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Call to improve facilities for handicapped

A CALL has gone out for better services and facilities offered to the blind and to make the streets safer for them to cross.

It coincides with White Cane Safety Day, which is being marked around the globe today.

Campaigners for the blind are using this occasion to demand better facilities to give the blind a better environment that will help them lead normal lives and become active members of the community.

Bahrain-Saudi Institute for the Blind director Abdulwahid Al Khayat said this group of the society deserve to be acknowledged not out of pity but because they are productive members of the society.

"The blind need facilities aimed at easing their handicap to help them live as normal members of the society," he explained.

"Members of the community must also learn to care for the blind in a way that doesn't smother them.

"People should stop forcing help onto them unless it's requested and must speak to them in normal tones and not raised voices because it's their eyesight that is impaired, not their hearing."

Mr Al Khayat said blind pedestrians urgently need beeping traffic lights and pavement bumps in many of the roads they use around the country to help them cross safely.

Beeping traffic lights alerts them when to cross and when not to and bumps on the pavements warn them when they are close to a main road.

"It's also necessary for future projects and housing developments to include such facilities," he added.

This year, the institute is celebrating this occasion through a number of lectures in secondary schools that blind students attend, handing out flyers and booklets on blindness and posting a new information file on the handicap on their website.

Mr Al Khayat said the celebration, which also coincides with World Sight Day celebrated on Monday, affirms the country's care and concern for those with special needs including the blind.

October 15 was proclaimed White Cane Safety Day by US President Lyndon Johnson in 1964 after a joint resolution was passed by Congress.

Blind people have been using canes for centuries, but it was not until after the First World War that a British photographer named James Biggs was blinded in an accident and painted his cane white.

Gulf Daily News

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