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European Newsletter - Issue 21

Volume 8 number 1, March 2002




At the moment you read this, the following committees are very busy preparing the ICEVI World Conference:

We hope many of you have already registered or will register soon. We will celebrate the 50th anniversary of ICEVI by looking back on the past with the publication of the history of ICEVI and by looking forward to the future with the publication of the Strategic Plan for the years to come. More information about the conference can be found on our website.

In this Newsletter 6 articles from Central and Eastern Europe: Belarus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Moldova, Slovak Republic and Yugoslavia: the involvement of the Central and Eastern European countries within ICEVI is still growing.

Last February the Executive Committee of ICEVI, consisting of the Principal Officers, the Regional Chairpersons and some representatives from other organisations, held its yearly meeting, which was almost entirely devoted to the development of the strategic plan of the organisation. You will soon find this on the ICEVI website:

Next May, the European Committee will hold its last meeting during the current quinquennium. During this meeting we will prepare the agenda for the two regional meetings which will take place during the World Conference. If you have proposals, new ideas, suggestions with regard to activities of ICEVI-Europe, please let me know by e-mail, then we will discuss them.

The next issue of the Newsletter will be published in July 2002. Please send me your copy before 1 May.

I am looking forward to meeting you at the Conference in Noordwijkerhout.

Dr Herman A.A.Gresnigt
European Chairman ICEVI
Mook, The Netherlands


Education of the blind and partially sighted in Yugoslavia

Yugoslavia has an eighty-five years long tradition in organised education of the blind and partially sighted. It started with the foundation of the school for the blind in Biserta (Tunisia) in 1917. The first students were the war-blind veterans and other disabled by the First World War. The school moved to Yugoslavia in 1917, and was finally established in Zemun (near Belgrade) in 1920. This school formed the basis for all other institutions for education of the blind and partially sighted.

The system of the education of the blind is fully integrated into the regular system of education in Yugoslavia, which at present is to be thoroughly reformed and integrated into the European system. The primary school lasts eight years, secondary school comprises three or four years and is usually vocational. The university education has two forms: either two or four years of education.

In Yugoslavia there are three institutes for education of the blind and partially sighted.

The school for visually impaired pupils "Veljko Ramadanovic" in Zemun has the longest tradition. It was named after Veljko Ramadanovic who organised the education of the blind in Bizerta in 1917. He also founded other institutes for education of the disabled between two World Wars in Yugoslavia and organised the Panslav association of special teachers.
Today, the school in Zemun is a modern organisation. It has several sections: preschool, primary school and a vocational school with sections for telephonist training (three years) and office worker (four years). Furthermore there is a department for the multi-disabled visually impaired, including a vocational training for packer.

The school in Zemun also has a residential centre. There are approximately 200 pupils in the boarding section. Apart from meals and accommodation, the boarding facilities also provide educational services. The students of the four-year vocational medical physiotherapist school "Belgrade" are also accommodated in the boarding section.

The School for the partially sighted in Belgrade is called Sight Saving school "Dragan Kovacevic" and was founded in 1971. It has been a department of the mainstream school for some twenty years. It has a preschool and primary school section. There is an ortoptic lab. They also offer visual training. There are approximately 150 pupils. Visually impaired physiotherapists are trained in the special classes of the mainstream medical school "Belgrade" (four years). They have about 80 students.

The school for the visually impaired in Pec exists to meet the special needs of the visually impaired pupils in Kosovo. Nowadays, mostly Albanian children go to this school. They have preschool, primary school and a vocational school for telephonists and physiotherapists.

In the city of Novi Sad there is a special department for multi-disabled visually impaired within the school for the mentally retarded. It started six years ago.

In Podgoria, the capital of the republic of Montenegro, the visually impaired are educated within the school for the disabled children. There are two levels of education: primary and vocational. The blind of Montenegro are trained in office work.

