, people of Afro-Caribbean origin are particularly susceptible to glaucoma. This predisposition is not generally recognised and people from some ethnic communities who lose their sight often experience difficulty in accessing services that are sensitive to their needs and cultural identity.

3.8 Blindness and partial sight in the developing world

There are around 180 million blind and partially sighted people in the world. Forty five million of them are blind and 135 million have less severe sight loss. About 80% of blind and partially sighted people are living in developing countries where blindness is most often the result of infections caused by insufficient hygiene, environmental factors or malnutrition. Other conditions and diseases which lead to blindness include malnutrition, cataracts, diabetes, trachoma, river blindness and dry eye. Wars, internal conflicts and natural disasters cause blindness too.

It is estimated that in the year 2020 of the 54 million blind and partially sighted people over the age of 60, 50 million (93%) will be in the developing world.

Many of these visual impairments could be easily prevented or cured by proper nutrition, vaccinations, environmental programmes and vision controls.

In the developing world a disabled person is often considered a shame to the family and his/her value as a human being is considered low. A blind or partially sighted daughter or wife is perceived as a particularly heavy burden on the family. The best way to help disabled people in the developing world is to rehabilitate them to become independent and to provide them with vocational training. In this way they will regain their human dignity.

EBU considers development cooperation as a two way process. It means interaction, giving and taking between partners, enrichment of knowledge and deepening of life. Sustainable support means basing operations primarily on the recipient countryís own resources and know-how. These principles are applied in EBUís development funds to work with African and other developing countries. EBU has developed a resources section on its website giving information about technical devices to facilitate easy access for organisations in developing countries and their partners.

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4. Discrimination and rights - the European Blind Union and the policy agenda

People with sight loss face discrimination and infringement of their rights on a daily basis, be it at work, in trying to find work, or in going to a café, supermarket or hospital. The fight against discrimination and the campaign for equal rights lie at the heart of EBUís campaigning work.

EBU believes this campaigning activity needs to take place on many levels and within a policy framework using three key tools.

Protection in law is a key factor. EBU was a major player in the campaign to incorporate the reference to discrimination on the basis of disability into Article 13 of the European Treaty in 1997, which gave the European Union, for the first time, a legal base to combat discrimination. The Commissionís Non-Discrimination Action Plan and the EC Directive on Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation are direct results of Article 13.

EBU supports the European Disability Forum proposal for a disability specific Directive on non-Discrimination, launched in March 2003 as part of the European Year of People with Disabilities. It would cover all fields of EU competence, and therefore help to break down discriminatory barriers in policy areas such as education, social protection, public health, consumer affairs and telecommunications, as well as improved accessibility of manufactured goods.

EBU believes in the value of a broad definition of non-discrimination in the new European Institutional Constitution, and advocates that decisions about non-discrimination should be made by Qualified Majority Voting to facilitate progress.

Several EU member states now have anti-discrimination legislation in place, and within our network we exchange information and share experience of these various approaches. There is no doubt that comprehensive and enforceable anti-discrimination legislation has the power to change the physical, social and communications environment and prevent the establishment of new barriers.

The Framework Directive on Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation is now being transposed and implemented at national level. Although progress appears to be slow, EBU sees the need to carefully monitor implementation and gauge its impact on the employment situation of blind and partially sighted people.

Several European countries have used a quota system which obliges employers to take on a certain proportion of disabled people, often in traditional professions such as telephony, in the case of blind and partially sighted people. Labour legislation is moving away from this trend, and is trying to eliminate quota systems, which risks leading to a reduction in the numbers of blind and partially people in employment.

EBU believes that in some countries, and especially in transitional periods, quota employment schemes can continue to be used as one of several tools to support the job situation of blind and partially sighted people.

Those countries without quota systems have more experience with diversification of jobs and integration into the mainstream labour market. It is therefore important for the good practice identified here to be disseminated.

In addition it is important to ensure that there are sufficient opportunities along a whole continuum of options, and making use of positive action measures such as social enterprise and wage subsidies for those people who can not participate in the mainstream labour market without support.

