“In general terms, public authorities are not sensitive to blind people”
The recently elected President of the Latin American Blind Union (ULAC), Mr. José
Monteagudo, comments on the ULAC and says that he is deeply involved in preparing the ththAction Plan until 2008, which includes the decisions made at the 5 Congress and 6
Assembly of the ULAC held in Quito (Ecuador).
Twenty years fighting for blind people‟s rights
It is 20 years since the WBU held its Foundational Assembly in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) on thOctober 26 1984. Many things have changed to improve blind people‟s lives, but a lot
more has to be done.
Paralympic sports excel at the home of the Olympic Games
Almost 4,000 athletes came to Athens from 136 countries to compete in 12 days of
The flame of the torch in the Olympic Stadium in Athens (Greece) was extinguished at the thend of the 12 Paralympic Games, but on this occasion there was no celebration. The
closing ceremony of the Games was marred by the fatal coach accident in which seven
schoolchildren travelling to the paralympic games died. China stood out from the other
national teams in the competitions, winning 414 medals (63 gold, 46 silver and 32 bronze
SUMMARY – Contents
3 Current Events News on the WBU and other organisations
6 A letter from the President The President of the WBU reviews the issues,
agreements and events covered during her mandate
th 8 Interview Interview with José Monteagudo, elected President at the 6
Assembly of the ULAC and succeeding Gloria Peniza in office
16 Report Report on the book published by ONCE (Spain) entitled Invisible
Children, at the initiative of the WBU Children‟s Committee.
20 Brief Notes Short news items on different topical issues related to blindness:
technology, culture, art...
23 Agenda A letter from Subhash A. Datrange, Chairman of the Human Rights
Committee of the Asian Blind Union
A summary of the Paralympic Games recently brought to a close in Athens. Interview with
Enrique Pérez, President of the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA)
The time has come thththOn December 6 – 10, Cape Town (South Africa) will host the 6 General Assembly of
the World Blind Union (WBU), the most important meeting for our organisation since the thyear 2000 when the 5 General Assembly was held in the Australian city of Melbourne.
The organisers expect 800 to 1,200 people from more than 160 countries to attend the event.
These estimates alone give an idea of the importance and relevance of the WBU, which in
twenty years of existence has become a world-wide organisation. Furthermore, the World
Union co-operates and works with several national and supranational organisations for the
social integration of blind and visually impaired people.
With regard to the matters to be dealt with at Cape Town, among other topics, we should
highlight a major issue for the WBU that, if approved by the Assembly, would affect its
organisation chart. We refer to the proposal to amend the Articles of Association in order to
modify the presidential mandate, which at present is for four years and excludes re-election,
so that the leader of the Union may be a candidate for subsequent re-elections. Regardless
of the final outcome of the proposal, what really matters is the vital force of the WBU
which, two decades after being created, backs, proposes and debates major reforms in order thto improve its structures. Therefore, whatever the outcome, the 6 General Assembly to be
held in the African continent is a thrilling prospect and will strengthen the Union. And this,
in the end, is what really matters to be able to continue defending and improving the
integration into society of all blind and visually impaired people throughout the world.
WBU Current Events th Anniversary 20
Twenty years fighting for our rights
The priority established by the management of the World Blind Union (WBU) twenty years
ago was to provide blind and visually impaired people with equal opportunities and
participation in society. Since the Foundational Assembly held in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) on thOctober 26 1984, many things have changed to improve blind people‟s lives, but a lot more has to be done.
The WBU has been promoting the interests and participation of all blind and visually
impaired people throughout the world since it was founded. The WBU has also clearly
strengthened its relationship with the UN and national governments, and ensures that all
blind and visually impaired people enjoy equal rights and opportunities as do the rest of
Since its foundation, the World Blind Union is the only organisation entitled to speak on
behalf of blind and visually impaired people throughout the world, representing more than
180 million blind and visually impaired people from some 600 different organisations in
158 countries. Given the huge growth of the organisation, the WBU was divided into six
regions, each with its own constitution, in order to absorb the work volume generated by
integrating blind and visually impaired people in all fields of life.
According to its Articles of Association, the WBU is an apolitical, secular, non-
governmental and non-profit organisation.
The distinctive features of the WBU are its transparency and democracy.
