In Croatia there are approximately 5800 blind persons and 18,000 visually impaired persons. This is a significant part of the population that requires various social services through the social welfare system as well as services provided by NGOs as a part of the civil society.
Limitations caused by blindness as a disability, often accompanied by ignorance and prejudice and the pity of the environment, are the main causes of isolation and sense of powerlessness. All of this further complicates the process of returning to everyday life after loss of sight.
Position of the blind and visually impaired people is different is cities compared to rural areas, considering the cultural characteristics of the individual parts of Croatia. Regardless of the fact that Associations for the Blind in various counties care about their members, for these people social services are not yet designed and developed, particularly those that would have been available in their place of residence. This increases their exclusion and dependency on any assistance their families can provide. Also considering the extremely difficult socio-economic status and poverty, the only possible solution is the development of social services available in their environment.
Additional specificity is the position of blind women compared to that of blind men because of the culturally accepted knowledge that it’s easier for blind men, especially considering that in everyday household duties men have fewer obligations than women. This fact sets far greater demands on blind women, and the generally accepted social opinion is that they cannot meet these demands. To remove these prejudices and establish equality in interpersonal relationships, blind women fight with their remaining abilities, where every possible form of education has a key role.
Therefore, the development of mobile support services for blind and visually impaired people is high on the list of social and humanistic values as well as socioeconomic values because it creates conditions for this group’s better social inclusion in the community and enhances the quality of life, including active participation in the labour market.
Overcoming the shock of sight loss is prerequisite for initiating activities essential for the gradual return of confidence. To run these processes in families with blind or visually impaired persons, experts who know the laws of living in the dark and are familiar with psychological aspects of exiting various crises are crucial.
The common practice worldwide, also applied in Croatia for the last 20 years, is to have rehabilitation programs of orientation and mobility of blind persons implemented residentially. But very often, it is almost impossible to get people out of their homes, especially those from rural areas, because of other health limitations, cultural and mental conditions and inability to adapt to new areas, and so they remain deprived of the necessary social service.
This prompted Association’s team of experts to design this project, which will ensure the development of mobile support services for blind people in local communities, to create conditions for their better social inclusion in society, and therefore maximize their potential involvement in the labour market. All this has led to the definition of the project’s specific objectives.
- Establishing verified education of social services providers in Orientation and Mobility program (O&M Instructors)
- Employment of 3 certificated O&M Instructors
- Arranging O&M training for 30 blind and visually impaired persons, who will gain independent moving and independent living (mastering daily living skills).
- Organizing peer-counselling for blind and visually impaired persons to empower them for participation on the labour market
- Presentation of “Mobile support social services for blind” model
The project is co-financed by the European Social Fund in the amount of 189,620.00 EUR (88.17%). Project activities are designed in accordance with the goals and priorities set by ESF's Grant Scheme „Broadening the Network of Social Services in the Community“ in order to achieve the overall objective of the project - improving the life quality of blind and visually impaired persons, through the support and service of mobile teams.