EBU supports complementary positive action measures to promote equality. For example, we have campaigned to include accessibility, design for all criteria and incentives to employ disabled people within the European framework for public procurement procedures. Companies with a track record in social responsibility, good employment practice and an inclusive design approach would score additional points when tendering for public contracts.

EBU and its members also work with EU and national institutions on issues relating to the European Employment and Social Exclusion Strategies and the National Action Plans which take them forward from policy to practice. The aim, as ever, is to ensure that all policy levels and action take account of the issues facing blind and partially sighted people.

Throughout the EBU network there is a constant effort to raise awareness amongst the general public about blindness and partial sight, to try to prevent discrimination caused by negative attitudes and ignorance and to promote equal rights for blind and partially sighted people. We recognise and promote best practice, for instance amongst employers and in industry.

At international level EBU is engaged in the process to develop a worldwide, comprehensive and enforceable international instrument and is involved with the Working Group drafting the United Nations Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities.

EBU, with the World Blind Union, has produced a Manifesto to feed into the draft UN Convention. Blind and partially sighted people around the world highlighted the importance of the basic right to full inclusion and equality in society, the right to autonomy to lead full and independent lives and to achieve their full economic, social, cultural, civil and political potential.

The UN Convention will provide additional impetus for the implementation of the UN Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities and will complement EU non-discrimination legislation, to be completed by the proposed specific directive.

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5. The realities of blindness and partial sight

How blind and partially sighted people manage their daily lives varies greatly, depending, amongst other things, on the severity of their disability, their personal circumstances and crucially the quality of the support services they rely on to overcome the barriers they face. Here are some of the major challenges, with examples of how blind and partially sighted men and women feel about them and deal with them.

5.1 Social exclusion and poverty

Blind and partially sighted people are undoubtedly among the most vulnerable and neglected and belong, for the most part, to the lower income levels of society. Poverty and social exclusion are inextricably linked and are caused by a complex combination of factors, such as poor education and housing, unemployment and inadequate social protection, inaccessibility of transport and the built environment, as well as negative attitudes and prejudices in society.

We were so poor when I first lost my sight. I had been working as a cook in London but had to give that up. We had to do without lots of things, and bought nearly everything second hand. It was a real struggle. I used to get more depressed about our financial situation, and the possibility of losing our home, than I did about losing my sight.
(Jill, aged 62, UK)

Research in the UK revealed that poverty was rife amongst older blind or partially sighted people. More than 90 % of households containing an older blind or partially sighted person were found to be surviving on an income of less than half the national average (a widely used indicator of poverty).

Being blind or partially sighted inevitably means extra costs are incurred in daily life. Financial strain is suffered when these costs are not met and rehabilitation and special care needs are not adequately addressed by social welfare systems.

A big problem for most people with visual impairment is to get personal assistance, for shopping, reading mail, getting out and about. It gives possibilities to disabled people, but it is hard to get the support. We are afraid that support is not available whenever you want, which makes it difficult for young people wanting to go out, and for employed people to get to work.

I am lucky to have 10 hours assistance a week paid for by the state. I did it partly to set a precedent, so that others can quote my case when they apply. This is something we campaign on at national level. Also when social welfare services and budgets are cut it affects our lives a lot.
(Ann Christine, Sweden)

Research has been carried out into the social costs in blindness, and the various support measures implemented at national and local level. The results highlight the cost effectiveness, in terms of public policy, of investing in the social and economic empowerment of blind and partially sighted people.

5.2 Education

Education systems need to be effective to equip young blind people with the skills needed for independence and integration.

Education is one of the most important issues for all youth. It seems to be the only safe path to success in our societies. Being educated gives opportunity to become integrated - based on the visually impaired personís own efforts, not on pity. Education is therefore an obvious and appropriate way to fight against segregation.
(Einar, Norway)

EBU supports the aim of inclusive education, where blind and partially sighted children are supported to learn alongside sighted peers in mainstream schools. However it is essential that they be properly supported to enable them to fully access the curriculum and EBUís expert group has endorsed guidelines and materials for teachers to ensure the quality of support required to make inclusive education successful. At the same time we recognise that some children, particularly those with additional disabilities, will continue to need to be educated in special schools.