In many parts of the world the fundamental human rights of blind and visually impaired
people are still being violated, causing exclusion and marginalisation, and producing an
adverse effect in the ordinary lives of these people. The WBU has been fighting and will
continue to fight for the full, unrestricted rights of blind people, regardless of their
disability, race, colour, sex, language, religion, political views, nationality or social status. thCape Town (South Africa) will host the 6 General Assembly which will study the current stsituation of the organisation in order to adapt it to the new needs of the 21 century.
For more information: www.wbucapetown2004.org.za, and the General Secretariat.
The most important dates are the following: The Women‟s Forum, to be held on December rdth3 and 4, and the General Assembly, to be held at the Cape Town Convention Centre on ththDecember 6 – 10 2004.
The WBU meets in Cameroon rdthOn the 3 and 4 May, the leaders of the World Blind Union (WBU) met at the Cameroon
capital of Yaoundé. thThe leaders dealt with several current WBU issues, such as the preparations for the 6
General Assembly of the WBU and the Women‟s Forum, to be held in Cape Town (South
Africa). They also acknowledged the efforts of Hiroshi Kawamura (Japan) and Monthian
Buntan (Thailand) for their remarkable work at the World Summit on the Information
Society (Geneva 2003 – Tunisia 2005) for blind and visually impaired people‟s voices to be
heard in decision making processes in the field of information.
New Structure of EBU Commissions and Working Groups
The EBU board had a joint meeting with the new EBU commission chairs in the spring of 2004 to discuss the strategic plan for the mandate period 2003–2007 and the new working
structure, following a resolution adopted by the EBU General Assembly held in Athens in November 2003.
The new structure counts with the board and eight commissions, some of which have permanent working groups. Most commissions will have a somewhat broader remit than has traditionally been the case, and will normally have a maximum of 12 members. 1. Commission on Equality and Diversity, with working groups on youth, women and the elderly.
2. Commission on Blind and Partially Sighted People with Additional Impairments, with a
working group dealing specifically with the needs of deafblind people.
3. Commission on the Rights of Blind and Partially Sighted People. 4. Commission on Access for Blind and Partially Sighted People, with working groups on
access to culture, information and leisure; mobility and access to transport (including guide dogs); and access to technology.
5. Commission on Social Policy relating to Blind and Partially Sighted People, with working groups on Education, Rehabilitation, Vocational Training and Employment. 6. Commission for Liaising with the European Union. 7. Commission on Co-operation with Blind and Partially Sighted People in Developing Countries.
8. Commission on Liaising with the European Union.
Given the good work of the Partially Sighted Commission during the last work period in establishing policies and principles relating to the needs of partially sighted people, it was agreed to have neither a separate partially sighted commission nor a partially sighted working group under the Equality and Diversity Commission, but rather to ensure that there is good representation of partially sighted people across all commissions to help ensure that these policies and principles are implemented in all areas of EBU‟s work.
To those commissions that for the moment do not have working groups, it will be left to determine which areas of work it wishes to focus on, taking account of the priorities set out in the Board‟s Strategic Plan, and to decide whether it needs individual working groups to deal with particular topics.
As now, all countries in the European Union plus Norway and Iceland from the European Economic Area (EEA) each nominate a member. This commission has a slightly different structure. It has a chair, two vice-chairs, two other members and a secretary who will together constitute the Cabinet. As agreed by the Board in November 2003, the Cabinet is established to progress the work of the commission between full meetings of the Commission. At least two members of the Cabinet must come from accession countries. Each board member has been assigned a commission. These Board representatives on the commissions are expected to be proactive in assisting their commission to fulfil its mandate. For further details, contact Mokrane Boussaid, director EBU office: Tel + 33 147 05 38 20. E-mail: email@example.com
Colin Low, President of the European Blind Union
The Pedro Zurita Youth Fund set in motion
Geoff Gibbs, WBU Treasurer and administrator of the Pedro Zurita Youth Fund announced
that, pursuant to the agreements made at the Assembly held in Cape Town, the fund
established in honour of the Secretary General of the World Blind Union from 1986–2000
would be set in motion. And although it is still far from its goal, any movement begins with a simple step. th General Assembly of the WBU in order to As we all know, this fund was created at the 5
assist blind and partially sighted young people aged 15 to 30 financially to obtain education, vocational training and employment. Priority is given to applicants from developing
countries and both sexes receive equal treatment.
In this first call, two people will receive a scholarship of 2,000 dollars. stApplications should be submitted by November 1.
