The Executive Committee
meets in Bulgaria
The Executive Committee of the World Blind Union (WBU) held a meeting in Sofia (Bulgaria) under the presidency of Kicki Nördstrom, where all the regions of the world which are part of the WBU were represented. Some interesting proposals to establish guidelines for the future of the organisation were made at the meeting.
First and foremost elite athletes and then people with visual impairments
Approximately one thousand blind and visually impaired athletes competed in the II World IBSA Games held in the Canadian city of Quebec, not only with the aim of winning a medal, but also to qualify for the next world athletic games to be held next year in Athens.
The WBU proposes a system for countries to adapt to the UN Convention
Equal Rights and Full inclusion as World Citizens (I)
The United Nations (UN) and its Secretary General, Kofi Annan, are working on the
Comprehensive and Integral International Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities which will come into being in January 2004,
and the World Blind Union is proposing a manifesto calling on governments to consider it as
the World Blind Union‟s list of priorities. This is based on the assumption that, in spite of the
measures taken by institutions and countries to eradicate inequalities, these measures have failed to guarantee the same universal rights and freedoms to blind and partially sighted people. The aim is to expand on the rights contained in the Convention to give it the strength and clarity required to provide a standard which serves as a point of reference for people with disabilities to analyse their status as participating members of society. To overcome these limitations, we need to stress two principles: the right to full inclusion as equal citizens in society, and the right to autonomy for blind and partially sighted people to lead full and independent lives and achieve their full economic, social, cultural, civil and political potential. In order for the project to develop adequately, the WBU proposes that countries follow the evolution and integration model of the steps in six stages.
3 TOPICAL ISSUES Report on the Executive Committee of Sofía (Bulgaria)
4 Topical issues The WBU: mission in Kosovo
8 Report II IBSA Games for blind and partially sighted people 10 Regions Dilia Robinson, new President of INCI
18 Report Blind people in the history of cinema
20 Interview Interview with John Wall, outgoing President of the European Blind Union (EBU)
22 Technology Two pioneering projects: The Congress Library and Radio France
6 Topical Issues
The WBU position on the UN Integral Convention on Disability
The countdown has begun
The World Blind Union Executive Committee held a meeting in Sofía (Bulgaria) on thth and 11. The meeting was one of the two regular meetings held by the WBU September 10
Executive Committee between general assemblies (every four years), being the most important meeting between assemblies.
Virtually one year before the VI General Assembly of the WBU, to be held at the beginning of December 2004 in Cape Town (South Africa), the major topic under debate was the potential amendment to the WBU articles of association, which proposes the potential re-election of the president which is now not feasible. This highly important topic will be debated and then either passed or refuted in South Africa. Apart from the final outcome of the Assembly, this proposal is, undoubtedly, the most important one raised with regard to the Articles of Association of the WBU since it was created in 1984. 20 years after the foundation of the WBU, Cape Town will be the setting for one of the most important WBU events ever. The proposal goes far beyond a simple modification of some specific articles to adapt them to current times, and entails such a profound change that it will be the subject of an almost unprecedented debate until December 2004.
On the other hand, the Executive Committee received reports from the different commissions that have been working during the last 18 months since the Executive meeting held in March 2002 in Bombay (India): the Editorial committee, Women’s committee, Financial, Youth and Children’s committees, etc. However important the knowledge and analysis of the work of these groups may be, the potential amendment to the Articles of Association will be the most important topic under debate for the more than 150 countries comprising the WBU in these months. It is their turn to speak. The ball is in their court.
[PAG 3, 4 Y 5]
WBU Topical Issues
The Executive Committee
A historical proposal
Those who attended the Sofia meeting of the WBU Executive Committee qualified it as a major step forward in the development of tools for blind people, particularly because they focussed on certain issues which require more attention, such as the situation of women or the need for greater regional participation in WBU publications.
The Executive Committee of the World Blind Union (WBU) met in Sofia (Bulgaria) on thth and 11. The amendments to the Constitution and its revision to allow new September 10
memberships are the most significant topics in the political field of the Executive, according to different participants of the Sofia meeting. Apart from political topics, the WBU president, Kicki Nördstrom, said that she is particularly interested in the role of blind women and announced that she will participate in the Women’s Forum that will be held a few days before thththe WBU General Assembly in Cape Town (South Africa) on December 6 – 10 2004.
