It is estimated that there are more than 10,000 people in Wielkopolska who have a certified visual impairment and a similar number who are blind or visually impaired without a certificate. In order for these people to be active and exercise their rights, they often need adequate preparation and support. Unfortunately, many public places are not accessible to visually impaired people – both in terms of adapting the websites of local public offices and institutions, and in terms of appropriate signage, Braille or tactile graphics, audio description at local events. The pandemic has also highlighted the difficulties that blind people have in using communication and educational platforms.
The project selected a group of 15 self-advocates from 15 districts in the Wielkopolska region. These people took part in a series of trainings and workshops on how to support visually impaired people – from rehabilitation, to technology advice, to representing the interests of this social group. The work of the self-advocates consisted of providing telephone and face-to-face advice in 15 advice centres. The most common types of advice related to benefits available to blind and visually impaired people, assistance offered by district family support centres, subsidies for rehabilitation holidays, rehabilitation equipment, availability of talking books, etc.
Twenty-six different types of letters and petitions were also sent to local authorities and institutions. Meetings with local authorities, lectures and debates were held with the participation of self-advocates. The grantee also signed two declarations of cooperation with medical institutions on substantive support and work on accessibility for people with disabilities.
As a result of the project implementation, the self-advocacy skills of 15 visually impaired people were improved. 15 counselling centres were established, providing almost 2,400 counselling sessions. 159 families received support. There is no doubt that the awareness of blind and partially sighted people about rehabilitation, available rehabilitation aids or laws has been increased. The problem of inaccessibility of public spaces, including offices, for people with visual impairments has been raised with the authorities on many occasions, and self-advocates continue to support offices in removing barriers in their districts.