Geoff Gibbs‟ e-mail: ?Error!Marcador no definido.
The White Cane: A symbol of equality
The White Cane has become a symbol of freedom, independence and confidence. The use
of this cane enables a blind person to move about freely in his/her environment. If an
individual knows how to use a cane, he/she can accomplish his/her daily tasks with ease.
Also, the white cane is a symbol of blindness and independence. The blind individual that
walks with assurance with his/her white cane is comfortable with blindness.
The White Cane is a symbol and a means of independence that can be of diverse designs
and recently colour variations have been introduced to identify blind people with special
needs, such as deafblind persons. The recognition given to the White Cane in terms of
public proclamation, parliamentary legislation and traffic regulation varies from place to place, and in many countries is non-existent. Events to raise awareness and campaigns to
gain legal protection will contribute to the status of the White Cane.
Against this background, the WBU commissioned from Dr. Frederic Schroeder of the
United States a policy paper addressing, amongst others, the following matters:
1. The current status of the White Cane among blind people and the seeing public; 2. Appropriate legal protection for the White Cane user;
3. Ways and means of promoting the image of the White Cane;
4. The impact of design and colour variations of the image of the White Cane; 5. Guidelines for awareness raising and celebratory events; and 6. An appropriate depiction of the White Cane to serve as the International Symbol of Blindness. thFor all these reasons, the White Cane Day is observed world-wide on October 15 to
recognise the movement of blind people from dependency to full participation in society.
WBU – Vision 2020
A year to celebrate and to reflect thThe Vision 2020 World Sight Day has just been held, every year on October 14, just one
day ahead of WBU White Cane Day. The World Blind Union (WBU) and VISION 2020
encouraged all partners and supporters to mark this year, VISION 2020‟s fifth birthday and ththe WBU‟s 20 anniversary, as a double celebration of both Vision 2020 World Sight Day
and WBU White Cane Day.
Every year VISION 2020 asks Government Ministers, key decision makers, eye care professionals and thousands of other people around the world to show their commitment to the elimination of avoidable blindness by the year 2020 by „Signing Up For Sight‟. Thus, this year supporters were able to sign on line at
Last year, the Royal College of Ophthalmologists in London asked its members to donate ?20.20 to VISION 2020 on World Sight Day, raising over ?18,000.
Paul Tezanou, awarded th, Paul Tezanou, President of the National Blind Association of Cameroon On May 20
(ANAC) and member of the executive committee of the WBU, was rewarded by the Cameroon Government for his 26 years “of good work in Cameroon and in foreign countries”. It was a historic day for people with disabilities in Cameroon, because it was the
first time that one of them had received an award during the celebratory events of the country‟s National Day.
The award was given two weeks after Cameroon hosted the seminar of International Leaders for Blind People of French-Speaking Africa, which was a successful event organised by Paul Tezanou. The blind leader expressed his pride on receiving the award, which will encourage him to do his best in continuing his life-long dedication to work and the service of others.
London plays host to blind people from around the world
The Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) will host the triennial International Conference on visual disability of the International Society for Low Vision Research and ththRehabilitation (ISLRR). The conference will be held on April 4 – 8 2005 at the QEII
Conference Centre (Parliament Square, London) and aims to cover all aspects of this disability and the loss of sight. It will be based on the following main topics: clinical care and integrating rehabilitation; epidemiology and blindness in the world; evaluation of the visual function and visual performance; life-long education; advances in technology, design and building of an inclusive medium; and employment. For more information, data on registration, submission of summaries and information on hotels, see web page: www.rnib.org.uk/vision2005.
For any queries, please contact Deborah Beale: Tel + 44 (0) 20 7391 2329; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
REPORT BY THE PRESIDENT
An era of new opportunities
The president of the World Blind Union, Kicki Nordström, reviews the work done by the international entity, summarising her work and the work of the organisation she leads th General Assembly of the WBU. towards the 6
The quadrennium started with the adoption of the theme: “In an Era of New Opportunities”, which was intended to guide my work for four years. The main focus during my presidency has been to fulfil the 10 goals set out for the term and develop the WBU into a modern, effective and democratic organisation focusing on communication, advocacy, capacity building and international co-operation.
The keywords for the work have been involvement and balance. It has been my intention to involve all regions in the various Committees and Working Groups and to strive for a gender and age balance. This is with the objective of providing a broad spectrum of different experiences, viewpoints and knowledge, where the members can participate and provide their own experiences through their different situations in different parts of our globe.
