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Addis Hiwot Center of the Blind Mike Walsh Flight4Sight Interview 2/26/14 Speaker 1: I'm asking how did

you manage to get here from your office here? I think you are coming from the embassy? Mike: Kind of, yes. My friend works for the embassy. I'm staying with him. Speaker 1: I see. Mike: His driver brought me here. Speaker 1: The driver brought you here? Mike: Yes, I feel very special here. I have a driver, I go wherever I want. It's a very unique experience to have a driver for me. In America ... Speaker 1: Are we expecting other visitors? Mike: No, just me. Speaker 1: Just you, okay. Mike: Silly me. I'm on this mission around the world. I'm losing my sight and so, social media is deciding where I go. Speaker 1: Are you saying that you have lost some of your sight? Mike: I have. I have RP, retinitis pigmentosa. Are you familiar with that, retinitis pigmentosa? Speaker 1: What's pigmentosa? Mike: Pigmentosa. Speaker 1: Retinitis pigmentosa. Yes, so the degeneration of the retina. Mike: I see. Speaker 1: It's a progressive thing. Mike: Is it because of diabetes or is it because of ... Speaker 1: No, it's not. It's genetic, I was born with it. Mike: I see, okay. So my parents carry a gene and so combine those then you get me, beautiful me. Speaker 1: (Laughs). Mike: Can you see me? How much can you see? I'm sorry you can't see my face. Speaker 1: No, I cannot see you but I can feel that you are handsome (laughs). Mike: That's good. Yes. Your English is great. Where are you from? Speaker 1: I am from Ethiopia. Of course, my background, by training I am an English teacher for the students. Not for native students, of course, not for you (laughs). I was English teacher for ... Mike: So, your English is better than mine. Speaker 1: No. Mike: Foreign people that learn English, it becomes better. Speaker 1: How come?

Mike: I grew up with English and I learned all the bad habits but if you learn it and study it you learn it the right way. When you grow up with one language you just learn all the crap about it and you speak it better. Speaker 1: Thank you very much, I didn't know (laughs). Mike: I'm not convinced yet but in an hour I'll throw some fun words in there for you. Speaker 1: Yes. Mike: Anyway, what I'm doing is going around and my friend is setting me up with people like you or organizations and just learn different things that have been going on. A couple of days ago I was with the National Federation of the Deaf Blind. Speaker 1: Okay, Roman. Mike: Roman, yes. Speaker 1: She's deaf blind. Mike: Yes she is. Speaker 1: I know her. Mike: She's very passionate. I felt serious passion coming out of her. Speaker 1: Yes. Mike: Obviously she didn't speak a lick of English but there's translators. So, that was a tough experience but I had it recorded and whoever has to transcribe that is going to be having a fun time. So, that was interesting to see and they're on a different economic level. They have this room and four kids but they talk about the program and how they brought kids in every day and took them out. So, I'm just learning what's going on. I've done a little research here and there but it's interesting that, if I understand correctly, cataracts was a big deal in Africa or Ethiopia because people don't wear shades, because they allow the sunlight to really get to them. Is that ... Speaker 1: It's a big problem in our country, cataract. Cataract is one of the eye diseases. Mike: And that's developed. Speaker 1: Yes, it's one of the major causes of blindness. Mike: Yes, people allow it to happen in the sun, right? Speaker 1: Yes. Mike: It's a culture thing not to wear shades like you have on right now? Speaker 1: Yes. Mike: The shades are something that helps you, right? Speaker 1: Yes. Mike: They're not just style. Speaker 1: People don't have those devices. Mike: Yes. So, they don't have access to shades and things? Speaker 1: Yes, they don't have. Mike: That's interesting.

Speaker 1: Another problem is trachoma. In fact, trachoma is the top on the list of causes of blindness in our country. The Federal Ministry of Health conducted a study on the prevalence of blindness in Ethiopia with international partners such as Life for the World, Christian [inaudible 05.08] Mission and Orbis International, the Carter Center. With these international partners the Ministry of Health conducted a study on the prevalence of blindness and the report found that in Ethiopia there are up to four million partially or totally blind people. So four million people represents about 4% of the total population of the country. Abraham: Hello Speaker 1: Hello. Mike: Hi. Abraham: [Speaking foreign language]. Speaker 1: [Speaking foreign language]. Mike: USA is here. I'm Mike Abraham: Abraham. Mike: What is it? Abraham: Abraham. Mike: Abraham. Patrick: I am Patrick. Mike: Patrick? I can remember that. Abraham Zizaza ... I don't know. Zizi. Speaker 1: Zaza. Daniel: How you doing? Mike: Alright buddy. Daniel: You holding up? All: {Crosstalk]. Mike: I was so happy to give him that too. Daniel: He seemed like he was good. He's highly recommended. I was like give me the pamphlets I've got to give them to you. You could really use some of these pamphlets man. All: [Crosstalk]. Mike: I'm recording it. Speaker 1: Okay. Like a chairperson. All: (Laughs). Speaker 1: But I am not a chairperson. Thank you for the appointment. All: (Laughs). Female: Addis Hiwot Center of the Blind, he's a founder, by the way and he's ... Speaker 1: One of the founders. Female: One of the founders and he's the vice chair of Addis Hiwot Center of the Blind. He's describe about Addis Hiwot Center is [inaudible 07.51]. Speaker 1: I think Patrick can explain.

