New support fund for blind and deaf people

A new support fund for blind and deaf people created to develop a systematic approach and the introduction of cutting-edge technology



According to figures from public disabilities organisations, there are currently nearly 12,000 blind and deaf people in Russia. During the Soviet era, support for this group of people was provided by world-renowned specialists. Following Perestroika, the situation deteriorated dramatically. A new fund is urgently required to support these people – an idea which has now received the full support of President Putin.

The Executive Director of the new fund, Nadezhda Chetverkina, has said that its first task is to compile an accurate number of deaf and blind people who are not included in published statistics, or recorded on vulnerable persons’ registers. This is a problem that affects other countries, not just Russia. Its second task is to bring together a pool of experts to support and develop projects aimed at the social, professional and medical rehabilitation of deaf and blind people.

“The key task facing the fund is the need to create the necessary conditions in which these people can lead a full life, whilst at the same time reinstating Russia as a leader in the development of practical support systems to achieve this aim. We have a wealth of experience to draw on from Soviet schools on work related to deaf and blind people. It’s essential that we recreate a scientific/educational approach which can be enhanced by employing the best modern-day practice incorporating the latest technologies. Putting it simply, we’re not just about buying everyone an expensive hearing aid or a white stick, although in so doing we’ll support the Government’s efforts in this area. Ultimately, our main aim is to develop a systematic approach to come up with specific solutions and projects to alleviate problems faced by deaf and blind people, as well as other socially vulnerable groups”, said Chetverkina.

The fund will not only provide help to children but also to those adults who have lost their sight or hearing in middle age. It has been suggested that the fund could offer the full range of support services for deaf and blind people, including counselling and training programmes for their families. Efforts will also be put into developing an accessible environment for disabled people, introducing technological innovations and educational programmes, together with organising public information campaigns aimed at raising society’s awareness of problems which affect their daily lives.

The fund is currently going through the official registration process and putting together its team of specialists and, according to Chetverkina, will be establishing a regional network in the near future.

In recognising the importance of creating this fund, Putin stated that “these people are suffering from serious handicaps and their problems must be taken seriously. I believe this fund can put this valuable work on the right track, bringing together the efforts of volunteers, religious associations, NGOs, relevant specialists and academics in order to secure the successful integration of deaf and blind people into society. To this end, we’ll need to develop the appropriate know-how, together with relevant scientific and educational methods, and make them available to those in need”. Putin was speaking at a Board of Directors meeting of the independent NGO “Academy for Strategic Initiatives for the Advancement of New Projects” (SIANP).

The head of the SIANP’s “Young Professionals” section, Dimitri Peskov, said that Soviet successes in the care of deaf and blind people had been particularly instrumental in creating a specialist orphanage in Zagorsk. “We now want to try and establish a fund that builds on, and repeats, the progressive achievements of the Soviet scientific era (cochlear implants, various means of sight support, training know-how)”, Peskov added. According to Peskov if the Board of Directors approves the project, the first educational, implant and rehabilitation programmes could be launched by the summer, together with competitions for ideas for creating comfortable living conditions for these people.

The Fund’s Board of Trustees is headed by the President and Chairman of the Russian Federation’s Sberbank, German Gref, who admits that he and his colleagues have already discussed a list of businesses that could help in realising this project.

“We need investment and so will seek to make the most of our business opportunities. We are, of course, aiming to provide adults and particularly children with the necessary training opportunities. Once we know the scale of what’s required, we may look towards some kind of joint private sector/state partnership. Of equal importance to the success of the project, other than the active role of big business and state representatives, will be the participation of young people and enthusiastic volunteers.” Gref added.

Author: Darya Shapovalova

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