Integrated education has existed in Yugoslavia for a long time. After primary school, visually impaired pupils could go to music school or secondary school which are mainstream schools. There are also many examples of blind children all over the country attending mainstream primary schools. They use the textbooks and typhlo-teaching aids from the school in Zemun. The school in Zemun also provides all the necessary support to these pupils. The state provisions guarantee certain teaching aids such as braillers, cassette recorders, canes and watches.

The first teachers of the blind in today's Yugoslavia were trained in Prague. They were sent there by Veljko Ramadanovic, the father of Belgrade Defectology school. Today, they are trained at the faculty of Defectology, the only university institution for training of teachers of the disabled. The teacher of the visually impaired, the typhlologist, can either work as a school teacher or educator in boarding sections. They can also work in orthoptic labs. They study pedagogical, philosophical, medical and social aspects of the visual impairment. The study course lasts nine semesters (4,5 years). There are postgraduate courses and courses for specialists.

The faculty of defectology originated from the Higher pedagogical school (947- 967), the Higher school for special teachers (1963-1967) and the Higher defectological school (1967-1975). The faculty was opened in April 1974. It is divided into several units according to handicaps. A new name and concept of the faculty are expected with the change of legislation in 2003.

Dr Branca Eskirovic,
Faculty of Defectology, University of Belgrade,
e-mail: handicap@Eunet.yu
Tihomir Nicolic and Zoran Igic,
School for Visually Impaired Children, Zemun,
e-mail: zzigic@ptt.yu


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in blind war invalids and its implication on some aspects of rehabilitation
Summary of doctoral thesis by Tina Runjic

People that have visual impairment after a war trauma have a greater risk of psychological and social difficulties in every-day functioning. Difficulties that are experienced by blind war invalids can be caused as a result of inadequate adaptation to the visual impairment but also as a result of posttraumatic stress disorder. Research has shown that reaction to visual impairment (acceptance/denial) can affect the attitude towards rehabilitation and efficiency in the rehabilitation programmes. It has been found that there is a correlation between results in rehabilitation programmes and adaptation to visual impairment. It was assumed that similar results would be found when correlating influence of PTSD in blind war invalids from Croatia and results of efficiency in rehabilitation programmes.

The main goal of this research was to find whether there is a correlation between PTSD and efficiency in ADL. To reach this goal we had to determine whether the representatives of blind war invalids had PTSD (were influenced by stressful events during the time spent in the war) and determine efficiency in the area of ADL.

Results have shown that 11 war invalids have PTSD (N=28). One symptom that war invalids with PTSD share is that they are easily aroused. The results have shown that the most frequent problems are sleeping problems, headaches, anxiety, feeling of hostility, problems with concentration, memory and depression. Results have shown that there are several most stressful events that cause PTSD: witnessing the death of fellow/enemy soldiers, mutilation, being dislocated from the troops, entering a mine field. Those who had been under influence of numerous stressful events have more symptoms of this disorder.

From the results of this research we have concluded that there is a correlation between PTSD and efficiency in ADL. Invalids who are without PTSD and have been involved in rehabilitation programmes have shown better results in ADL than invalids with PTSD. Invalids without PTSD that had completed the rehabilitation programme were more efficient in more complicated skills (O&M, ADL) and all skills which require cognitive functioning, concentration and personal stability. In general, results in this research have shown that more intensive rehabilitation work with invalids affected by PTSD can have a positive effect on symptoms of PTSD and every-day functioning.

Tina Runjic
University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia


Employability Enhancement of Visually Impaired people

Bratislava, the capital of the Slovak Republic received more than130 participants from 20 European countries from 24 - 28 November 2002 at the Conference "Employability Enhancement of Visually Impaired People". Apart from the participants there were also members of the EBU Commission on Rehabilitation, Vocational Training and Employment. The regular meeting of the Commission was held just after the Conference. This fact confirmed the importance of the main topic of the Conference.