Female: Yes. Speaker 1: Patrick can give an explanation on the center. Female: Yes. Patrick: I could do a little bit. I could talk about our grant here. Speaker 1: Can you start? Patrick: Well, I know that this organization was originally founded by and for war veterans that lost their sight as adult and therefore had an entirely different set of needs in terms of their training and background but over time, because of their location here they had shifted more and more to helping students at the university because we're very close to the university. So, they do a lot of tutoring and that kind of support. Our relationship with this organization, or the US embassy's relationship started several years ago before I came. They applied and received some funding under PEPFAR for dealing with the disabilities community and HIV / Aids prevention and they did an excellent job with that grant. So, when we saw another proposal for a braille embosser, we decided to take a look to see what we could do under that. The second award was actually from a very small agency of the US government that no-one's ever heard of called the United States African Development Foundation and this was originally started under the Reagan administration as a way of cutting through all of the red tape of development. Speaker 1: USA ... Patrick: Well, essentially I assume it's the history. (Laughs). I don't know how successful they were in that mission but their idea was and is to get funding directly to indigenous organizations and cut out the middle man and really focus on private enterprise oriented solutions to development. They probably have more red tape now (laughs). Everyone has to sign a drug free workplace, just say no, and a variety of other programs but what we tried to do was help this organization develop the printing of text books and things that they were doing otherwise as a business. At least something that would provide some limited employment and it was really a service that they wanted to do but we tried to focus on the cost recovery sides of it through their USADF grant and we have another, very small, award. I think it's $2,000? Speaker 1: $3,000. Patrick: $3,000 because one of the things that we noticed in the process was the decision makers, who was making the decisions and ordering the braille text books, these were usually sighted people and when we were delivering a braille book suddenly they can't read it, there's no labeling. They really weren't able to make the decision of whether this was a good value, a good deal or not. So, we decided to come back with a little bit of money to help them on their marketing and to produce some books in print and in braille that we could show off the quality of the product and help build our market. So, that's my involvement (laughs). Speaker 1: Thank you. So, you sounded like one of [inaudible 0.12.34].

All: (Laughs). Speaker 1: So, really, beautifully and succinctly explained and it's difficult to speak after Patrick, I think. Maybe one or two points that I may add is that the mission of the center is to rehabilitate persons who lost their eyesight as adults. In our country, the vast majority of blindness cases occur early in childhood because of various eye diseases related to poor sanitary conditions, poor hygienic environmental conditions. Most visual impairments occur early in childhood. I, myself, lost my eyesight when I was only seven years old, as I said, because of poor sanitary conditions. Until recently going blind as an adult, going blind as a grown-up was unusual but in recent times it has become more and more frequent. You may know, I'm sure you do know, that our country has suffered recurrent droughts from which severe famines resulted. I'm sure you also do know that our country has gone through a long history of civil war, civil conflicts from which land mines, probably in the millions of land mines resulted which caused visual impairment. So, there are thousands, probably, hundreds of thousands of people who lost their eyesight, who went blind either as combatants or as victims of land mines. When you came in I was telling - Sorry, I forgot your name. Mike: Mr Handsome, yes. Speaker 1: Yes. I was telling him when you came in that the Federal Ministry of Health conducted a study on the prevalence of blindness in Ethiopia in collaboration with a group of international partners such as Orbis International, the Carter Center, Life for the World, Christian [inaudible 0.15.46] Mission, the Lions Club and that study found that four million people in Ethiopia, this is when the study report was released back in 2005 or 2006. So, at that time, the number of partially or totally blind people in Ethiopia was four million and this represents about 4% of the total population of the country. Of course, vast proportions of these blind people live in remote, rural areas where access to infrastructure, social services, education is very difficult. So, Addis Hiwot Center of the Blind, as Patrick said at the beginning, was founded by war veterans who lost their eyesight as combatants and also by my colleague [inaudible 0.16.58] who lost most of her eyesight. Luckily she has not lost her sight completely but has lost most of it but she lost it not as a combatant. She lost it because of other factors. For much of her adulthood she was working in the office as a secretary but she lost her eyesight for a reason that I, myself, are not very sure of. Can you tell us why you lost your eyesight? Female: Nerves. Speaker 1: Okay, she says nerve problem. So, there are many people, an increasing number of people who lose their eyesight as gown-ups and there are very few service providers who take these people into account and this lack of service, this neglect, this lack of attention caused these few blind grown-ups to come together, discuss their

