First Zagreb Digital Literacy Centre for Blind and Visually Impaired Opened

Lauren Simmonds

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As Iva Badanjak/Novac writes, the very first Zagreb Digital Literacy Centre for the blind and visually impaired was put into function this week and is worth 165,000 kuna. Located within the premises of the Association of the Blind in Zagreb, which has about 1,500 members, this project will provide them with digital education that will make their daily lives easier and strengthen their competencies when entering the labour market.

The president of the Zagreb Association of the Blind, Branimir Sutalo, said at the opening of this unique centre that this project should serve as an example of good practice for other associations of the blind and visually impaired.

In addition to Braille literacy, the modern age has placed digital literacy before the community of the blind and visually impaired as a fundamental precondition for independence and full involvement in the life of the wider community.

“Our community is facing a serious financial challenge because the necessary IT equipment costs up to 25,000 kuna per user,” Sutalo said.

Apriori World was in charge of preparing the strategic guidelines to raise funds to equip the Zagreb Digital Literacy Centre in accordance with the standards of use for computers and laptops with the addition of a Braille keyboard.

After completing the educational programme, ten blind and partially sighted people are currently actively participating in browsing and then certifying the websites of various institutions and companies, which comply with the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standards of the EU Directive on Accessibility of Websites. This project opens up further opportunities for creating a new model of social entrepreneurship.

“The Zagreb Digital Literacy centre has the task of sending out a clear message to all those who don’t yet have a website adapted to the WCAG standard, which is the direction of the European directive and the law that has already entered into force, to do so. Blind and partially sighted people will still live in darkness, darkness in the sense of accessing information, if this isn’t done,” said a volunteer of the Association, Danijel Koletic.

Back in 2016, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU adopted the Directive on the accessibility of websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies. That directive states that the right of persons with disabilities and the elderly to participate and be integrated into social and cultural life is inextricably linked to the provision of accessible audiovisual media services.

Creating accessible websites and mobile applications results in a better experience for all users, not just people with disabilities. Accessibility is manifested in the ability to perceive, operability, comprehensibility and stability of content.

When a website makes certain minor modifications, such as allowing it to listen to text when the lighting is not optimal or to read subtitles when the sound is inaudible, it makes life easier for all EU citizens, and all EU member states had to align their national legislation with the EU Directive by September 2018.

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