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New appeal to support the blind

For staff and students at the Saudi-Bahraini Institute for the Welfare of the Blind, every day is White Stick Day.

For though there will be international recognition of the needs and problems of blind people today, they have to deal with their problems all the time.

Teachers at the institute are using the event to appeal to people for more understanding and genuine help.

The long white stick which some blind people hold in front of them to feel for obstacles is a universal symbol of the blind.

Yet in Bahrain it is little seen outside the confines of the institute in Isa Town.

Thirteen children from the Bahraini-Saudi Institute and 13 from the Middle East School in Manama went to the Isa Town Shopping Complex yesterday.

They were put in pairs, so the sighted pupils could help the blind ones and so they could each get to know each other.

Institute director Abdul Wahed Al Khayat said while the white stick was very important to ensure mobility and independence, all too often blind people were forced to either stay at home or rely on the guidance of others.

He has introduced lessons in the art of using the stick in schools around Bahrain and the institute.

"Taking students out into the wider community gives them experience in using their sticks in public places, like the markets and shopping malls," said Mr Al Khayat.

He said the disabled were more accepted outside the Arab world and had more independence, because they had more facilities.

"In the absence of these advances it seems that a little more consideration and a little less unwelcome attention from the public would be much appreciated," he said.

"The blind do not need pity, but would rather be seen as people in their own right," he said.

By RASHA AL QAHTANI

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