common problems and try and find a way out and that was bringing the center into being. I joined them just to provide expertise, not because I am one of their ranks myself. I am blind, of course, but, as I said, I didn't lose my eyesight as a gown-up. I lost it only as a small boy of seven. So, I joined them because I believed in their cause and wanted to contribute something else. This center has been operating for the last 10, 11 or 12 years. During this time it has helped scores and scores of late blind people. When people lose their eyesight as grown-ups they become confused. The psychological trauma is very severe. Families can collapse. They lose their livelihoods. They quit education and in very many cases in our county's context they become family dependents or even families can reject them. They can be thrown out to the streets to survive by begging. So, it has helped scores of late blind people to be rehabilitated, to get braille training, to get orientation and mobility training and to start life once again from scratch, continue school or continue work, maybe by changing profession. So, in order to help this process, embossing braille books is very crucial in two ways: one, provide braille text books to these blind people so that they can do their school work, they can do their studies in the high school or in college. So provide text books, not in the needed quantities but at least make available the text books to a certain number of those who are in need. The second way in which this embossing is very crucial is to the center, to keep the center operational, to keep it sustainable, to make income by selling those text books to blind readers at fair prices. So, when they make these text books available at some price, the income that the center manages to earn enables it to keep the center functional, to make service provision continue, at least, until donations are obtained, to expand the service to others who have not yet been able to obtain the service. So, may I take this opportunity to thank Patrick for facilitating the purchase of the embossers which the center is using to do the braille embossing and also, as he told us, to obtain the needed fund in order to do marketing work for the sale of the text books. I think I shouldn't make it too much. I should end my broadcast here (laughs). Thank you very much. Maybe other questions. What is unfortunate is we don't have electricity, I think and Patrick has been here with the figures. Maybe they don't have experience in their embassy, I don't know (laughs). Patrick: Sometimes. Mike: [Inaudible 0.22.43] feel good about that. Speaker 1: Otherwise we would be able to show, to demonstrate, how the braille embossers operate. They can still display the braille text book that we've embossed by means of those machines. Abraham: You have the books? Female: Yes.

Patrick: Well, one of the problems that we have here in Ethiopia is that there are lots of different languages. Speaker 1: Correct. Patrick: And it's difficult to emboss in the different languages because a lot of the technical work is not finished for some of the other languages. One of the things that we've been working on here is to emboss in Tigrinya. All of the text books for seeing people are supposed to be printed in one of the seven local languages and there's just not the technical work done to have braille encoded in each of those languages. So, we've been working with a peace corps volunteer and a blind school in McKinley to produce the text books here in Tigrinya. I think there's a lot of work that needs to be done on braille literacy because there's not a real training program, especially, in these other languages. Mike: I can imagine trying to learn braille in general, I'm sure it's like any language; you just learn it but my fingertips, I can't figure it out. I've tried. I'm sure it's like any language you can learn. What are some success stories that you have, a person or two that came in and was way in the dumps and then maybe you helped them change him or her just become a completely different person? Speaker 1: That's a good question. [Foreign language 0.25.10 - 0.26.03]. Okay, she is telling us her own story as a success case. She is saying when she went blind she was a high school graduate with [inaudible 0.26.26]. Then she joined the center, of course, she co-founded, she's one of the co-founders of the center and she had the privilege to make use of the services of the center and the rehabilitative service of the center which is the provision of braille training, the provision of orientation and mobility training, provision of psycho-social to help them cope with the trauma of late blindness. She became braille literate and with her braille literacy skills she managed to join the university and educate her first degree in American language and American literature. That was her first degree and now, she's telling us in order to diversify her academic qualification, she's now studying for her second degree in law through distance education. So, she says that her own case maybe cited as a success story because through the services of the center, she was able to join the university and achieve first degree and start working for her second. [Foreign language 0.28.13 0.29.15]. Another girl lost her eyesight at 17 years of age, one, seven, 17 years of age. She was living in the rural areas where she lost her eyesight. She had no education whatsoever, she had no schooling. She never went to school when she lost her eyesight at 17 years of age. Later she managed to gain access to the center. She joined the center and the center helped her by giving her training in braille literacy. After completing her braille literacy course, she started school. The center helped her to start school and she started school from grade four and then competed high school. Mike: Wow!

Speaker 1: Managed to join the university, achieved her first degree in history and now, she's studying for her master's degree in what? Abraham: History. Female: History. Speaker 1: Okay, what was her first degree? Abraham: History. Speaker 1: So, first degree history and she's specializing in history? Okay, continue to study history at master's level and she's still studying history at that level. So, this is a success story she told us and I think if time allows she can go on and on. All: (Laughs). Speaker 1: There are other stories also. Mike: How many people have access to the center? Female: 400. Mike: Wow! 400 people. Patrick: I know, I come in here on the weekends sometimes to pick up text books or things and there'll be 30 or 40 in a study session here and they have a little library. Female: It's very important for us and especially at Association for the Blind was formed by collaboration with [inaudible 0.31.34]. The library was very important and the [inaudible 0.31.41] here for the student's success, for the success of the students. Patrick: One of the things that I found interesting, it's not exactly a prejudice but more like a bias, if you talk to blind students they are pretty much in teaching or law or history. There's a bias at the university that blind people can only excel in these limited areas. So, I think one of the things that I've noticed that the center is doing, is really advocating on behalf of some of these students to say there's no way that you should absolutely be limited to these areas. So, they've been trying to get students into other areas and that's one of the things, technically, with the braille books, if you can find books that can handle the symbols for math then I think they can help overcome. Abraham: Most of the people in the university who I know they're blind, they're only focused on the law, sociology or some subject of that kind or read and understand, not focused on the maths and other economic skills. Speaker 1: The problem, Patrick, in your very first meeting when you visited the center, you may remember that I tried to explain the reasons why. The reasons, it's more than bias. Patrick wanted to be polite about it. To be very frank, and even if necessary to be very blunt about it because there are very traditional, conservative attitudes, stereotypes about visual impairment and about blind people, that they are able only to do a limited number of things. For example, in the university, as Abraham said and also as Patrick said earlier, they are able to study only law or history. Even in the case of history, there were professors who used to say that history is not within the limits of possibility for the blind.

