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National Page of Cyprus
Name: Mrs. Maria Kyriacou
Organization: St. Barnabas School for the Blind
Position: Vice President
Organization: Pancyprian Organization of the Blind
Phone: 00 357 99 571323
The 'Saint Barnabas' School for the Blind
Address: P.O.Box 23511, 1684 Nicosia, Cyprus
Phone: +357 22 403300
Fax: +357 22 403340
Website: The 'Saint Barnabas' School for the Blind website
The St Barnabas School for the Blind, located in Nicosia, is the only educational institution for individuals with vision impairment in Cyprus. The School was established in 1929 and since then its structure underwent major changes. From a full time boarding School, the School is now a resource center offering a variety of support and services to individuals with a Visual Impairment of all ages all over Cyprus.
The establishment of the School in 1929 marked the beginning of the provision of special education in Cyprus in general and more specifically, the education of people with visual impairment (VI). Until 1957, the School operated within the framework of philanthropy. Upon the independence of Cyprus in 1960, a new era of development and upgrading of the role of the School began, which took the form of a truly equivalent public school.
The School is a multi-dynamic center providing a wide range of services that include:
- A telephony department (the only one provided for by the State),
- Training in the use of electronic means,
- Tape-recordings and Transcriptions of teaching and other material into Braille,
- An early intervention program for children with VI and their families,
- A unit for students with VI and additional disabilities,
- Support services for children with visual impairment attending mainstream educational settings,
- Training programs for adults as well as special individual programs.
Among its services, the School offers support to approximately 130 integrated students in primary, secondary and tertiary education. A designated peripatetic teacher of the VI who is based at the St. Barnabas School for the blind, offers consultative advice to students and their families as well as the teaching staff at the educational unit the student attends.
Part of this support is the information provided to the teaching staff and other personnel of the school unit with information about the child's VI and its implications, cooperating with all those involved in the education of the student as well as other specialists, giving practical solutions to the classroom teachers to help them better facilitate the child with a VI in their classroom such as the sitting position in the classroom and the lighting of the room. The peripatetic teacher also gives suggestions for alterations in the teaching methods as well as the curriculum, where that is possible, so as to meet the student’s needs and makes suggestions for an environmental audit to the school’s general environment so to guarantee an easy and safe access to all areas of the school.
The support teacher also ensures that every child is introduced to the necessary electronic and other technical means that they will need for their education, giving them the chance to compete with their sighted peers on equal terms while at the same time assists in the procedure of acquiring these means from governmental schemes.
During afternoon classes offered at the St Barnabas School for the Blind, a student has the opportunity to receive training in the use of such electronic means.
Finally, the school provides a transcribing service for preparing the teaching and other materials for the educational needs of children with VI such as Braille production, enlargements and embossed diagrams.
The Pancyprian Organization of the Blind
Address: P.O.Box 23511, 1684 Nicosia, Cyprus
The mission of the Pancyprian Organization of the Blind (POT) is to promote and protect the rights of persons with visual impairments in Cyprus and to ensure their full participation in society.
POT is a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization that was established in 1980 by 30 blind and partially sighted people, citizens of Cyprus. Before then, sighted people, members of the Pancyprian Association for the Welfare of the Blind, represented blind people in Cyprus and abroad. The Organization’s main office is located in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus and has three other local offices in the main towns of the country.
The Organization accepts as members any person over the age of eighteen whose visual acuity is below 1/10 in the best eye even with the use of any corrective lenses or spectacles. The Organization has today 1283 members out of the estimated 2850 persons with a visual impairment that live in Cyprus. The small population of individuals with vision impairment along with the small geographical area of the island allows for support and services to be provided on a very personal basis, giving an insight into individual needs.
Among the main goals of the Organization are:
- The promotion of the social welfare of the visually impaired,
- The prevention of blindness and the promotion of the medical treatment,
- The promotion of the education and vocational training as well as the rehabilitation and integration of the visually impaired,
- The acquisition of required and appropriate technical aids and appliances for the work and the daily life,
- The creation of conditions and situations for equivalent living standards and the integration of visually impaired persons into the community in general,
- The dissemination of information with regard to the problems and the welfare of the visually impaired, and
- The development and the promotion of sports among and between the visually impaired.