No one would doubt that employment is a highly important factor in human life. Professionals who deal with employment questions of handicapped people know that qualification is not enough to secure a job at the regular labour market. New types of services and new methods are developed to facilitate the integration of visually impaired people on the labour market. Different countries choose different approaches to employment of handicapped which is determined to a high degree by social and legislative conditions.

The Conference was organized as a final activity of the two-year Phare Lien project which focused on training of professionals and implementation of methods stimulating employment of the visually impaired in Slovakia. Slovakia's partner in this project "Promotion of Blind People Employment" was Sensis in the Netherlands.

What topics were presented at the Conference?

The Conference offered solutions to various problems, different approaches and methods. The Conference proved to be an excellent contact platform.

The Conference Proceedings will be issued and delivered to participants in March. The digital version of the manual can be found on:

Eva Tatarkova
Slovak Blind and Partially Sighted Union, Bratislava, Slovak Republic


The conservatory in Prague

It was at the beginning of the 20th century that a well-known oculist, Dr.Jan Deyl, came with the idea of founding an asylum for the blind, later on named after him - the Deyl Asylum.
In the spirit of that time, the Asylum was a charity institution but from the beginning, efforts were made to achieve independence: give education and working skills to the handicapped people and in this way, give them a chance to work. Beside the trades, traditionally connected with the blind at that time as well as nowadays, it was above all music that was taught and performed in Deyl Asylum. It is proved not only by the existence of musical ensembles and choirs, but also by the documents confirming that talented people were given a musical education so that they could get jobs as musicians.

In the second half of the 20th century, the idea of music as a professional field, where the visually impaired can find their place, led to the founding of a school specialised in musical education of the visually impaired. At present, it is a conservatory with a seven-year education in music and singing, and a four or five-year course of a school for piano tuners. The students can enter both of those schools after having finished the nine-year obligatory "basic" school.

The specificity of the school lies in its methodology - the school has more than 50 years of experience with teaching the visually impaired, it has a large archive of Braille textbooks and sheet music. Another characteristic of the study programmes is the fact that the graduates must reach a full qualification for the future profession. One example of a really specific programme is the study of two main subjects at the conservatory where the student reaches the full skill of playing two instruments or one instrument and singing. Another example is the considerable emphasis on the pedagogical and methodology studies which helps the conservatory graduates to become good music teachers. The value of those programmes was proved in the course of time.

There are people of all ages among the graduates now, young people as well as the old and retired. The school management is interested in the lives and careers of the graduates, because it is important to know how successful they are at work and what problems they have.

Sociological research, ordered by the school management and made by the South Czech Sociological Agency at the beginning of 1990´s, thoroughly mapped the situation of the graduates of the conservatory and the tuning school during the last 40 years. It turned out that 92% of the graduates work in the line they studied, mostly as music teachers (sometimes combining it with actively performing music) and piano tuners. About 5% of the graduates quit their musical career and work in other lines - those are mostly the graduates with less serious visual impairments. Only 3% of the graduates live on the state social security benefit. The results of the research concerning the quality of life and the extent of the integration into society were also encouraging. It showed that for the graduates those parts of life are closely connected with the musical education they got, and with the job they do.

The long experience of the Jan Deyl´s Conservatory and Tuner´s School proves that music is a remarkably suitable line of education for visually impaired people. In addition to knowledge and pleasure, it also offers them a professional career.

I would like to end this review with a quotation from the report of the above-mentioned sociological research: "Musical education opens the close world of the visually impaired people with the key of a professional qualification and integrates them into the society."

Milada Rybarova
Deputy Director, Prague, Czech Republic


New assessment and training centre for visually impaired children in Mozyr, Belarus

At present, a reform in Special Education is carried through. Specialists try to work out special support measures for children with specific educational needs, including blind and partially sighted children. On the basis of careful study of experiences at home and abroad, Belarussian specialists try to integrate professional skills of ophthalmologists, psychologists, teachers and parents while educating visually impaired children.

