At a computer resource center in the cultural house Sanat Gulshani, aligned with the Society of Blinds, two month courses have recently been completed instructing blind persons on how to use computers to further their careers and to ease their everyday lives. This center, and the courses provided, have been largely due to the joint efforts of the ACCESS (Accessibility, Civic Consciousness, Employment and Social Support for Persons with Disabilities) project alongside a group dedicated to assisting the Government of Uzbekistan with the implementation of ICTs for development. Students were instructed in the use of specially designed software such as JAWS, SARA, TOPAZ, and how to use the Internet easily and to their advantage. One blind reporter recounted how she used to need a visually non-impaired person to help her write articles to be published in a local journal, Bir Safda, but now not only can she create articles but she can independently design a website for the journal.
Currently, Uzbekistan operates 80 libraries for the blind, used by over 40,000 people. The ACCESS project was approved by the Ministry of Labor in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme in 2008, and plans to operate for at least two more years. ACCESS plans to conduct similar courses in other regions of Uzbekistan, reaching approximately 700 blind university students who have no access to assistive ICTs. Additionally, ACCESS will work to increase public awareness of issues faced by persons with disabilities, improve accessibility around the country, assist with job placement, and other related programs. In their future efforts, ACCESS will partner with the German Society for Technical Cooperation in Uzbekistan and the World Bank Office in Uzbekistan in order to ensure the success and efficiency of the programs.
(Sources: UzReport and UNDP Uzbekistan)