Ready, Steady, Go!

The list of participants has been competed. The date has been set. On 10th of June the first seminar of Blind Dates will take place in the Panhellenic Association for the Blind.

The participants are about 20, of all the ages and styles. The most of them are youngsters, who study and live in the Thessaloniki School for the Blind. They have either finished or finishing the high school or study. There are people among them who blog or have blogged for a while and there also people who don’t even have an email adress. But everybody has a Facebook account, lots of ideas and lot of energy! An interesting point is that some of the participants are immigrants and they may want to talk about the issue of immigration too, which is highly important these days in Greece.

As they told me in our first unofficial meeting, the biggest problems blind community faces are the inaccessibility of the roads, the high percentage of unemployment and the ignorance of society. Vasilis, one of the participants, said:

“When I walk on the road, there are people who ignore me, people who help me and people who overhelp me! Society needs to be informed about the situation of blind people in order to know how to treat them right.”

And this is one of the reasons we will start blogging!

In our first seminar, before everybody leave the town for the summer holidays, we will play some “knowing each other” games, and we will talk about the blog. Thanks to the help of Stefanos Tokatlidis, the participants will create an email adress and they will learn how to manage it. Τhey will also learn how to post articles to our group blog, via email or immediately through the dashboard. We will organize a separate session to talk about basic writing techniques and some journalistic rules. Then we will discuss about the thematology of the blog and we will create an agenda for the period till the end of the summer.

The problem is that the majority of the participants will spend the whole summer away, in their hometowns or in summer houses where some of them won’t have an internet access. So, we though of buying some internet cards in order to be able to post articles. During summer we will collect some music and we will prepare the next round of seminars which will be about the creation of the e radio.

Introducing Stefanos Tokatlidis!

It’s Saturday afternoon. I meet Stefanos Tokatlidis, one of the basic participants of the project, in the Athletic Association for Blind “Pirsos”. Stefanos is a blogger for more than a year now. I want him to show me how he manages his blog, how he publishes his posts and explain to me how he chooses the topics he writes about. Stefanos uses Jaws, as screen reader and he shows me step by step the whole process of publishing a post with the help of Jaws and keyboard shortcuts. And there are lots of these… believe me! He also shows me how he adds images and links in the blog post.

Stefanos usually publishes one or two posts per week. He generally likes technology, science, reptiles, strange and funny news. The truth is that he has a great sense of humour! He is an athlete,  and he has travelled in many places, like Korea, Turkey and China by participating in sports events. We talk about our lives, our dreams, the exams he is going to take in a week, and the prospectives of Blind Dates. During seminars, Stefanos will help participants by showing them how to create a mail account, some of them don’t have a mail adress, and how to publish posts in our group blog easily, by using Jaws.

In this video, Stefanos talks about the reasons why he created his blog, about the blind community of Thessaloniki, the problems it faces and his participation in “Blind Dates”. (Sorry about the shaky image, the next video will be better!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m36gxdpuck0

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!”