The centre for blind and visually impaired children of preschool school age and primary school age (from 2 till 9 years of age) was opened in Mozyr in 1996. The principal aim of the Centre is to ensure optimum personal development of visually impaired children, among others their independence skills. The realization of these aims requires co-operation between various disciplines such as psychology and pedagogics.

The programme of the Centre is organized in such a way that the special support such as medical treatment, physiotherapy, sports and creative work are integrated into the general educational programme. This is possible because of close co-operation between three units of the Centre: supporting, educational and methodical.

The supporting unit comprises medical and special psycho-pedagogical support sections. The primary aim of this unit is to enable a child to meet the requirements of the general education scheme and to teach it various activities (labour, playing etc.).
Moreover, preventive inspection of eye diseases, improvement of acuity of vision, decreasing and elimination of strabismus in a traditional way are conducted in this unit. In addition, specialists train and develop children's primary eyesight functions and the necessary cognitive and practical compensatory abilities.
This activity is carried out by the following specialists: an ophthalmologist; a masseur; a physiotherapist; a psychologist; a speech therapist and specialists in typhlopedagogy.

The educational unit is composed of a physical education and sports section, an educational section and a creative activity section. Children can also take part in a musical orchestra, theatre, a vocal group etc. Specialists such as teachers, an artistic leader, a children's theatre leader and a sports trainer are at the children's disposal in this unit.

The main aim of the methodical unit is to work out methodical recommendations for the educational process in the Centre, i.e. diagnostic programmes, educational manuals, individual development programmes, technical aids etc. The activity of this unit is maintained by a specially trained methodologist, staff of the centre and scientific workers of Minsk Pedagogical University.

The co-operation between all units and sections is based on the integration of skills of many specialists. Every specialist does his/her utmost to take previously achieved results and experiences into account and to work out new solutions and recommendations on this basis.

Each unit has its own material and technical basis. There is a consulting room for the ophthalmologist, a massage room, separate rooms for the physiotherapist and psychologist, a speech therapist room, supporting exercises room, a room for exercises in orientation and mobility and social skills laboratories. The other facilities are a mini-stadium, a swimming-pool, classrooms, a music hall, a creative activity laboratory and a methodical room.

The Centre also has a consulting service for families of the children who attend the Centre. Moreover, they are occupied with PR activities, organisation and implementation of informative campaigns in the town.

Centre specialists also help blind and partially sighted children and their families from birth to the age of two. The stay in the Centre can last from one up to seven years. After having received appropriate training in the Centre, children continue their education in mainstream schools.

Staff of the Centre will be happy to co-operate with all those who are interested in the development of visually impaired children.

Our address:
37 Kotlovtsa street, Mozyr, Belarus, 247760
telephone: +375 (02351) 52429

N. Novikova, S. Gaidukevich


The Blind Union of Moldova celebrates its 55th anniversary

Everything that's wonderful on the earth is from the sun
Everything that's good is from a human being

On 7 July 2001, the Blind Union of Moldova celebrated its 55th anniversary. Because of this important day, an official meeting was held in the National Theatre of Chisinau in which 750 blind people participated and which was visited by important guests from Russia, USA and the Netherlands. The Blind Union of Moldova is a non-governmental Union of citizens, whose objective is to strive for realisation of legal rights and interests of blind people.

The Blind Union consists of about 40 local departments, five of which are in industrial areas, and 35 are located in rural areas. The Union is independent of administrative, government bodies and political parties but it can work together with them in the resolution of different problems having to do with the interests of the members. The Blind Union has more than 9,500 members.
The main goals of the Union are:

Five sheltered workshops are active in the Blind Union where 830 blind persons work. The average salary is 220 lei (17$). The main products made by blind people are: lamps, sockets, covers, pasteboard goods, matches and clothes-pegs, decorative nails for building.