The Cape Town Assembly discussed the proposal to introduce amendments to the WBU Constitution, which would entail the possibility of re-electing the president for more than one term (the WBU has not allowed a second presidential term since it was founded in 1984). Moreover, the different commissions informed the Executive Committee of the activities carried out in the last year and a half, since the last meeting of the Executive Committee was held in the Indian city of Bombay. Apart from other agreements, the meeting decided that the next issue of the WBU Bulletin, which will be published in April next year, should be devoted to the VI General Assembly of the WBU, and that this publication should not be limited to informing, but open to include activities and debate.
Several budget items were passed, assigned to the VI General Assembly, the Youth Committee, the Louis Braille Museum and grants for blind women, among others.
Operation of the WBU
The World Blind Union’s structure consists of a board of directors comprising 12 members rdthwho hold meetings every six months. The next board meeting will be held on May 3 – 6
2004 in Cameroon. It also includes an Executive Committee comprising 31 members who hold meetings every 18 months, between General Assemblies, which are held every four years. The WBU comprises six regions: European, Latin American, North American and Caribbean, African, Asian and the Asia-Pacific Blind Union.
[PIE DE FOTO]
Above, the WBU Executive Committee, headed by the president, Kicki Nördstrom. Below, the African representatives with the first Vice-President, Arne Husveg (foreground).
Meeting in Louisville
The North American city of Louisville, in the State of Kentucky, hosted the Annual Blind thConvention 2003 and served as the setting for thousands of blind people to meet on June 28 – thJuly 4. The annual publications published by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) thwere presented on Saturday June 28. On Friday they debated and analysed the transport
situation for this group of people. The latest advances in technology, literature and services for blind people were shown in the different rooms provided for the occasion. They also prepared specialised talks for parents with blind children, a jobs workshop and a seminar on preparations for finding a job. Finally, the attendees enjoyed guided tours around Louisville. The Convention began with a presentation by the president of the Independent Blind Society of the Asia-Pacific region, Kua Cheng Hock, by Kicki Nordström in her capacity as president
of the World Blind Union, and by its General Secretary, Enrique Sanz, who was also representing the National Organisation of Spanish Blind People (ONCE).
[Pie de foto]
The NFB carries out adaptation programs for blind children.
Younger children a workshop on the planets.
The World Blind Union, mission in Kosovo
In September, the president of the World Blind Union, Kicki Nördstrom, travelled to Kosovo in order to study the current situation of blind and partially sighted people in the region, to analyse the current structure of the three associations of blind people existing in Kosovo and to hold meetings with government officials.
Kosovo has suffered several wars, and the unstable situation damages the infrastructures, including the health infrastructure. We should not forget that after World War II, Kosovo became part of Albania, and then Yugoslavia, a country weighed down by internal and external wars. Kosovo has been under the protection of the UN, through the UNMIK, since 2001.
Blind people in Kosovo are grouped into three organisations: the Kosovo Union of the Blind (KUB), headed by Selman Vokshi; the Inter Municipality League of the Blind (IMLB), presided over by Ejup Rashica; and the Albanian Union of the Blind (ABU), presided over by Sinan Tafaj. Of the total population, 60% are unemployed and only 1% of blind people have a job. The Government provides unemployed people with unemployment benefit; however, surprisingly, this excludes blind people.
The WBU president held meetings with the organisations of blind people from all districts. In Pristina she was able to attend the different activities shared by the organisations of the blind (in this case, the IMLB) with the few existing schools, although there is a great percentage of children who do not have access to formal education. This is one of the most important tasks for the association: to make it possible for children and young people to have access to an adequate education. In spite of the extreme financial conditions, they are organising Braille lessons in several districts, and sports activities –such as goalball and chess– in the only
specialised centre, the School for Blind and Partially Sighted People of Mitrovica, headed by Ahmet Mahmutaj.
On the other hand, Nördstrom met the mayor of Prístina, who highlighted the role played by UN forces under Swedish command in the city. The WBU president also met the secretary of the Ministry of Education and Technology, Isufi Zeneli, and the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Ahmet Isufi, who acknowledged the social shortages in the country, although he stated that they are working to make aids reach all inhabitants, particularly blind people, whose rights they intend to reflect in their future national constitution. And the WBU president did not want to leave Kosovo without meeting the UNICEF mission, which has been working in the region since 1999, and which has managed to reduce the rate of child mortality by 30%, a fact that inspires a certain amount of hope.
[Pie de foto]
The president of the WBU, Kicki Nördstrom
Athens will be host to the European associations of blind people
The European Blind Union (EBU) will be meeting to hold its VII General Assembly in thth – 30 in Athens (Greece), organised by the Pan-Hellenic Association of the November 25
Blind (PAB). This association was formed in 1932 and represents virtually all people with visual disabilities in Greece. The different European organisations of blind people will meet at the Titania hotel, Athens, to debate various topics pertaining to the World Blind Union and current topics affecting them.
