Asociación de Ciegos del Salvador

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Asociación de Ciegos del Salvador

El Salvador
Project Stage:
Scaling
Budget: 
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Julio Cesar Canizales, who lost his vision just before he turned 24, is organizing visually-impaired people to develop new job skills, while at the same time challenging the legislative framework which limits opportunities for the blind to participate fully in social and economic activity.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In El Salvador, approximately 95% of blind people do not have access to jobs. This is due as much to their lack of access to vocational skills as it is to their visual impairment. El Salvador has no adequate policies to promote mental, emotional, and material well-being for blind people. The few laws that do exist to regulate the issue treat blind people as incapable of taking care of themselves, their children, or of playing a productive role in society. Until recently they were even denied the right to vote! The pejorative view informing these regulations has contributed to a lack of available specialized schooling for blind people, and hindered the development (or importation) of educational materials that can help them. In this context, many blind people, who usually receive very little formal education, don't feel the motivation or receive the support to continue their studies. According to data from the Foundation for Educational Development, there are approximately 90,000 blind people in El Salvador, with tens of thousands more across Central America. The absence of equipment and training designed for blind people further handicaps them, and makes it impossible for most to participate actively in society. Even in the Center for Blind People, financed by the Salvadoran government and the only one of its kind in the country, there are no computers for use by the students

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Julio Cesar Canizales knows that, in order for blind people to assume their rightful place as active citizens in El Salvador, and by extension in any of the surrounding countries, three types of changes need to occur: they themselves must acquire marketable skills and the confidence to apply them; the public at large must move beyond stereotypes to acknowledge their productive potential; and the legal environment must be adapted to embrace their participation rather than exclude them. Recognizing the inter-relatedness of these challenges, Julio Cesar has embarked upon a quest to improve the status of blind people by combining three initiatives, using his position as president of the Salvadoran Association for the Blind to integrate these efforts.The first involves the establishment of vocational training opportunities for the blind, focusing on modern computer software which allows his students to use braille and interactive techniques to produce word-processing, spreadsheet and internet applications, which in turn create employment openings for them in the emerging high-tech economy. Secondly, Julio Cesar is launching computer training courses for people without visual disabilities, to promote discussion and exchange among groups which to this point have had little to do with each other, while at the same time generating revenues to subsidize the services offered to the blind. Thirdly, by organizing the Network of Associations of People with Disabilities, Julio is building an effective advocacy movement (including people with various types of physical and other disabilities) to strike down the archaic legislation that prevents blind people from voting, and reform the Health Code to be more respectful of and helpful to people with disabilities. A natural leader and strategic thinker, Julio Cesar is already looking to broaden his network, both nationally and regionally, to engage business leaders who can donate equipment and provide job placements. He is also mobilizing the families and friends of people with disabilities to help identify new sources of support, and to contribute to public education and lobbying efforts designed to challenge negative stereotypes.