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Blind Dates: Goalball and Gardening

What is life like for the blind community in Thessaloniki, Greece? The new blog [el] from the Rising Voices grantee project Blind Dates has been providing a window into the daily activities of the new bloggers from the Thessaloniki School for the Blind and the Panhellenic Association. All of the new bloggers have been taking advantage of screen-reader technology to write these blog posts, with some opting to publish directly utilizing the email option on WordPress.com.

Technology for Crossing the Street

In the past, blind residents of Thessaloniki had to rely on a companion to cross the busy city streets. However, according to blogger Thanasis Chatzipantou, now blind residents have an important ally – the sounds of the traffic signals. Here he writes that there are devices mounted on the traffic lights, which produces sounds that indicate when the light is green or red [el].

Τα άτομα με προβλήματα όρασης καταλαβαίνουν πότε ο φωτεινός σηματοδότης έχει πράσινο ή κόκκινο χρώμα από τον ήχο που εκπέμπει το ηχητικό σήμα γιατί ο ήχος είναι διαφορετικός όταν έχει κόκκινο χρώμα και διαφορετικός όταν έχει πράσινο χρώμα. Αυτά τα ηχητικά σήματα έχουν τοποθετηθεί σε πολλά φανάρια της Αθήνας και της Θεσσαλονίκης άλλα και σε μερικά φανάρια άλλων πόλεων.

People with visual impairments understand when the traffic light is green or red by the sound emitted. The sound is different when it is red and different when it is green. These sound signals are installed on many traffic lights in Athens and in Thessaloniki, and a few other cities in the country. Unfortunately it is not available in all cities and islands of Greece, even though they should be because there are people with disabilities everywhere and they have the right to live like the rest of us.

Trying and Playing Goalball

In 1946, the sport of goalball was invented as a way to assist in the rehabilitation of visually impaired World War II veterans. The sport has now caught on internationally, and played by some of the Blind Dates bloggers. The sport is played by teams of three that attempt to throw a ball into the opponent's goal. The special ball contains bells, which help the players judge the location of the moving ball. Vassilis Stamoulakis blogs about his decision to play goalball, and how it ended up being harder than it sounded. It took him awhile to get the hang of the game, but with the help of the coach and hard work, he soon saw improvements. He writes [el]:

Αποτέλεσμα; Έχω αγαπήσει το goallball τρομερά και μέχρι σήμερα συνεχίζω ακόμα να παίζω και να συμμετάσχω σε αγώνες. Συμβουλέυω όσα άτομα έχουν πρόβλημα με την όραση τους, όπως εγώ, να το δοκιμάσουν. Όσοι μπορούν να το δοκιμάσουν, ας το κάνουν για να δουν απλά πώς παίζεται!

The result? I love goalball tremendously, and I still continue to play and now participate in competitions. I suggest that those with visual impairments like me should try it. Just do it and see how to play!

The Relaxing Hobby of Gardening

Some of the hobbies commonly associated with blind teenagers in northern Greece are related to the Internet, music, or other type of exercising. But one unique hobby, as practiced by blogger Stratos, involves the outdoors through gardening. He writes that it is a hobby that was introduced by his grandfather in his village of Panagiouda.

Even though some tasks such as using a motorized cutter or sprinklers require the assistance of others, Stratos is able to do most other tasks, and as a result can enjoy the tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers that he plants with his own hands. He concludes [el]:

Κλείνοντας θα παρότρυνα κάποιον αν μπορεί να ασχοληθεί με την καλλιέργεια λαχανικών διότι τα πλεονεκτήματα είναι πολλά.Το κυριότερο όμως είναι η ικανοποίηση που νιώθει κανείς όταν βλέπει πώς από ένα σπόρο αναπτύσσεται και τελικά παράγει τους καρπούς του ένα φυτό. Εγώ πάντως θα συνεχίσω να φυτεύω και να περιποιούμαι φυτά διότι μου αρέσει πολύ η όλη διαδικασία και είναι και εκτός των άλλων κάτι διαφορετικό από τις δραστηριότητες και τους τρόπους ψυχαγωγίας υπολοίπων.

I would urge anyone to work with the cultivation of vegetables because of the advantages, which the main one is the satisfaction one feels when one sees how a seed grows and eventually produces the fruit of a plant. I will continue to plant and tend to the plants because I love the entire process and being outside is something different from other hobbies and other forms of entertainment.

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