The school for the blind taught me thoroughly all alternative techniques, which enabled me to compete in the open labour market.

Janet works as a physiotherapist, learns two foreign languages, leads an active social and cultural life, plans for the future in the same way as her sighted friends.

I donít feel any different from them, she says, itís just that I have to draw on alternative techniques. In this respect, Czech Blind United has been a good place for further education and self-development for me.
(Janet, aged 22, Czech Republic)

5.3 Employment

Less than a quarter of disabled people of working age are in employment, often in low paid jobs. The lack of adaptation of the working place together with the prejudice of employers are the main obstacles to employment.

Eleni is 26 years old.

I work as a phone operator at the Psychiatric Hospital in Thessaloniki. The main problems blind people have to deal with are the ones of employment, and mobility outdoors with all the obstacles on the streets. The only profession suitable for a blind person today in Greece is that of a telephone operator, which is a dying profession because of technological changes. Of course I would like more opportunities to do other jobs but employers wonít trust blind people. We need better laws to change that. Blind people need to prove that they can do a job, not be taken on out of pity. But first we need the opportunities to prove ourselves.

The Directive on Equal Treatment in Employment, cited above, is an important step forward. Blind and partially sighted peopleís employment chances need to be improved also in those countries with a quota system in place. With the right support, skills training and technology blind and partially sighted people are able to fulfil their potential in the workplace. Flexible working hours, the provision of a reader or salary subsidy are examples of simple adjustments constituting positive action and good practice in employment. These are especially important to help job retention with the onset of sight loss.

Adam, a Professor of Chemistry in Warsaw, lost his sight in an accident, but managed to continue and succeed in his chosen career. Technical devices are very useful in his everyday work. At the beginning he had only a typewriter and a tape recorder. Adam received a reading device from German scientists as part of a fellowship from Humboldt Foundation. The computer with a speech synthesizer and a scanner makes life easier now. His abilities, active attitude and the support he received from colleagues have been essential for his wonderful results in scientific work.

5.4 Participation in the community

Full participation in the life of the community is often restricted, with inadequate support to engage in social, cultural and political opportunities, and to be fully involved in decision making. People with sight loss want to feel part of society like everyone else, and take part in leisure and cultural activities alongside sighted peers.

From Italy, Vanda, aged 73, and her husband, both blind, were virtually ignored by fellow holidaymakers on a recent break until the hotel organised a party.

The orchestra started playing a slow dance first and then a polka. Nobody was dancing. Maybe they were waiting for the smash hit of the summer, Chiwawa. The polka rhythm attracted Luigi and me to the dance floor. There, careless of the people around us, we started dancing, feeling like two teenagers. At the end a loud, almost liberating applause, lots of compliments, lots of questions. We had made it! From then on it was as if we had just arrived and everybody looked at us as Ďnormalí guests.

5.5 Inaccessible products and services

Inaccessible services and products create major barriers to equal opportunities for people with sight loss. The barriers can be physical, such as automated queuing systems in shops, or technological in the case of computer software that cannot be adapted, as well as less obvious obstacles, such as being unable to read the train timetable.

EBU works with other key partners, such as the European Disability Forum, to dismantle barriers to equal opportunities in terms of accessibility. This work involves influencing service providers, manufacturers, legislators, regulators and standardisation bodies to integrate the Design for All concept. When the needs of vulnerable groups, such as visually impaired people, are considered at the design and planning stage of products and services, the outcome is a more inclusive service or product that, in most cases, is better for the general population too. It avoids the need for costly add-ons, adaptations and retro-fitting.

Hannes is 48, lost his sight as a child and trained as a priest. Both in his work, and as a keen walker, a mobile phone has become an important instrument and safety device when out and about. There is only one problem in the use of a mobile phone. Hannes cannot see what it says on the display and reading a text mesage independently is impossible. It puzzles Hannes and many other Finnish people with visual impairment that manufacturers, who keep developing new mobile phone technology, show little interest in developing a function which would transfer the text into speech.

