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Beyond the Net 4 March 2016

How visually impaired in Armenia are breaking barriers and realizing a dream.

Beyond the Net Journal: Armenia Chapter #1 Episode

In this episode you will learn the story of people who lost their physical vision but never lost their vision of life.

What is a typical day at the Culture House of the Blinds and Visually Impaired in Yerevan? It is hard to figure out what being visually impaired really means. The people working here seem to have a special formula, they draw fully from an inner source forcing them to live out of the ordinary. They offer their talents to the community helping people to overcome disability barriers. Some of them are inspirational ones like Albert Musheghyan and Yura Avetisyan. They have been friends for over 40 years, both lost their vision when they were very young, but the vibrancy of their lives seemed to brighten up as the world became darker. The two friends sadly recall the hard times during the decline of the Soviet Union, when the support system they long had counted on was no longer in place. The Culture House of the Blinds fell into decay, the theatre drew the curtain on cultural activity, and only empty rooms with faint echoes of a past remained.

When Armenia declared independence on September 1991, the Internet access was finally available. Relief brought a smile on their lips as they welcomed the new opportunity to help people feeling part of the world again. The Internet urged the Yerevan’s community members to be even braver so that in 2012, with the help of Igor Mkrtumyan and Armen Nazaryan (ISOC AM president and vice-president), they submitted an application to former “Internet Society Community Grants Programme” to create an Internet Availability Center at the Culture House Of the Blinds.

The implementation of this project brought several benefits:

  • The installation of a fully equipped Internet center for the blind
  • People started attending the Culture House again
  • Open access to information is provided
  • Opportunity is given to communicate with other Armenians around the world
  • Social isolation and loneliness are prevented
  • Specially designed teaching methods to easy learning are offered
  • The seed of a new dream has been planted …

Thanks to the Internet availability today young people can gather at the center after school and learn to use the computer through a voice recorder. Trainers offer support with specially designed computer literacy courses. Even Albert Musheghyan, the 85 years old doctor in Philology, uses the Internet with a Braille keyboard for his researches while correcting inaccuracies in Armenian history.

Within the framework of the grant, ISOC AM also developed a rehabilitation proposal for The Culture House of the Blinds that was presented to First Lady of Armenia, Mrs Rita Sargsyan. Shortly after that, the President of the Armenian Diaspora in Russia, Mr Ara Abrahamyan, made a donation and started the renovation works. The center was brought back to life with a wide range of activities and the dusty stage curtain of The Culture House theatre could finally rise again.

The creation of the Internet Availability Center also triggered new creative ideasamong active members and trainers of the center. They reached the conclusion that a virtual radio station could make a significant change in the lives of visually impaired people.  At the end of 2015 a new application to the new Internet Society grants “Beyond the NetFunding programme” was submitted to create an Internet Radio with the purpose of expanding the audience to the Armenians all over the world. The project started on January 2016.

The estimated number of blind and visually impaired people in Armenia is 25.000 and in Diasporas 50.000. 
Connecting with your own tribe is such a powerful and clear call to action” Seth Godin, the American author, said about the Internet Revolution.  This is so far the most emotional part of the project: reaching out other human beings and connect them to new ideas about their lives and what they can do.

This is the dream this project is trying to make true.

We asked the incredible team from Yerevan to share it with us. Soon we will be interviewing the young leaders of the Internet Radio project. So stay tuned and don’t miss the next episode!

Watch How It All Started

House Of The Blinds from Internet Society on Vimeo.

Share this story

If you like this story please share it with your friends. That would tremendously help in spreading the word and raising the visibility of this project. Help more people understand how the Internet can change lives.

Do you have a great idea? We are interested in your project.

We are looking for new ideas from people all over the world on how to make your community better using the Internet. Internet Society “Beyond the Net Funding Programme” funds projects up to $ 30 000 USD. The next application deadline is coming up on 17 March 2016. We need you to apply!

Find out more

Beyond the Net Funding Programme
Register for the Information Sessions

Watch the movie “My Voice Counts!”

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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