There were professors, American educated professors, UK educated professors, who had the opportunity to see many things in different parts of the world when they come back here, they don't change their attitudes. The most unfortunate thing about it. I had an opportunity to go to the United States some years back and what I found was that the building where I was staying was wired by a blind engineer. I had the opportunity to meet blind mathematicians, blind physicists. I didn't meet them but I also hear that there were persons who study medicine as blind people. So, in our country, these attitudes have not changed and they continue to have their negative impacts on policy makers, continue to have their impacts on scholars, on academics and on curriculum developers. So, because of that, things don't change and then people who had the inclination for mathematics, inclination for natural sciences in general, they are not able to unleash their potentials, use their potentials because of these stereotypes and destructive - we can call them harmful traditional practices. Why only female genital mutilation? These are also harmful traditional practices which we should fight because, as I said, the number of blind people in this country is vast. Mike: Can you fight them as an NGO? Are you able to engage in advocacy? Speaker 1: A very wonderful and a very insightful question. You know why Patrick is picking us? It's not because of any political interest but we are not blessed with a kind of political system that we deserve and we need. There is a legislation in force at the moment which prevents NGO's from engaging in important areas of activities that can impact policies, that can impact attitudes and bring about congress change. One of them is advocacy and lobby. Where there are some barriers it is natural to find a way around and as NGO's we are trying to find ways around these restrictions. By the way, I come from a network of organizations of the visually impaired and the blind. There is a network of organizations of the visually impaired or the blind or we call it NOVIB for short. Addis Hiwot Center is a member of that network but it is one of the focus of the network. So, at the network, what we are presently doing is to promote the inclusion of visually impaired people in music education. For the last 40 years there have been restrictions on access to music education and training for the blind. Mike: This is true. Speaker 1: The oldest school of music, Yared School of Music, which is presently under Addis Ababa University, it has been preventing access, denying visually impaired people access to training in it's program. So, what we did was we conducted research as a network through NOVIB with the financial support from a Swedish based international organization which is called Salaam. Salaam is an Arabic word for peace. They called it Salaam because that Swedish based organization is being run by a Swedish citizen of Ethiopian origin.

So, with the support of that organization, we conducted research. The research is on the challenges and opportunities of visually impaired people in music and what we basically wanted to do through that research is does Yared School of Music have any scientific basis, any scientific ground for preventing visually impaired people access to training. Are there scientific reasons? What does the international experience tell us? What does local experiences tell us? What does our religious history, our history of religious education in which blind people were involved over the centuries as traditional music instrumentalists, traditional music players in the religious devotion, in the church literature, what does it teach us? So, we disseminated the findings on a conference of stakeholders at the hotel. We invited all the concerned stakeholders including Addis Ababa University, the management, the college of visual and performing arts, Yared School of Music, Minister of Education, the concerned directorates, technical and vocational agencies, Ethiopian Musicians Association, private music training centers, as many relevant stakeholders as possible and then we presented the findings to the stakeholders present on the conference and the findings were admired, were appreciated. Yared School of Music was not able to defend the findings. So, then, using that report we went to the university's management. So we ask then; you should make your school of music inclusive of the visually impaired because the school has no reason to prevent them access. It has prevented access for the last 40 years on unwarranted grounds, unscientific grounds and even if there were reasons, 40 years are more than enough, more than sufficient to find solutions. Mike: So, the effect of your activities were the equivalent of advocacy without actually calling it advocacy. Speaker 1: Yes, trying to find a way around the restrictions, a way around the law. We say ... Patrick: To clarify for our visitor, what we're talking about is there's a civil society organizations law in Ethiopia that prevents any organization with 10% of their funding from abroad, engaging in advocacy rights activities, any kinds of ... It had quite a chilling effect. Obviously there's no reason that the government is frightened by a blind organization engaging in advocacy or child rights organizations or women's rights organizations ... Mike: That's against the law here? Patrick: All of those things are not allowed if you receive 10% ... Mike: And you need to get a license to operate. When you have to renew you have to show where you're getting your income from? Patrick: Yes. Speaker 1: They are not saying directly ...