The meetings held during my mandate were as follows: President‟s Committee meetings in Luleå in January 2001; Officers Meeting in Bangkok, President‟s Committee Meeting and
Officers Meeting in Madrid 2001. In 2002, Executive Committee Meeting Mumbai, President‟s Committee Meeting in Paris, and Officers Meeting in Havana. In 2003, the Officers Meeting was held in Auckland and Executive Committee Meeting was held in Sofia. And this year, an Officers Meeting in Yaoundé and another Officers Meeting in Oslo.
“We have to use available platforms to reach the goals of fundamental freedom and human rights for our people, set out in the United Nations seven existing Human Rights Treaties or Conventions, which are in effect as International Laws.” “My vision is that our national organisations will educate their members so that they become familiar with the already existing Human Rights Treaties and introduce them to their governments, private sector and the civil society, and interpret the content through our life experiences and knowledge.”
A modern democratic organisation is dependent on its membership. Democracy, capacity building, policy work, training and education, are the pillars that support and maintain a strong organisation. An organisation is no stronger than its members make it and needs a leadership, which is democratically elected and that can set goals which relate to the wish of the members. A successful organisation depends on its members‟ trust and confidence,
as well as its ability to influence the world of which it is part.
The WBU is not a closed entity: we cannot overlook the fact that our organisations depend on the politics, the culture and law and legislation of our countries. The politics, economics and infrastructure of a country also affect the possibility of running an organisation effectively. These are facts that may sound obvious but nevertheless must be kept in mind in order to fully understand and respect our diversity.
Many of our member countries have to face disasters, armed conflict, poverty, lack of educational facilities, political obstacles or lack of food, shelter and water, every day. Some others live in countries, where problems are solved by a click on the computer.
The World Blind Union must be led by democratic principles, where the voice of every member has equal value and recognition. Sometimes different cultural backgrounds, life experiences, misinterpretations due to the fact that many of us do not have English as first language, etc., may cause conflicts. We should not fear conflicts, because the discussion that follows will often bring about even better solutions. The main thing is that conflicts should never be allowed to be personal or offensive to anyone.
It is a sad fact that within WBU there are some leaders who are more interested in gaining power for their own benefit, instead of seeing the well-being of the organisation as the true goal of their efforts. Much more energy is put into internal fights and competition instead of using this energy for constructive work for the benefit of all blind people in the country. This kind of tradition, negative tendencies and attitudes must be changed if WBU is to be able to survive in a world in which our interests as blind people are neglected, forgotten and overlooked.
WORKING STRUCTURE AND MODELS
Internal related policies have been drafted and adopted such as: Code of Ethics and Proper Practice for the Officers of the World Blind Union; the Place of Link Persons in the World Blind Union; Financial subsidies to approved persons; Principles governing choice of venues for WBU events in case of political tensions; Guidelines for those national members wishing to consider hosting the Sixth General Assembly of the World Blind Union during the year 2004; WBU Fundraising strategies; Structures for Committees, Working Groups and Ad Hoc Committees; and a Job description for each of the Officers.
With regard to leadership training and capacity building, an important thing I have learned from the capacity training courses I have had the pleasure to attend these years is that a good leader should be seen as a “service-provider” or “servant” of the organisation.
The Chair of any Committee or Working Group has the duty to communicate “with the
members and make sure that all have been heard before making any decision. The system of link persons from the Table Officers to Committees or Working Groups has been very successful and has surely helped many Committees to get updated information, feed back and support in their work.”
The Committees, Working Groups and Ad Hoc Committees will all write separate reports on their work (see the WBU web site).
CO-OPERATION WITH THE UNITED NATIONS AND ITS AGENCIES
The WBU has co-operated with the UN and its agencies, among others, in the process of working towards a Convention on Disability, which started as an initiative taken by the Mexican Government in December 2001.
The WBU has been involved from the very beginning in this process for the creation of a United Nations Convention on Disability by playing an active role at the Expert Meeting held in Mexico in June 2002.
The WBU has been present at all United Nations General Assembly Ad Hoc Committee Meetings held in New York in July-August 2002, June 2003, in January 2004 for the Working Group Meeting to prepare a text to a Convention, in May-June 2004, and in the meeting held in August-September 2004.
The work is ongoing and the negotiations to agree on a text have just started.