In order to achieve its goals, POT maintains and runs:
- social services,
- rehabilitation services,
- Braille and talking book libraries,
- transcription and recording services,
- information services,
- vocational training services for its basket and chair weaving workshops,
- legal advice and consultation services,
- services for national and international relations,
- sports programs,
- and recreational activities, leisure and entertainment.
POT is an active member of the Cyprus co-federation of Persons with Disabilities, the European Blind Union, the World Blind Union, the European Disability Forum, the International Blind Sports Association and the DeafBlind International.
POT participates in a number of projects, programs, research and studies that aim to map the existing situation of persons with visual impairments in Cyprus and that address issues such as employment, existing programs and services, violence or the implementation of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
POT is also actively involved on a number of national and European lobbying activities and campaigns. The most recent examples of these include:
- The adoption of EU legislation on the accessibility of public websites and websites providing services to the public,
- The adoption of a binding European Accessibility Act ensuring the accessibility of goods and services with regard to the needs and expectations of blind and partially sighted people,
- The implementation of a binding WIPO treaty on the free trans-border circulation of books in accessible formats,
- The adoption of a European Mobility Card and road safety and transportation such as the silent cars campaign.
Over the past five years, our Organization was involved in the implementation of three European Funded projects. These included:
In 2008 - 2010 Pedagogy and Language Learning for Blind and Partially Sighted Adults in Europe, a Grundtvig learning partnership that enabled the partners to work together on the central issue of the social and professional integration of VI adults through the improvement of their accessibility to language education. In particular, partners focused their work on how to reinforce the competences of language teachers in mainstream settings.
During the project, the partners tackled several issues through transnational meetings and local working groups: the situation of VI adults in their countries, the curricula of language teachers, the existing teaching approaches and tools for language learning and the extent to which these are adapted to the specific needs of VI adults wishing to learn or update their foreign language skills.
The final result of the project was a "GOOD PRACTICE FOR IMPROVING LANGUAGE LEARNING FOR VISUALLY IMPAIRED ADULTS" report available in Czech, English, French, Greek and Slovak.
2010 - 2012 Vision in Enterprise - VIE a lifelong learning Leonardo Di Vinci Transfer of Innovation that sought to address the barriers faced by visually impaired people trying to enter self-employment.
VIE aimed to Increase the independence of the visually impaired through improved access to self-employment while at the same time improve the support techniques available to them.
The tangible result of VIE was the development of a generic toolkit of bespoke learning materials, competencies and delivery methods that can be used by both VI oriented organizations and by any mainstream organization supporting VI people in business. The VIE generic toolkit enables users to design or develop a business advice service for vision impaired individuals by adapting the toolkit to their local/national needs and economic conditions and provides VET professionals with the tools to support vision impaired individuals to start or develop a business.
The generic toolkit consists of a set of diagnostic tools, guidelines for advisors, usable assessment forms, support documents and practical sheets which can used free of charge by all interested parties.
Finally, in 2011 - 2013 The RoboBraille Service in Education, a Leonardo Di Vinci Partnership that explored, compare and developed the use of the Robobraille service as an educational tool for teachers working with learners with reading or visual impairments in primary schools, vocational education and training as well as higher education. The RoboBraille service has long been acknowledged as a high quality solution for accessing text material for the visually impaired, dyslexic and others with special needs.
The final outcome of the partnership was the development of a good practice catalogue available in English both in electronic and hard copy formats. Abbreviated versions of the catalogue are also available in Italian, Hungarian, Danish and Greek. The catalogue introduces the RoboBraille service and how the service can be used both as an assistive technology and as a learning technology. The catalogue contains examples and testimonials on how the service was used over the testing phase of the project in the participating countries.
Recently, the Cyprus National Agency for Lifelong Learning, after reviewing the final report of this project declared the project as a good practice. The project and its description were included in the 2013 publication.