WEB: www.titania.gr; www.euroblind.org
Looking for a job for everyone ththSeveral European organisations of blind people met on July 17 – 20 in Paris in order to
analyse and create tools capable of promoting jobs for blind and partially sighted people. Under the auspices of the president of the Republic of France, Jacques Chirac, the European Blind Union (EBU) in co-operation with the National French Committee for the social promotion of Blind and Partially Sighted people, the EBU Commissions on Rehabilitation, Labour and Vocational Training, gathered professionals and experts specialising in labour issues for blind people. Thus, the motto for this summer meeting was, “How can organisations and institutions promote jobs for blind and partially sighted people?” Nevertheless, invitations to the congress and the decisions reached were not limited to these organisations, but to al institutions which form part of the social system.
Let the music play!
Prague, March 2003. The streets of the capital of the Czech Republic were filled with white canes guided by skilled artists. The Organisation of Blind People from the Czech Republic (SONS) had scheduled the X International Contest for Blind People in Prague. This is a contest with a story of its own: the idea of organising a contest for blind and partially sighted thpeople arose on the celebration of the 25 anniversary of the foundation of the conservatory
for young people with visual disabilities in Prague, and was held for the first time in 1975. The event included contestants from organisations of blind and partially sighted people from Hungary, Eastern Germany and Poland. Apart from singing, the musical instruments played in the competition this year were the flute, the hunting horn, the double bass, the oboe, the trombone, the piano, the clarinet, the violin, the accordion, the bassoon, the viola, the guitar, the trumpet and the cello.
The EBU board is brought up to date
Under the auspices of the Dutch Federation of Blind and Partially Sighted people, and with the sponsorship of the Dutch Eye Foundation, the EBU held its board meeting in the outskirts of thAmsterdam on May 10. We should highlight that among other points, the following
interesting topics were dealt with: technical issues on computer accessibility; issues pertaining to young people and women, and information on the European Union sent by Yannis Vardakastanis and Rodolfo Cattani. They also provided information on the manifesto for a United Nations Convention on the Human Rights of People with Disabilities drafted by the WBU Working Group on Relations with the United Nations and its Agencies, headed by Colin
Low, on the IBSA report, and on the next General Assembly of the EBU to be held in Athens in November.
The WBU Manifesto for a United Nations Convention on the Human Rights of
People with Disabilities
„Equal Rights and Full inclusion as World Citizens‟
The World Blind Union (WBU), which represents 180 million blind and partially sighted persons from some 600 different organisations in 158 countries, is aimed at fighting for the human rights of blind, partially sighted and deafblind persons throughout the world, which involves fighting all discrimination against blind and partially sighted people, advancing the well-being and promoting the prevention and treatment of blindness. To this end, the WBU welcomes the establishment of a process for developing a “Comprehensive and integral international Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities” and, after a world-wide process of consultation within the World
Blind Union and its Regional Member Organisations, and co-ordinated by the WBU Working Group on Relations with the United Nations and its Agencies, has issued a Manifesto calling on governments to consider it as the World Blind Union‟s list of priorities for a Convention.
The starting point is a reality, in spite of the measures taken by institutions and countries to eradicate inequalities, these measures have failed to guarantee to blind and partially sighted people the same universal rights and freedoms, including the right to life, as other world citizens that are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Convention should, therefore, extend the rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to all disabled people and build on the foundation of the United Nations Standard Rules for the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. This would involve incorporating disabled people‟s rights in all other UN Conventions; defining the scope of the human rights that all disabled people can expect to have, rights which should be given fully and without restriction, and being sensitive to the diverse needs and abilities of disabled people.
That is, having the strength and clarity to provide a standard against which all disabled people can evaluate their status as included members of their societies and which individual disabled people can use to determine whether their rights are being violated, and making the convention be suitable for incorporation into Member States' constitutions and legislation, which demands providing a framework for a monitoring tool to evaluate Member States' human rights performance.
The fundamental principles to be included in the Convention, under the WBU‟s calling on governments working within the context of the process to develop a Convention on the rights of people with disabilities, are two basic principles: the right to full inclusion as equal citizens in society, and the right to autonomy for blind and partially sighted people to lead full and independent lives and achieve their full economic, social, cultural, civil and political potential.
Right to Full Participation, as candidates in elections, the right to join political parties and
social organisations, to work as paid officials in public administration and to participate in all
aspects of the life of the community on a basis of equality with other citizens.