The situation of blind people in the entire republic is hard, both psychologically and financially. They are not able to secure a normal and decent life for themselves because of lack of money. They do not have the possibility to secure the necessities of life: food, clothes and shoes. They cannot maintain themselves nor their children.
The disability pension amounts to $7-8, while the living costs per person have raised to 110 dollars per month. This situation leads to a completely reversed ideal: isolation from society instead of integration in society, depression, hunger, and even death.

In spite of these problems, in 2001, 142 blind families received apartments in Chisinau (72) and in Soroca (70). These buildings were built during a period of 10 years (since 1991) and this work was finished thanks to the government of the Republic of Moldova and thanks to financial support of different organisations.

There are three special schools for blind children with 450 students and two special kindergartens for cross-eyed children and children with other disabilities (about 200 children). At present, 150 blind students study at universities. Thanks to sponsors, some students have tape-recorders.

Much attention is given to prevention of eye-diseases in children and blindness in adults. Up to 1990, the Blind Union financed several measures: specialised watches for blind people, canes, braille machines and papers were purchased, not to mention the organisation of sport-related activities or even a continuous therapy. At present, all these programmes have stopped. Only surgical operations on persons with eye diseases who are in a critical situation are financed with money given by sponsors. Because of lack of medical treatment, about 300-350 persons become disabled. This year the society gained 660 new members.

After 10 years of recession, this year the Republican Festival was held including cultural activities (song, poetry, dance, instrumental music). About 210 blind persons, children and adults, took part in this festival. All the winners from the festival received important gifts and a small sum of money.

Cultural-athletic activities are far from being possible, even though an astonishing level has been achieved in events such as checkers, track-and-field, especially chess. Neither the government nor the Union of Blind People of the Republic of Moldova can afford to pay for participants in international competitions. It became so problematic that the Union could barely pay for membership of the European and the World Union of Blind.

The situation in the Republic of Moldova is problematic but our life goes on, and we are constantly moving.

Larisa Celan,
Staff member of the Union of Blind people in Moldova



10th International Competition of Blind Musicians 2003

The Czech Union of the Blind and Jan Deyl Conservatory announces:
The Competition will take place in February or March 2003 in Prague.

The competition is open to any blind and partially sighted musician who, on the opening of the contest, will be between 16 and 35 years old and will comply with the conditions of the contest, available at the Competitions Secretariat.

The competition is open to the following disciplines/instruments:
flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, French horn, trombone, violin, viola, violoncello, double-bass, piano, accordion, guitar and singing.

All queries, correspondence etc. related to any aspect of the competition should be directed to:
SONS, Czech Blind United, Competitions
address: Karlinske nam. 12, 186 03 Praha 8, Czech Republic.
tel: +420 2 2481 7393; fax: +420 2 2481 8398;


on research in Education and Rehabilitation Sciences
The conference covers all aspects of Special Education

23-25 October 2002, Zagreb, Croatia

For more information:
Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Zagreb
tel: + 385 1 2338 022, fax: + 385 1 2329 950

European wide investigation into the use of ICT in SNE

Source: Press Information from European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education

Information and communication technology (ICT) is set to transform schools and the educational experience of pupils across the globe.
The use of ICT is currently very high on the political agendas of nearly all European countries as well as the European Union itself. However, so far, information about the use of ICT in the field of special needs education (SNE) has been limited to sources at National level - very little information has been available at European level.

In order to address this, the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education has undertaken a major European wide investigation into the use of ICT in SNE in 17 Agency member countries. This lead to the creation of a dedicated web-based database with easily accessible information on policies, key issues, examples of interesting and innovative practice, key information sources plus future challenges in the field.

An overview report of the findings is now available. It deals with the current state of the art of ICT in SNE across Europe, highlighting current concerns and issues, key information sources and how specialists look upon the role of ICT in SNE.

The report (in 13 languages) and databases are available on the European Agency's website:
For further information:
European Agency's Secretariat: Teglgaardsparken 100, DK-5500 Middelfart, Denmark
tel: + 45 64 41 00 20

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