Asia-Pacific May 20, 2012
The Visually Impaired Association of Macau held an introduction meeting yesterday to promote its mission and help people with vision disabilities. Association leaders said Macau needs accessible environment for people who are blind.
During an establishment ceremony last night, attended by leaders from various social groups, charity organizations and numerous blind people, the Association presented their leadership, including Chairwoman Guiomar Pedruco, and President Wong Kuan Lao. Ms Pedruco and Mr Wong told Macau Daily Times that Macau has to do more to build a friendly environment for people who are blind and low vision. “Compared with Hong Kong, Macau’s lagging behind in this aspect,” Wong said, “in terms of both facilities for these citizens, and non-substance support for them.”
In terms of facilities, the leaders said there’s lack of sound guiding systems to help blind people cross the roads in the city centre. And although similar systems were installed in buses, the drivers seldom turn them on. There are also technical problems when these facilities are being installed. Wong raised the example of the setting up of bricks specially made to guide blind people.
The workers who installed that facility did not pave the bricks all the way to the entrance of the buildings, instead they stopped halfway near the destinations. This causes blind people ones to be frequently lost. He said more communication is needed between the authority and the community in building these facilities.
As to the Social Welfare Bureau (IAS)’s initiative to conduct disability assessment and grant allowance to disabled people, Wong said more than 2000 visually impaired ones submitted their application, but only around 300 were assessed and approved as blind people. But he believed the actual number to be much higher because some of these people were hesitant to stand out and have contact with other people, and to undergo the assessments.
As to the procedures and standards of assessment, Wong said the results were basically acceptable but the authority needs to give more details to the community over the criteria used in issues such as the definition for different degrees of visual impairment. Antonio Freitas, the Honorary President of the Association, said at the meeting that in addition to hardware, the society also needs more non-material support to people with vision disabilities, especially respect and care. He raised the example of a blind person that bumped into a pedestrian with normal vision. The latter shouted at blind people and asked him “are you blind?”. “It hurts their feelings,” he said, suggesting that more civic education is needed to raise the public’s awareness about physical disabilities.