Right to take control of their own lives, the right to choose whether to marry, to form relationships or to raise a family, the right to own property, to control their own financial
affairs and operate a bank account in their own name –whereby notes and coins should be
designed so that they are easy to distinguish for people with a visual impairment–, the right to
be provided with personal support to enable them to lead independent lives, the right to self
determination and to self-representation.
Right to Dignity, Tolerance and Inclusion, the right to accurate portrayal by the media of the circumstances of people with disabilities, as well as of their rights as equal and participating
citizens of communities and families; the obligation for the general public to receive
awareness training on the rights of persons with disabilities under the law and specifically on
the needs and concerns of blind and partially sighted people, and the obligation for employers
to organise systematic training for their staff on the rights established through this UN
Right to Life, the prohibition of compulsory abortion at the instance of the State, based on the
pre-natal diagnosis of a disability.
Specific Rights to be Included in the Convention, the basic right to full inclusion as equal citizens in society and to autonomy to lead full and independent lives and achieve their full
economic, social, cultural, civil and political potential.
Right to Universal Suffrage, the right and the facilities to vote in secret in all public elections;
to the provision of the necessary instruments and technologies to enable blind, partially
sighted and deafblind people to cast their vote independently and in secret; the right to a postal
ballot in cases where restricted mobility makes it difficult to get to a polling station; and to the
provision of accessible information about political parties‟ and candidates‟ manifestos.
Right to Freedom of Association and to Form Organisations to Represent the Specific
Interests of blind and partially sighted people, the right to meet with others, to form independent organisations to represent the individual and collective interests of blind and
partially sighted people to governments and their administrations; the right for representative
organisations of blind and partially sighted people to be consulted by governments on all
legislation, policies and strategies and to sit on any relevant government bodies.
Right to Judicial Equality and Protection, the right to protection from all violence, torture, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment at the hands of the law or institutions of the
State; the right to the same legal protection for disabled children, old people, refugees, asylum
seekers and other displaced, nomadic, indigenous or transient people as that given to other
citizens without disabilities; the right to the provision of legal documents in a format
accessible to blind and partially sighted people, such as Braille, audio, large print and
electronic text, in a timely manner and without any additional cost; the right to legal
proceedings and treatment in prison, free from all forms of discrimination; the right to victims‟
protection and compensation that is sensitive to the special circumstances arising from being
blind or partially sighted; the right to the opportunity to be a practising lawyer, judge or juror
and to be given any assistance that may be necessary to enable these tasks to be performed, to
be called as a witness and to give evidence; the obligation for all public officials responsible
for law enforcement and administration, including police, prison and court officials, to attend
disability equality training that incorporates appreciation of the rights contained in the UN
Right to Information and Communication, the right to the provision, in a timely manner
and without additional cost, of all information in the public domain in formats that are accessible to blind and partially sighted people, such as Braille, audio, large print and electronic text, regardless of any copyright laws, including all correspondence and information from public services, hospitals and government departments, as well as those providing an essential service such as banks; the right to literacy through free instruction in methods of reading by touch such as Braille, and in methods of communication for deafblind people; the right to interpretation services for deafblind people at no extra cost; the right to free postage of Braille or audio material for the blind; the right to the provision of adapted equipment and access software to enable blind and partially sighted people to access the Internet and other information whether it is electronically stored or not.
The second part of the Manifesto will be published in our next issue
One objective, six stages
Considering the substantial differences existing between the rights of people with disabilities in different countries due to financial, cultural and political factors, the WBU suggests that the process should take these differences into account. Nevertheless, it will be crucial that each signatory State achieves full implementation within the agreed term, without drawbacks in meeting rights or reductions in services. The “progress” feature needs to be the key to implementation of the Convention.
Keeping this in mind, the World Blind Union proposes a process in different stages for the Convention.
States accept a binding commitment, backed by national legislation, to fully implement the Convention. This commitment will recognise that the Convention constitutes an international standard for the establishment of rights for disabled people in each UN Member State. This legislation is to be enacted within two years of a country becoming a signatory to the Convention, provided the necessary minimum number of signatories has been met. WBU proposes that the number of signatory countries required to activate the Convention should be 20.
Adoption of a monitoring process to establish current deficits in the rights of disabled people, compared with the provisions of the Convention. This stage to be completed within three years of the completion of Stage 1. The monitoring is to be organised and undertaken internally by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCHR), which should set up a Secretariat dedicated to this purpose. This secretariat should be served by a panel of advisers in which international organisations of disabled people are represented. Disabled people themselves must work in the monitoring agency and serve on the advisory panel. The results of the monitoring process are to be published.
