Blind Dates: Meet Blogger Stefanos Tokatlidis

The Blind Dates project in Thessaloniki, Greece continues its preparations for its first blogging and web radio workshops. The project will rely on a team of individuals and groups that will help implement the project that will work with members of the blind community throughout Northern Greece. In addition to the coordination work by Alexia Kalaitzi and Korina Braniot, the staff of the Panhellenic Association of the Blind will provide the necessary space, as well as to help coordinate the work of the volunteers.

Another key member of the project team is Stefanos Tokatlidis, who is a student at the Thessaloniki School for the Blind. His participation in the project is important because he is currently a blogger, who utilizes the screen reader software Jaws to publish directly to his WordPress blog. Not only will Stefanos help lead some of the workshops, he will be an important resource and example for other blind participants learning how to use blogging software to express their ideas.

Alexia recently interviewed Stefanos about his start with blogging and why he feels it is important to have access to technology to communicate with others. Stefanos also talks about some of the challenges facing the blind community in Thessaloniki.

As mentioned in the earlier introduction post, Stefanos’ blog is called “Το περιπλανόμενο τουατάρα [el]” (The Wandering Tuatara). The names comes from Stefanos’ fascination with science, particularly the world of reptiles. In his blog post [el], he explains how he became interested in these animals:

Ενδιαφέρον για τα ερπετά άρχισα να έχω από πολύ παλιά, λίγο πριν αρχίσω το σχολείο. Μάθαινα διάφορα γι’αυτά από τους γονείς μου κι από άλλους, από βιβλία και ντοκιμαντέρ. Αν και οι περισσότεροι στην οικογένεια δεν τα συμπαθούσαν, ο πατέρας μου δεν τα θεωρούσε τίποτα το σιχαμερό ή κακό και από εκεί ίσως πήρα το ενδιαφέρον. […]

Στο χωριό μου, στους Πύργους Κοζάνης, άρχισα να πιάνω ερπετά κι αμφίβια ήδη από την ηλικία των 6. Το πρώτο που έπιασα ήταν ένας βάτραχος και το δεύτερο μια χελώνα ξηράς. Από τότε και για πολλά χρόνια ύστερα, έπιανα το καλοκαίρι ερπετά, τα κρατούσα για λίγες μέρες και έπειτα τ’άφηνα πάλι στο μέρος όπου τα βρήκα. […]

Όσον αφορά τα άγρια ερπετά στο χωριό μου κι αλλού, άρχισα πριν δύο χρόνια να κάνω καταμετρήσεις από κάθε είδος που έβρισκα και πιο εντατικές παρατηρήσεις. Παρατήρησα για παράδειγμα ότι τα τελευταία χρόνια, από τα πολλά χημικά φυτοφάρμακα που ρίχνουν ασυνείδητοι στο ποταμάκι της περιοχής του χωριού μου, οι βάτραχοι σχεδόν εξαφανίστηκαν.

I became interested in reptiles many years ago, just before starting school. I learned different things about them from my parents and from others, from books, and documentaries. Although most of the family did not like them, my father did not consider them bad or detestable and maybe he was the reason I started to become interested […]

In my village in Towers of Kozani, I started to catch reptiles and amphibians since the age of 6. The first catch was a frog and the second catch was a land turtle. Since then and for many years after, I caught reptiles in summer, keeping them for a few days, and then as I was leaving [back to the city] I left them at the place where I had found them. […]

Regarding to the wild reptiles in my village and elsewhere, I have begun two years ago to make counts of each species I have found, while making more intensive observations. I noticed, for example, that in the last years, because of the chemical pesticides which some throw into the river of ​​my village, the frogs have almost disappeared.

In the project blog, Alexia also writes about what happened when they were leaving the School, which demonstrates the lack of awareness by some about how their actions may affect others in the community. These situations may be precisely what the new bloggers will share with their readers.

After two hours, we are leaving the Athletic Association. Someone has parked his car in the middle of the pavement outside the Thessaloniki School for the Blind. Stefanos hits accidentally the car with his cane. He tells me:

“See! Can you understand the problems of accessibility I told you about? It’s not only State which has to care about blind people but citizens too!”

Thinking of that incident, I realize “I don’t know if our blog will manage to persuade State to care more about the blind community, but I hope that it will manage to progressively change the mentality of our society about this community. Maybe it won’t be easy but at least we will do our best to succeed it!”

Special thanks to Alexia Kalaitzi for shooting the video and help with the translation.

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