Patrick: But they wanted to get at certain activities that they perceived as a threat. So, they made this blanket approach. So, all of us that are engaged in trying to build civil society have re-characterized our activities as service delivery and ... Speaker 1: Development. Patrick: I thought you mind find this interesting. Don't get me in trouble (laughs). Mike: Well, the embassy's taken a [inaudible 0.44.24] stance on what it thinks about the CSO law. Speaker 1: What is maybe ironical and ridiculous, is this proclamation when it prevents Ethiopian NGO's, foreign NGO's for that matter, when it prevents involvement in the promotion and advocacy of child rights, women rights or disability rights for that matter, where it prevents these activities, it does not prevent, in fact, it encourages the promotion of animal rights. Any NGO which is involved in the promotion, in advertising, in advocating animal rights you are automatically loved. All: (Laughs). Mike: I'm so confused. All: (Laughs). Mike: A country of beef eaters ... All: (Laughs). Patrick: I have Abraham sitting with the law right now trying to ... I said we have lots of experience with the law. Human nature, as it is, we've found ways around and through. So, I have him looking at trying to find what are certain safe areas for activity. There's no mention of the environment. If you're advocating on behalf of the greater environment, those seemed to be allowed. There's an exemption for the universities to do a whole variety of things because they're part of the state system. There are a variety of places, I think, that we can ... Abraham: Like the Youth Association, the Ethiopian Youth Association can work in any kind of rights and as [inaudible 0.46.30] because it is organized by the government and those people, the leaders from the Youth Association is connected to the government. So, they can work on rights and advocacy but they can't get funds from abroad, more than 10%. If they bring more than 10%, they can't involve in this kind of activities but the country brings more than 30% aid from other countries. All: (Laughs). Speaker 1: They don't tell you, you cannot work in these areas on paper. They don't say it on paper. They don't put it in black and white. What they tell you is, if you want to do these things for the particular organization, if you want to do education, if you want to do conflict resolution or if you promote child disability, women and other rights, you have to mobilize 90% of your funding from local sources which is simply unthinkable. The problem, sometimes it is more than what you can think, even if there are members of the business community, even if there are philanthropists who'd like to help then, indirectly, they receive threats not to do it. They receive threats if they do this their

business license or work permits will be revoked. So, indirectly, they receive threats, they are discouraged, they are intimidated. So, of course, there are hardly any local sources which can provide as much as that but even if there are some who may wish to provide a little amount they are intimidated into stopping. So, in that case, the legal environment is very discouraging but we hope that things will change for the better. We don't stop hoping at least. So, because of that, Addis Hiwot Center choses the safer ground so that we do not lose the opportunities that come from Patrick. Mike: I like your approach. We've done similar things where if you present well done research the government will respond to it. They'll listen to it if there's data and rigor associated around a policy change and we still have an audience. Speaker 1: We popularize it on the media using a wide range of media including the print, the press, FM radio stations. We popularize it on the media. We also approached, the research findings, we approached decision making people. So, we have managed to effect some change. In fact, it is still, the activity is still progressing. The school has not yet received it's first batch of blind students but we have received a pledge that by coming September, September 2014, when it is the new academic year, they will start to receive the first blind students. Mike: That's great. I know, Dan, you're reaction was similar to mine when I first heard this because I thought that our stereotype are the blind are great in music. All: (Laughs). Mike: Stevie Wonder ... Ethiopia's missing out. All: (Laughs). Speaker 1: We also have our own Stevie Wonders. Teshome Meteku, he is a famous blind Ethiopian singer and pianist. He now lives in Minnesota. We also have [inaudible 0.51.18] another junior, famous blind singer, vocalist. He now lives in Canada and we also have others who are instrumentalists and music arrangers, who are lyric or song writers. So, as you say, perhaps, music authors, one of the ideal [inaudible 0.51.47] for the visually impaired. Mike: Being blind, how does that help your music? Beethoven, wasn't he? He was deaf. Losing a sense means you're able to bring all the other senses higher or something. What helps, what's a good part of being blind in music when you're playing piano or ... Speaker 1: From literature review, we were able to learn that blind people have hearing advantage, a strong hearing advantage. When you play musical instruments or when you learn how to play musical instruments they say, according to literature, the ability to hear, the ability to concentrate is a very strong advantage and another is the anatomy of human anatomy. Literature says that in our brain there are parts which respond better to music learning, to music education.

