The National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) is pleased to announce details of an exciting new strategy to address the digital divide in Irish society with the support of the National Development Plan (NDP). The project will provide practical IT support and assistance from volunteers to visually impaired people through its Volunteer Inputs to Access Learning (VITAL) programme.
‘We must ensure that the rapid progression of today's Information Age does not leave behind, forget or exclude any individuals or groups in society" said Des Kenny, Chief Executive of the National Council for the Blind of Ireland at the announcement/launch. "The wide range of hardware and software available is a whole world waiting to be explored - the VITAL programme will open up this world of possibilities to people with visual impairments, while also harnessing the full potential of our many supporters and volunteers."
The NCBI has found that while the provision of Information Technology equipment to those with visual impairments is an essential step to fostering independence and encouraging personal development, the absence of trained and on-hand supporters who are available to ‘pop around’ creates uncertainty and irregularity in the use of provided equipment. Its absence also results in a low level of expectations for the practical application of new technology, leading to disappointment and frustration in the promise of new technology.
The Volunteer Inputs To Access Learning (VITAL) project aims to address this deficit by creating an infrastructure of trained volunteers to be on call to visit the homes of visually impaired persons to help them with the routine and the unusual needs of using a PC across a variety of tasks but with a particular emphasis on the use of e-mail and the internet. This will, NCBI believes address the very real problem of access to technology which confronts those with a visual impairment.
The NCBI is one of 71 groups who will receive funding under the new Community Application of Information Technology (CAIT) initiative. The VITAL project will receive a total of £93,600 under the CAIT scheme. The main focus of the scheme is to throw open the world of new technology and information systems to those in society who are unfamiliar with, and who do not use, the new technologies in their everyday lives. The initiative will harness the experience, local knowledge and relationships of the community and voluntary sector to implement demonstration projects, which achieve this aim.
Speaking at the announcement of the successful applicants in the Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone, the Minister for Public Enterprise, Mary O’Rourke, TD, said "we had a simple aim with this initiative â€¦#8220; it was to extend an invitation to those less advantaged to participate in the world of PCs laptops, Internet and all those other IT areas they had heard so much about but knew so little."
At present, the NCBI is recruiting the staff and volunteers to operate the VITAL project, which it envisages will be up and running in early August. If members of the public with a knowledge of Information Technology systems are interested in volunteering please contact the National Council for the Blind of Ireland, Whitworth Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 9. Tel: 01 8307033, Web: www.ncbi.ie.