States‟ governments are to discuss the results of the monitoring process with the national
organisations representing the interests of disabled people, with the objective of preparing an agreed Plan of Action to bring the rights of disabled people within the Member States up to the standard of the Convention. Those rights considered by the organisations of disabled people to
be most important should be accorded a high priority for implementation. The Plan of Action will identify the resources required to implement the introduction of each right and the time scale for full implementation.
Five years after the publication of the monitoring process, the appropriate UN body, as described in stage 2, will assess progress in relation to the plan of action. Its findings will be published and made available internationally. The body undertaking this work will use a standard of assessment, based on the provisions of the UN Convention, that will be applied to all signatory States. This process will incorporate the views of the organisations of disabled people in the Member States and be repeated every five years, so that continuous progress can be evaluated.
When the result of the external monitoring is known, the Member States will consult with their organisations of disabled people to review and revise the Plan of Action. This consultation and review will be repeated after each external assessment has been undertaken.
Once the monitoring established at stage 3 indicates that the Member State has attained the rights standards of the Convention, it will be required to present reports every two years, showing how it is upholding the rights established in the Convention, to be then analysed by the relevant UN body as described in stage 2.
Disabled people, either as individuals or through their representative organisations, will be given recourse to lodge complaints to the appropriate bodies and to the specific United Nations High Commission for Human Rights secretariat dedicated to people with disabilities, as the final authority.
(Leader of the WBU Working Group on Relations with the United Nations and its Agencies, Mr Colin Low, CBE, President, Royal National Institute of the Blind, 105 Judd Street, London WC1H 9NE United Kingdom. Tel: 020 7388 1266 Fax: 020 7383 0508 E-mail:
Canada hosted the largest sports event for blind and visually impaired people
First and foremost elite athletes and then people with visual impairments
The Canadian city of Quebec, with a population of seven hundred thousand people, is one of the oldest cities in the American continent. Founded in 1608, the city retains its European, and above all, romantic atmosphere. In this setting, more than one thousand blind and visually impaired athletes competed in the II World IBSA Games.
The old fortified capital city of the New France, founded in the seventeenth century, is a real treasure and was declared World Heritage City by the UNESCO in 1985. In this geographical and historical setting, some 900 blind and visually impaired athletes attended the appointment stthfrom August 1 to 12 to compete in the II World IBSA Games in three categories: B3, B2
and B1. The athletes competed in six sports: cycling (tandem), goalball, weightlifting, swimming, judo and athletics. However, as one of the American sportsmen remarked, “we are first and foremost elite athletes and then people with disabilities”.
rd was the starting point for the hard-fought games, The opening ceremony held on the 3
although most of the medals were finally won by the Spanish selection. Not only was the competitiveness reinforced by the fact that the games were international, but also because the times and records were used to qualify for the next Paralympic Games to be held next year in Athens (Greece). The activities of the IBSA Games were concentrated at Laval University, where most of the athletes were accommodated.
The components of the Spanish team were the most successful winners. The 66 sportsmen and women who comprised the Spanish contingent won 91 medals: 29 gold medals, 36 silver medals and 26 bronze medals (see the enclosed table). The last games, held in Madrid and attended by 71 countries, were also a great success for the Spanish team, winning 15 medals and confirming their position as one of the strongest teams in paralympic sports, standing out particularly in swimming and winning 40 medals in the 1998 games. Those games, which now seem so long ago, were a great boost for the sportsmen and women to demonstrate to the media and to the world how important it is for people with disabilities to fight tenaciously to overcome barriers. In the end, the expectations were exceeded and it was confirmed as the most important sports event for blind and visually impaired athletes.
World records beaten
100 metres butterfly stroke women
100 metres breaststroke women
200 metres breaststroke women
200 metres backstroke women
800 metres freestyle women
4 x 50 medley freestyle women
4 x 50 medley relay women
100 metres backstroke men
100 metres freestyle men
100 metres butterfly stroke men
200 metres freestyle men
200 metres backstroke men
200 medley relay men
400 metres freestyle men
800 metres freestyle men
1:20:34 E. Barrett (GBR)
1:24:78 Y. Fvolkova (UKR)
3:12:14 E. Barrett (GBR)
2:37:90 C. Gotell (CAN)
12:47:00 K. Pavlacka (USA)
12:35:16 T. Jolliff (USA)
10:05:48 K. Cote (CAN)