Thessaolniki, Greece – Joined Rising Voices in 2013
The local school for the blind in Thessaloniki, Greece faced uncertainty with the threatened closing of their school due to operational budgetary constraints in 2011. Even though an agreement was eventually reached with national officials ensuring the school's continued operation, many students at the school felt frustrated that their voices were not being heard during the debate that would directly affect their lives. Several of the school's volunteers approached the students about the possibility of using citizen media as a way to express their thoughts on the state of their school, as well as other issues facing the blind community in northern Greece.
As technology for the blind computer users continues to progress, it has become easier and easier for the visually disabled to these citizen media tools. For example, through the use of screen readers, which is software that provides text-to-speech capabilities allowing the user to hear the words aloud that are written or typed by the user, this has enabled many individuals to send emails, to surf the web, as well as as to publish to their personal blogs. Voice recording for audio podcasting is also another way that the blind can express their thoughts and ideas online.
The project “Blind Dates” was led by Alexia Kalaitzi, who is a volunteer at the school, in close collaboration with Stefanos Tokatlidis, a current student at the school. Tokatlidis has been a blogger [el] for a little more than a year, and is eager to teach his fellow students how to create and manage their own blogs using some of the technologies available for blind students. In addition to teaching the students how to blog, the project received technical support from the local NGO United Societies of Balkans to broadcast the audio podcasts on an online web radio station. The content created by the students covers a wide range of subjects including news about the school, as well as issues pertaining to accessibility issues and public policies concerning the blind community in northern Greece.