It is possible to put together accessible mobile phone systems by combining certain handsets with additional software, but they are much more expensive and choice is much more restricted than for sighted people.

An example of Design for All in action is the development for Euro notes. EBU worked closely with the European Monetary Institute to make the design of the new notes as user-friendly as possible for people with sight loss.

The Euro has also been a real benefit for me. In the old days I used to find it difficult to handle money - all the unknown coins and notes which I was not able to distinguish.
(Evelyn, Germany)

Design for All means designing mainstream products and services so that as many people as possible can use them easily - whatever their age and ability. The concept recognises that ability is a continuum, and the usability of products should try to cover most needs within a broad range. This does not mean that all products will be useable for all disabled people. There will always still be a need for assistive aids and devices, especially for those with severe sensory and cognitive disabilities.

5.6 Telecommunications and the digital era

Blind and partially sighted people become losers in the digital divide if they are unable to use, adapt or harness the new technologies to their benefit.

Rachel from the UK enjoys watching television with friends and family, but rarely watches it alone because she finds trying to follow a programme too frustrating.

I just want to watch the same programmes as everyone else but I have to work really hard to keep up with a programme. I just want to be able to gossip about what happened like my sighted friends do.

EBU promotes audio description, a service by which narration is added to broadcast television programmes and films, to help blind and partially sighted people understand the action, for which transmitters and receivers could easily be built into the digital technology.

Whispering concise and clear explanations in my ear about what is happening on the screen usually overtaxes my companion. This spoils the pleasure of the movie for both of us. When I had the chance to see a film on TV with audio description I was completely ecstatic. Finally I was able to enjoy a film on my own again.
(Evelyn, Germany)

The level of accessibility of telecommunications equipment and of digital TV is in part determined by European legislation and standardisation, in the requirements set for manufacturers and networks. EBU is involved in standardisation initiatives, promoting technical standards for creating receiving equipment for audio description and accessible alternatives for on-screen navigation. As screens are becoming the way of using an increasing range of ICT and household equipment in future, access to navigation screens is an even more urgent issue than before.

Working with the standardisation bodies and others EBU is pushing for uptake of the CEN-CENELEC Guide 6 Guidelines for standard developers to address the needs of older persons and persons with disabilities, as this document sets out the needs of blind and partially sighted people for designers and manufacturers.

5.7 Transport and the built environment

Outdoor mobility presents difficulties for blind and partially sighted people. The design of vehicles as well as infrastructure such as stations and stops, many of the standards for which are set at European level, affect how easy or not it is for blind and partially sighted women, men and children to travel. Special transport services are also useful for visually impaired people.

Architects, planners and designers need to consult us and let us test mock ups and models before decisions are made. Itís no good asking us to comment on the finished design.
(Jill, age 62, UK)

EBU mobility experts are working on the development of European standards for tactile paving, audible signals and other features which make the environment less hazardous for blind and partially sighted people.

5.8 Access to information

The ability to read written information is crucial to independence and the ability to do everyday things such as shop or travel. Information is often not available to people with sight problems in a way that they can read.

Seven year-old Holly in the UK wanted to read the latest Harry Potter book at the same time as her friends. But she had to wait three months until the book came out in large print.

Many partially sighted people can read ordinary, printed information, if it is well designed. Text of a good size (such as 14 point print, as in this publication), and good contrast between the colour of the text and the background can help. Some people use what is known as large print, which can be any size from 16 point upwards.

There are systems of reading by touch such as Braille. A small fraction of visually impaired people use braille regularly, and many more make use of braille labelling on signs, in lifts and on packaging. However, it is more difficult for people losing their sight in later life to be able to learn the system.

Braille is still a difficult challenge - my fingertips may be too rough for that. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoy talking computers.
(Anthony aged 78, Czech Republic)

Spoken word on audio tape or CD is a popular method of accessing information, used mostly for leisure, and electronic documents on floppy disk or CD-ROMs are being used more frequently by those with the ability to use a computer.