The WBU has been highly involved in the work of the United Nations Commission for Social Development (CSD), the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The WBU has been represented in all the sessions of those Commissions up to 2004, except from the CSW.
UN PANEL OF EXPERTS
The UN Panel of Experts, led by the former UN Special Rapporteur Bengt Lindqvist, met during the sessions of CHR and CSD in 2001 and 2002, and the WBU Panel of Experts Members, the President and the Second Vice-President attended all these sessions. It was not until the end of May 2004 that the new Rapporteur Sheika Hessa Al-Thani gathered a new Panel of Experts for the first time. Meanwhile the disability movement provided strong support to her in her new role and continued advocating through the International Disability Alliance towards the UN, its Agencies and National Human Rights Institutions.
CONFERENCES AND OTHER EVENTS
The WBU has also undertaken other involvement with the UN bodies and a number of WBU representatives have participated in various UN conferences and meetings. William Rowland represented the WBU at the UN Conference on Racism, Xenophobia and related intolerance held in Durban, South Africa, 2001. He also represented the WBU at the Conference on Sustainable Development (2002), which also dealt with the overarching theme of poverty eradication.
The WBU was present at UN General Assembly Special Session on Children (UNGASS), held in June 2003, through participation of June Waugh, member of the Committee on Blind Children.
The WBU delegates also made interventions in the plenary on these occasions. In December 2003 a number of WBU members took part in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) held in Geneva. I had the honour to speak at the plenary opening session on behalf of the five billion members of civil society. We also organised a Disability Forum together with other IDA members.
Furthermore the WBU has been involved in the work of the African Disability Decade and the newly adopted Second Decade of Disability in the ESCAP-region (East Asia and the Pacific). Both meetings were well represented by WBU participation.
Good relations have been established with the International Labour Organisation. Geoff Gibbs has been working with the Universal Postal Union (UPU) concerning free postage of Braille Material and other information carriers for the blind, as it was laid down during the presidency of Euclid Herie.
The WBU has during this term been very actively involved in copyright issues through a hard, and very much appreciated work by David Mann. Several meetings with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) have been attended. Relations with the International Publishers Association (IPA) have been established. I thank David Mann for his committed work in this field.
Co-operation with the newly created Disability Unit at the World Bank has been established and a couple of meetings have taken place on the initiative of the Bank. The future will prove its validity.
Action in relation to UNICEF: In mid-April of 2003, the WBU became aware of a change in UNICEF regarding the Focal Point on Disability. Children with disabilities would be placed in the Portfolio of “Children without Caregivers” under the Child Protection section
of UNICEF. This change in UNICEF structure was met with alarm in the international
disability community and WBU took the initiative to ask for support for a protest letter. This letter has resulted in UNICEF inviting IDA to regular meetings and discussions on
how to go further. UNICEF is about to adopt Guidance Notes, to facilitate the work on
children with disabilities in UNICEF‟s national or regional programs.
WORD OF THANKS
These results would not have been possible to achieve without the collaboration of many
interested, committed, capable and knowledgeable colleagues within WBU around the
Note: For the full version of the President‟s report 2000 – 2004 please check the WBU web
site or request your copy from the Secretary General‟s office (?Error!Marcador no
Five internal and five external goals were set out in an ambitious plan:
? To continue our duty of consolidation and further improvement of the organisational work within the WBU.
? To find structures and resources that will enable developing countries to participate in all official WBU activities and committees on equal terms with the industrialised countries. ? To establish new organisations of blind and visually impaired people, to train organisational development and put our main emphasis on developing countries.
? To develop co-operation with other organisations within the disability field. ? To continue our work to acquire equal opportunities between women and men. ? To develop sufficient co-operation between the WBU and United Nations and its agencies and place the needs of blind and visually impaired people firmly on the agenda. Tools for this are, among others, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the UN
? To continue the co-operation with the WHO regarding the Vision 2020 program on prevention and elimination of avoidable blindness.
? Jointly with UNESCO discuss literacy issues and training for blind and visually impaired adults.
? Jointly with the ICEVI, UNICEF and other UN-agencies assure that children who are blind or visually impaired are secured the right to education and rehabilitation in order to ensure them the right to an independent and dignified life.
? Jointly with relevant UN bodies and agencies discuss actions against the high prevalence of poverty among people who are blind or visually impaired.
COMMITTEES AND GROUPS