In September 2007, the Association will take an historic step when the Premier of Western Australia, the Hon. Alan Carpenter, officially opens its Centre of Excellence.
It is located in Victoria Park, on the site first purchased by the Association in 1922, and from which the Association services have operated for 85 years. Through the very generous support of individuals, small and large companies, governments and Lotterywest, we provide our services to the Western Australian community from one of the most innovative buildings of its kind in the world. In 2002, the Association for the Blind realised that its’ challenge was to shape the future of the organisation. This meant providing relevant and integrated services based on strong research, as well as making the most of recent technological advances to help clients lead fulfilling lives in a rapidly changing world. The idea of the new centre was born. In 2004, the Association launched its “Building our Vision” Campaign to raise funds to construct the Centre of Excellence at Victoria Park. As a result of generous support from all sectors of the Western Australian community, and from both the
Australian and Western Australian Governments, the Association raised $14.5 million (to May 07) – see Centre of
Monika Volpi lost her sight 15 years ago. She was diagnosed with a condition called Stargardt’s disease which has left her legally blind.
Monika Volpi completing the Busselton jetty swim
In the beginning, her biggest struggle was to accept that she couldn’t see properly any more and she had to depend on help from other people, such as her hubsband, close friends and neighbours.
“ There was a time in my life where everything seemed too hard…with no light at the end of the tunnel”, said Monika.“However, the Association for the Blind has been wonderful in supporting me through this tough time and helped me to get back on my feet. A year ago I was lucky enough to receive my Guide Dog, Blaze. It was one of the happiest days of my life.” Blaze helps me with her with every day errands such as shopping…he has even learned how to find the milk, ice cream, bread and of course chocolates!
“With Blaze by my side, I have the confidence and independence to strive for my dreams. “Blaze is my support, my companion and my inspiration…he is more than just my eyes”. Monika is currently aiming to raise enough money for the Association to sponsor a Guide Dog…so that someone else can benefit from a Guide Dog. Early in 2007 she completed the Busselton Jetty swim as part of her fundraising. “When people ask me why I’m so passionate about fundraising for the Association…I simply say that Blaze is the reason and say no more”.
When 31 year old Scott Hollier received his doctorate in philosophy at Curtin University earlier this year he joined only a handful of severely vision impaired Australians to earn a PhD. Scott is no ordinary student; he has Retinitis Pigmentosa which means that at best he only has very narrow, or tunnel, vision and loses all his sight in poor lighting or at night. His PhD, titled ‘The
Disability Divide’ deals with how internet technologies can provide opportunities for people who are blind or vision impaired. Scott is the Public Education Coordinator at the Association for the Blind where he hopes to change society’s perception of people who are blind or vision impaired. “Currently only around 30% of Australians who are blind or vision impaired are employed. This isunacceptable and is not in the best interest of the Australian economy, never mind the best interests of people who are vision impaired or their families. We have plenty of ability, but potential employers often only see the disability. What we need are opportunities and I hope my research can help create them, “ says Scott
Dr Scott Hollier
Blindness is no barrier to the world of fiction writing for a Nedlands woman who thrives on creating stories.
Janet Shaw, a published author, is new to the world of fiction writing. “I’ve always wanted to write a book,” Janet says, “but even when my first non-fiction book was published three years ago, I knew I hadn’t quite reached my goal. What I wanted was to write fiction.” After ‘Beyond the Red Door’, Janet’s autobiography, hit the book stores in 2004, Janet turned her attention to the world of fiction. As a child with then limited eye sight, she’d loved getting lost in mystery and adventure stories. But she never had the confidence to try her hand at writing fiction.
“It was after I lost my sight totally seven years ago, and after my book was published, that I had the courage to change genres,” Janet explained. With a passion for children’s stories, Janet started on a novel about a Guide Dog for kids aged nine to twelve years. But breaking into the fiction market is a hard task. Janet quickly learned that to improve her writing and raise her credibility with publishers, she needed to enter short story competitions. “I didn’t think I was any good at writing short stories,” Janet said, “but I thought I’d have a go anyway.”
But Janet is no stranger to facing challenges. She’d survived a life-threatening eye cancer as a baby, coped with limited vision for most of her life, adjusted to the sudden onset of blindness, and struggled with the complex issues of being adopted.
Late last year, Janet entered the Victorian Fellowship of Australian Writers National Literary Award with a short story for adults. “Writing for adults isn’t my forte; I prefer writing for kids. But I knew having a go at such a huge competition would be good for me. I needed to throw myself into the big pond.”
Janet’s story, ‘Sophie’s Rose’, is a touching and heart-wrenching story about a woman who discovers she is carrying a Down Syndrome baby. “This story highlights myths and misconceptions about disability, and shows the positive side of disability,” Janet said. The theme of the category I entered in this competition was disability, but the way it was written up gave the impression that disability was sad, negative and a burden on families. I wanted to show another side.”
When the letter announcing her win arrived, Janet was too scared to read it. “I thought it was just a list of the results, as I’d included a return envelope for them with my entry. But you always hope. So when I read the words, “It is with great pleasure”, I was over the moon. I actually started to cry.” Janet received her award certificate along with all the other winners on 30 March 2007. The significant literary event held at Deakin University, Melbourne.
Lucy, Janet’s faithful Guide Dog accompanied her to Melbourne. The blonde labrador is used to the stage and bright lights. She accompanies Janet, who is a motivational speaker, to all her presentations.
In June 2007, the Association launched a world first program, the Cisco Training Academy taught by people who are blind or vision impaired for students who are blind or vision impaired.
Established by Curtin University, with the support of Cisco and the Association for the Blind, the Academy was developed by Iain Murray, a lecturer in Curtin’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. It provides students the chance to study Cisco’s Certified Network Administrator curriculum using tools designed for people who are blind.
Instructors are blind or vision impaired
Kerry Hoath and Geraldine Lane are the first instructors who are vision impaired in the Networking Academy course in the world to teach other students who are blind or vision impaired. The course is part of the wider Cisco Networking Academy Program, a comprehensive e-learning program that provides students with the Internet technology skills essential in a global economy. The program is taught in approximately 30 Australian universities as well as through agencies worldwide.
On successful completion of the course students will have a fundamental level understanding of hardware and networking operating systems. Some of the skills and knowledge gained will include how to:
A range of courses is offered through the Association’s Industry Skills Centre, including nationally recognised courses. Courses include Braille literary, Certificate I in Information Technology and Certificate III in Business.