An increasing number of visually impaired people have access to computers either in the workplace or at home, though many do not have the funds to obtain the equipment and access technology. People with sight problems can obtain information from a computer in different ways :

These methods can be used to access the huge amount of information available on the internet. If a web page is well designed, people with sight problems can read it.

Recently my employer provided me with a mobile phone for out of office use worldwide. Unfortunately my screen reader cannot access the PDF manual on the manufacturerís website.

As I am totally blind the large print is of no use to me, and also I am not a fluent braille reader and would not manage a manual. The taped version, even if it has cue and review markings, would not allow me to navigate nearly so smoothly and effectively as the electronic version and so I feel discriminated against.

It is obvious since they have made the PDF user manual their primary source of user support that they recognise its search facility as an integral asset and so it is surely clear discrimination to deny access to it for blind and visually impaired users.

(Christopher, UK)

EBU has long campaigned on the issue of Access to Information as a key right for blind and partially sighted people, with a petition to the European Parliament in 1996, and the production of guidelines to help all organisations to improve the ways in which they can communicate with their blind and partially sighted customers, constituents and citizens.

EBU continues to campaign on the issue of copyright exemption, and has grave concerns that in a digital environment copyright will become a new barrier to accessing information. The need to obtain permission from rightholders can significantly impede production of information in accessible formats. People with sight loss wishing to access information should not be considered to be breaking copyright law and should not have to bear any expense for transposing information into alternative formats.

Most European countries recognise that blind and partially sighted people cannot use printed correspondence and therefore operate free postal schemes for the carriage of braille, large print, audio tapes and diskettes and equipment for blind and partially sighted people. It is essential that the principles and practice of freepost schemes are guaranteed within the European Unionís postal services market liberalisation, to avoid extra cost and inconvenience for blind and partially sighted consumers.

5.9 Public attitudes and awareness

Many of the difficulties reported by blind and partially sighted men, women and children arise from other peopleís attitudes towards them. These attitudes are often due to fear, mistrust and ignorance, when sighted people are afraid to approach blind people and prefer to avoid them.

The problem, if you can call it a problem, is that they donít know what blindness is, and how exactly to help blind people. But that has to do mostly with ignorance and over protection. Whatever goes for people without disabilities goes for us too.
(Eleni, aged 26, Greece)

Raising public awareness and educating people about sight loss is crucial. Inclusive education can play a key role here as children who have grown up with differences are less likely to hold prejudices as adults.

We need to work in schools. Educating young people and promoting positive attitudes to disability is very important.
(Luisa, aged 38, Italy)

Non-discrimination legislation also sends out an important message. It creates an environment which protects people with sight loss and where discriminatory behaviour will not be tolerated.

Disability awareness training for staff can also have a beneficial impact on general customer service levels.

It is important that staff are communicative and approach me. In many situations I lack visual contacts. For instance, I hate shouting across the restaurant that I would like to have another coffee. And isnít good service something that everyone appreciates ?
(Evelyn, Germany)

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EBU Contacts

European Blind Union
58, Avenue Bosquet
75007 Paris (France)
Telephone : +33 1 47 05 38 20
Fax : +33 1 47 05 38 21
E-mail : ebuoffice@euroblind.org
Director : M. Mokrane Boussaid

Contact details for all 45 EBU national members can be found at : membres.html

The contents of this publication may be quoted provided the source is mentioned.

: We would like to thank all those who contributed to this report by telling us about their experiences. Thanks are also due to colleagues whose expertise has been invaluable, in particular to Tony Aston, Mokrane Boussaid, Rodolfo Cattani, John Heilbrunn, Sally Kneeshaw, Colin Low, Leen Petre and Yvonne Toros.

Photographs : DBSV Germany, NKL Finland, RNIB UK, UIC Italy.

This brochure is available in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and in braille, large print, on audio cassette and diskette by request.

© European Blind Union, June 2004

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