So, it's just like language learning. Literature says if we prevent blind people studying music it's like preventing them studying language. So, there's a correlation between the two, between learning language and learning music. So, the ability to hear in the case of the blind is a very strong advantage. How it worked in the case of Beethoven is open to investigation. All: (Laughs). Mike: I think he was a genius. All: (Laughs). Speaker 1: Beethoven was a genius. Mike: Yes. Speaker 1: With multiple disabilities, yes. Patrick: The other thing I can tell you generally, is we have gotten a lot of support from the US Department of State. President Obama appointed an ambassador's level secretary Judy Human as an Assistant Secretary of State on disabilities. So, she's made, I think, since I've been here, at least two visits to take a look at how we are coordinating on disability policy across the embassy and in our programs. I have a very small shop. I have two employees and a very limited amount of grant funds, very small grants but we have no set-aside, no special programming for the disability community but when she asked us to take a look at it I went back through our records and I found out that disability organizations have been out competing the rest of our ... I think maybe there's a greater awareness that the funds are available but they have done very well in receiving grants. Some of the things I know that the embassy has worked on because I'm on this task force, is they've looked at the rail, the light rail that's going in near the elevator rail, working to make sure that those facilities are accessible to the handicapped, warning tracks, a variety of other very low cost design changes that probably would not have taken place unless there was this overall effort. So, we'll see what actually gets implemented but they have agreed to look at the design of those, the train stations and other things to make sure that they are accessible. Speaker 1: That's wonderful. Abraham: We know at the end ... All: (Laughs). Speaker 1: They can see. I'll have a tea, thank you very much. Mike: I'm alright, thanks. I've been drinking coffee all day. Patrick: It's not weak coffee here either. Mike: I know. What a place to have my first cup of coffee ever, Ethiopia, where it was invented. It wasn't bad. All: [Crosstalk 0.57.10 - 0.57.30]. Speaker 1: How long have you been here, can I ask? Daniel: Michael's been here for how long?

Mike: Since Sunday. Daniel: Since Sunday. Speaker 1: Since Sunday. Daniel: He's traveling around. Why don't you tell him what you're doing. Mike: I'm going around the world. Speaker 1: I see, you're very lucky. Mike: Yes, lucky me. It all started with, I dated a flight attendant, now I'm hooked up with a pass. Speaker 1: I haven't quite got that. Mike: I was hooked up with a pass for the major airlines. So, I'm able to use that for the most part except for between Australia and Europe I'm on my own but that's how that started and then I have this condition where I'm losing my sight and I love social media and so I was trying to think of ways, how can I get creative and just do something crazy and wild and maybe accomplish something in the end. So, the marketing part of it is on social media, I created a Facebook page and said: hi, my name is Mike Walsh, I'm losing my sight. I'm going around the world. You decide where I go and so I'm engaging with people. They're telling me where to go and so I go to some of the places that are the most popular ones. So, my first stop was New Zealand, that was the single most popular location and then other things like, Dan posted on our wall. He was the only one who mentioned anything about Ethiopia but his offer was so interesting that he's like; I work for US aid, I can set up meetings with you to organizations like right now and I was like; well, that's really interesting and I can learn a lot. Understand issues in another country and so that's why I'm here in Africa, because of Dan's suggestion on my wall. One of the goals of my journey is to learn, myself, learn about my condition. I've been very passive, my entire life, about it. I've known about it since 1997 but it hadn't affected me until two, three years, really in the last three or four years when my driving started to be more difficult and driving at night became a hard thing and I had to stop and then maybe six months, a year later I had to stop completely driving. So, it's become more something, I'm at a point where I need to learn more about it and I'm exposing myself, publicly and I'm going to do these things. So, one question I have for you is; I'm someone who is on a progressive path of my sight is getting worse. I may go completely blind. That part is very rare with my condition but what could I learn. It's scary, the prospect of what would happen. What advice would you have for me being someone with your condition? Speaker 1: I understand. Before answering your question, I would like to have some information from you about the level of your eyesight. Can you tell us how much of your eyesight do you still have left?

Mike: Yes. So, my condition is about peripheral vision. It's two things or three things really; peripheral vision, it goes slowly. I had to stop driving because just making a simple turn was like; I think I don't see any pedestrians. I hit my head on stuff all the time. I don't have a cane for my head. I can't go like that. I trip on stuff all the time even using a cane. Light is very sensitive to me. I always have a hat on, even indoors unless I'm trying to be polite, which I am now but that sun coming out of the window is killing me and at night everything is darker. Speaker 1: You use shades? Mike: Shake? Speaker 1: Shades? Mike: I should be wearing sunglasses all the time. I lost a prescription pair in New Zealand but I have another pair of sunglasses and when I'm wearing contacts I wear sunglasses and I have these awful transition glasses which are a terrible product. I really look forward to that improving but interesting, today I've just started to realize, I want to test it some more but I was in some art museum, church, it's been a long three weeks but I'm looking at the painting and it's really, really dark to me and then I'm looking at my iPhone and I'm just like; wow!. I'm looking at my iPhone through the camera and it's just like; is this the way I'm supposed to be seeing it? Because it's perfect and bright and I'm taking the picture and then I look at the painting and it's all dark. I can barely tell the colors but then I look through my iPhone and I'm like; is this what normal people see? So, I don't know. I'm going to test it out with Dan at home. Is this the same as that because that is super dark and this is perfect? So, I'm starting to realize that. When I go into a room with barely any light it's super dark for me. Speaker 1: Do you use cane regularly? Mike: I'm using a can everywhere now. If I go home to my condo, I know the place so well I'll put the cane aside. Speaker 1: You use braille? Mike: Do I use what? Speaker 1: Braille. Mike: Braille? No, I never learned it. So that's one thing I was going to ask. What other technologies besides braille, it's 2014, everything's developing, technology, is that coming to Ethiopia yet? What other technologies are coming about? I don't know a whole lot about braille but it looks ... All: (Laughs). Mike: It looks hard to me. Speaker 1: I don't feel like advising you as you requested me to do but I can share experiences with you. I wish total blindness did not happen to you but if it did, god forbid, if it did then our experience it that blindness does not mean the end of life. As I

