Blind Dates found their own Space in the Web

Due to the previous post, we have started a discussion about the fear of self-expression through the maintenance of a blog

The solution was obvious; Blind Dates blog has been created and you can visit it in http://theblinddates.wordpress.com/

The first 8 articles have been posted, divided in 4 categories; Announcements, News, Learn How, Opinion Articles. In the first category, you can find announcements made by Panhellenic Association for the Blind and Thessaloniki School for the Blind. In the second category, participants can share with readers news about the Blind, like technological innovations or new legislations. The third category, Learn How, incudes articles about how visually impaired people manage to deal with everyday life activities, like the use of the computer. The “Learn How” category is a good way to update the blog by posting short articles, easy to be written by participants. The fourth category, opinion articles, is maybe the most important category because meets the upper goal of the project which is the self-expression of the participants. There is only one article in this category so far, by a participant who wrote about the stories of three famous blind people who have inspired him.

In the beginning, many participants just posted articles, republications from other sites or newspapers. To motivate them write original posts, we encourage them to write short articles, in not so sophisticated articles about their everyday life for the category “Learn How” or we suggest them some topics, which they may find appealing to write for, depending on their interests. For example, one participant is a hip hop singer, so we suggested him to write about hip hop music.

The next step is to translate the articles in English with the help of Greek Global Voices volunteer translators and volunteers of the Panhellenic Association for the Blind.

Alexia Kalaitzi

Afraid of Blogging?

While it is still doubtful whether a journalist can be subjective or not, for a blogger it is essential and expected. When one reads a post in a blog, doesn’t expect to be just informed about news but also to see the perspective of the blogger.

That’s why, in the first seminar of Blind Dates about the creation of the blog, Korina and I tried to highlight the importance of subjectiveness and personal style of writing when you write a post for a blog.  It was very helpful that Stefanos shared his experience as a blogger with the other participants. Surprisingly, the biggest chalenge for them is not the technical part, but to win their fear to open up and write about themselves. After the first part of the seminar, after we spoke about technical details and we referred to some basic journalistic and writing rules, we asked the participants to share some ideas about articles they want to write. And … silence.

Korina talking about how to write an article

Korina talking about how to write an article

Most of them are afraid that nobody will be interested in reading articles about the Blind. They were anxious that, because they are not journalists, they won’t be able to write a good article. Being brought up in an educational system which promotes the wooden style of writing and doesn’t encourage the development of a personal style, they find it difficult to express their personality or write about their interests and activities. They are afraid of the exposure. So, we tried to explain  that every blog is like a window to a different world. They have to invite readers to their reality, wherever readers are blind or not.  It is very interesting, for example, for a reader to learn how a blind person can use the computer or play football. After we asked each one about his life and his activities, everybody was eager to write a short article.

 

Learning how to attach files in an e-mail through the program Live Mail

The first e-mails with the articles has just arrived. In few days our blog will be officially open and we will welcome you in our special reality. And as the song says :

“J’en ai marre des langues de bois! Regardez moi, […]  j’suis comme çaaaaaaa. Oubliez donc tous vos clichés, bienvenue dans ma réalité.”

“I’m tired of the wooden words”! Look at me, as I’m […]. Forget all your clichés, welcome to my reality”

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!”


Hello world!!

Hello World!

Maybe this is the perfect title for the first post by “Blind Dates”.

In the beginning of the project, the problems were many. The status of the School for the Blind in Thessaloniki, which now belongs to the greek state and specifically to the Centre of Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind in Athens (CERB), has changed recently. So, according to the new situation, our project had to be approved by the board council of CERB, which will be held in June. Until then we couldn’t start the project and we couldn’t even use the rooms of the School to realize the training courses. Unfortunately, in Greece when you have to cooperate with a state agency or organization, there is a lot of bureaucracy. After many phone calls and non- replied e-mails, i decided to adress somewhere else. As a friend of mine, journalist, used to say “Nothing is impossible. You just need to find the right person”. And i found the right people in the Panhellenic Association for the Blind, in Thessaloniki.  The head of the Association and the general secretary welcomed the project and they let me use their meeting hall for the seminars.

I have already sent the announcement of the project to the Association, which will forward it to its members. So now … waiting for the new participants! The key people of this project are Stefanos Tokatlidis, who is blogger for less than a year now and Giorgos Proestos, who is a very active person and he is very interested in journalism. Both of them are students in the Thessaloniki School for the Blind and know many blind people who could join us and help us with the project.

And as we are talking about e radio and music, let’s start our journey to “Blind Voices” with a nice waltz:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CW3thivPodY&feature=BFp&list=WL493C7F6A774F7275&index=7

Good Luck to all of us!