said earlier, when I was in your country, I had opportunity to visit blind Americans and I was surprised when some of them told me that after all blindness is not an impairment. Blindness is simply an inconvenience. Sorry, if I am aloud [answers phone] [foreign language 01.05.08 - 01.05.09]. So, they told me they considered it like an inconvenience and this was not an exaggeration, it was not without reason. Through technology, they made a lot of things very manageable, very easy to do. They are able to use the computer, communicate through the Internet, learn independent living skills, used not only braille, not only the traditional braille. They had different pieces of assistive braille equipment like what they called Note Taker, Braille Aids. These are very small, you can call them, manual machines which they used everywhere they went be it in the meetings, be it in classes as students or instructors or in any profession and in any setting they were able to use different forms of assistive technology to enable them to effectively perform in all kinds of situations, to my surprise. Most of these assistive technologies are not yet introduced into our society. We would like to facilitate the technology transfer to our society but still it is beyond our means but with all these means, with all these assistive devices and skills and experience, it was not an exaggeration for them to call blindness an inconvenience, not an impairment, not a disability. I think that's what I can say. As I said, better to do everything within our means, within your means to prevent the final scenario, the final occurrence of visual impairment but if that is unavoidable then, as I said, there are still many things that are possible for you and for us to do and make sure that we are productive and we are fulfilled in life. That's what I can say. Mike: I'm just going to start taking piano lessons now. All: (Laughs). Speaker 1: Of course, why not? Mike: What is the state of things like for [inaudible 01.08.05] screen reader technologies and text to speech? Are they coming along? Speaker 1: Well, they are coming along. For example, on ... Mike: I heard your phone. Speaker 1: Well, the speech synthesizer reads the screen for me, just like it does on the computer. For a sighted person, on the computer, you communicate with the screen using your eyes. We communicate with the screen on the computer using the speech synthesizer but the problem in our situation is we don't have the up to date technology. Either we have what they call the cracked version, which is the stolen version, illegal, which causes us to be illegal because of being less advantaged, because of being less resourced. We are forced to use the cracked versions of technology.

If we were able to obtain the original versions that would be much better. We would be much better off because we are able to access all sorts of information. Those cracked versions enable us only, for example, to access text, not graphics, not, for example, charts or tables. It does not enable us to use Power Points. It does not enable us to use Excel. We depend on Word and even in the case of Word we are not able to access tables and charts. As I said, because this cracked versions are of very poor quality but original versions and the versions that are very latest, up to date ... Daniel: I know we've worked to, in our library at the embassy and at the American corners libraries around the country, we have at least one of the Jaws systems installed for screen reading technology and all the rest of it but that's primarily in English. We have no Arabic, which is going to limit your utility right away. Speaker 1: Correct. So that's the status of the technology transfer at the moment. If funding is available because we have to start saving our reserves now. All: (Laughs). Speaker 1: If funding is available then with funding we can facilitate the transfer of this technology so that blind people in our society can have access to all these technologies and make their access to information faster, higher and with faster and higher access to information then they will be more effective, they will be more productive, more resourceful in all settings whether, be it in their places of employment or in school, in college, while they do research, while they do consultancy work, whether they do legal advising, in all situations and also to expand career development for the blind like opening up opportunities in untouched areas of study in higher institutions of education. So, maybe, is it time to show you around? Mike: Sure. All: [Foreign language 01.12.46 - 01.13.07]. Mike: Oh wow, yes. All: [Crosstalk 01.13.16 - 01.13.21]. Patrick: This is the donated embossing machine from the American people to ... Mike: This is a braille machine? Female: Yes. All: [Crosstalk 01.13.32 - 01.13.34]. Speaker 1: How many machines are there? There are three machines. Which ones was obtained with funding from the US embassy? Female: This one is obtained from ... Mike: Oh, yes, it has a little flag on it. Speaker 1: But I think I heard there were two? Mike: What's the other flag? Patrick: Yes, that's Ethiopia and US. Speaker 1: This is manufactured by Enabling Technologies, a company in Texas. Mike: Can I take a picture of this?

Speaker 1: Yes. Mike: Okay [Crosstalk 01.14.19 - 01.14.50]. Patrick: Sometimes they have trouble hitting their ... Female: [Foreign language 01.14.54 - 01.14.58]. All: [Crosstalk 01.14.58 - 01.15.47]. Speaker 1: This is civic and ethical education. This is for grade 12. Transcribed by Addis Hiwot Center of the Blind braille embossing and painting service. This is volume one. The problem is they cannot transcribe the full text of the ink print edition in one volume. So they do it in two, three or four volumes. So, this is the first of ... You should have mentioned how many volumes this is available in because it says only volume one. Volume one of how many volumes? Patrick: Because then you know what you're getting yourself into. If it's only three or four it's maybe okay but 20, 25 ... Daniel: The embosser that we provided, it's double sided. Patrick: Very environmentally friendly. Speaker 1: Because it's good to be economical with paper. On both sides of the paper, you can on one leaf of paper, you can produce two pages. Patrick: Yes. Speaker 1: What is to see? Mike: The library. Speaker 1: Why are these books kept here? Why not in the library? These are orders? To be collected? Okay, so, not for the library collection. All: [Crosstalk 01.17.45 - 01.18.08]. Female: Here we see the audio print library. Speaker 1: This is the audio print library because there are tactile mix as well as copy mix. There are books in braille and there are also books recorded on tape. So they call it audio print library. Mike: It's just a great space. Speaker 1: Are there library users at the moment? [Crosstalk 01.19.00 - 01.19.19]. Mike: Well, this is terrific, I must say. Speaker 1: So, you like it? Mike: It's a great space, yes. Very nice. Good, so not all serious. Abraham: [Inaudible 01.19.35 - 01.19.40]. Mike: It's great. Speaker 1: So there are academic books as well as recreation. Mike: Yes, because you don't want it all to be serious. Yes. Patrick: The last thing that I needed to do, I know it's taking me a little while to get the transfer and I've heard that it finally came through because there was a change in the account or something but what I want to do is get together with you at some point in the near future. I had gotten the graphics design and layout person for our public affairs

section, our public relations section and the embassy to agree to help us in introducing a book marketed at decision makers and others but what I found out when we tried to set up the meeting for her to come, she'll be on leave for one month starting on Friday. So, I don't want us to lose all of that time because we've already been a little bit delayed but maybe we should have a meeting at the embassy or I can come back here and we can start to talk about expectations, what we have in mind, what you have in mind, what your experience tells you that we need but we managed to talk a little bit more money out of USADF so I want to make good use of it. That's all I have. Abraham: I am also contacting one person for printing. He does printing with his company. So, if they want to volunteer on the graphic design of your layout especially on the front page. So, I will ask, they didn't tell me go ahead but I will ask them if they can volunteer the design layout. So, I will check that and I will tell you because I come past this road so many times. Patrick: I do every day actually. You may not see me but I see you. Speaker 1: On the main road or down the gravel road? Patrick: I see you when you're leaving in the evening. Speaker 1: Maybe through your video camera. Mike: Thank you so much, we appreciate it. Speaker 1: One final thought; it's good that you mentioned the technical support with the graphic design but how about technical training, for example, in maintenance in the operation of the machines because these machines, no matter how good quality, with work, through use, they fade. Mike: With the power going on and off. Speaker 1: Yes. There is this depreciation. So, training in machine maintenance will help the staff to keep the machines in good working order. Patrick: We certainly recognize the importance of that. What we'll have trouble with is finding a source of the funds because, again, that's very small. I recognize that but we really are limited on what we can do. Speaker 1: If people with the skills happen to visit, we may not know but there might be still some people visiting the embassy or through other connections who have these skills may be happy to contribute. Patrick: The only thing I really know here is we've talked a little bit with your colleague, I think also one of the founders here, I know he's running this whole enterprise now, is it Enabling Technologies? Speaker 1: Yes. Patrick: I've forgotten the ... Speaker 1: Greg? Patrick: No. Abraham: Greg was the contact person?

Patrick: Greg was the contact person, yes. Anyway, I will keep that in mind. You know you have my attention. Speaker 1: Please, yes, we are sure. There is also the possibility of staff ... Female: [Foreign language 01.25.24]. Speaker 1: There is also the possibility of staff turnover because we have only, at the moment, [inaudible 01.25.30] yes. She's the only staff who is presently engaged in operating the machines and who has some know-how about keeping the machines in good working order. If the center, for some reason, loses her then the risk of the entire operation coming to a halt. So ... [foreign language 01.26.08]. So, we are grateful that, Patrick, you have this in mind, that you always have us on your mind. We know we have your attention and Abraham as well, of course. What I always think is that there are persons who are interested to volunteer, to assist but the problem is always, not to know who is who. So, through connections and through contacts such people with such resource may be found and it's good that, Patrick, you have taken note of this. We appreciate it. Mike: Well, thank you very much. We really appreciate it. Speaker 1: Thank you very much. So, please keep stopping by like Patrick. Okay, so hands? At least I can feel you and when are you leaving? Mike: Never now. Speaker 1: I think it seems you are planning to stay, to make your stay longer. You like the weather here? Mike: Yes, it's nice. It's the same thing every day. Patrick: Now, there's a few months where it might not be sunny. Speaker 1: Are you here directly from the US? Mike: No the last place was Dubai I was at. I've been going around the world. I'm going against time. Speaker 1: So, you have not gone through the recent weather extremes? Mike: No, I haven't. I've just been hearing about them. Speaker 1: Just like us. Good. Thank you very much. Please, we have enjoyed your stay with us and we hope we will see you again. Mike: Okay, we'll see you again soon. He's Daniel. Speaker 1: Daniel okay and Mr Handsome. I don't forget you. All: [Crosstalk 01.29.00 - 01.29.24]. Mike: See you bud. Good to meet you and good work.