About

Meet your blind guides

Dajana

1Even though she suddenly lost her sight when she was 16, Dajana went out into the world shortly after with the help from her family and friends. Getting around with a cane was too hindering for this dynamic person, hence today she gets around with a guide dog.  Prior to her dog Zdenko, Buga was her companion and helper for 10 years, and the two of them were like one. Adjusting to a new guide dog was difficult and took 6 months.  It was very important to learn how to distinguish tiny differences in the dog’s movements, i.e. which movements suggest an obstacle in the way, and which ones only indicate that the dog is sniffing something or looking in the other direction. Today, getting around with a cane requires greater concentration, which means she has to pay more attention to the sounds around her. She can determine her position according to several factors, such as walking speed, walking length and the sounds in the environment.  For example, when taking the tram while the station announcement system is not operating, it is harder to determine one’s position then it had once been in older trams where one could feel when it crossed a junction and where the vibrations of the tram would give away its speed.

Along with studying psychology, a great role in her life is played by the theater.  She is an actress in New Life, the theater of the visually impaired.

She finds that the stage orientation is facilitated by getting to know the space, feeling it as one’s own home and knowing exactly where everything is. On-stage orientation problems may arise from the fact that the sound varies according to number of seats filled in the theater, and is different in other theater spaces where the group holds guest appearances. However, any problem can be overcome by relying on the colleagues’ voices, the heat of the strobe lights and the carpet that serves as a marking for how close the edge of the stage is. Dajana also performs in dance acts, where it is very important to follow the smallest movements of one’s own body in order to avoid the possibility of going into a wrong direction.

Ivan

2Born at the end of 1962, Ivan was diagnosed with visual impairment as an infant. The problem progressed and he completely lost his sight at the age 10. He graduated from the Vinko Bek School for the Visually Impaired. With help from his visually impaired classmates he often explored the city, and later started to go out by himself, getting around with a cane. He believes that the fact that he was young, and therefore braver, had a lot to do with his desire to pursue his individual explorations to greater extents. He is very happy to talk about his work as a corrector for Braille texts in a textbook printing house.

He believes that a significant role in the life of any blind person is played by practice and focus. It is precisely with practice that he acquired the ability to read numerous pages in Braille without getting pain in his fingertips. Moreover, he considers focus to be very important in getting around in the city, where different sounds can interfere with orientation or have a disorienting effect.

Today, with a lot of practice and complete focus, Ivan can sometimes tell where a street pole is, or where a building entrance is without identifying them with the help of his cane.  By using his sense of smell, which helps in orientation only as a marking sign, he can also recognize a butcher shop or a newly-opened herbal pharmacy that is in his vicinity.

Željko

3Željko’s sight began deteriorating at age 4, but he managed to read with glasses and complete the regular elementary school program, after which he attended the Vinko Bek School for the Visually Impaired. After graduating, he enrolled in history and geography studies at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb, where he received his teacher’s diploma. In 1995, he started teaching elementary school history for grades 5 – 8.

Due to the progression of retinitis pigmentosa, his sight gradually deteriorated and in 1997 he was diagnosed with blindness. However, this did not disable him from pursuing his teacher’s calling.  All the more, when he lost his sight he started writing and has since authored several history textbooks. In collaboration with his colleague Margita Madunić, in 2001 he published a textbook set for elementary school, including the teacher’s book, called History 6. In 2007 he published a textbook called Tracing History 6 with the accompanying workbook.

Since 1995 he has been the head of the Dugave Chess School whose teams regularly compete in Zagreb elementary school team championships and achieve notable results. In order to popularize and promote school chess, in 2009 he published a book called Scholl Chess Epidemic and was named the coordinator of chess schools for the New Zagreb area by the City Office for Education, Culture and Sports.

For about 10 years he has had the following professional duties: history teacher, chess group coordinator and history group coordinator.

He recognizes his students by their voices. Everyone in the classroom has an assigned seat, a position on an imaginary chessboard which facilitates his work.  In familiar spaces, such as the school and his neighborhood, he gets around without any problems, but he never walks in unknown spaces by himself. On his way to his apartment, he uses the road, the street poles and the ground level changes as markings, but he does not think about these things intensely, but on a subconscious level, and in that way he reaches his goal. This kind of subconscious, automatic recognition also happens when he takes familiar objects in his hands. Therefore, it isn’t necessary to touch the whole container in order to convince himself that it is the salt shaker that he has in his hand. He does not rely too much on his sense of smell, especially outdoors, but this sense helps him when he needs to distinguish coffee from sugar if they are stored in identically shaped containers.

Željko uses his sense of hearing the most, which he has perfected to a great extent. This means that he can follow reading software at the speed that his friends cannot, and also that he can recognize the particular sound of his colleague’s car when she comes by to take him to work.

Mika Brčina

Taking part in the War for Independence, he was wounded in 1992. This resulted in permanent loss of vision. He has finished professional rehabilitation and retraining in the Center for education “Vinko Bek”.
He contributed to the popularization of sound darts among blind people in Croatia and solved issues, related to the unique rules of the game. He participated in Sports games for the disabled in the War for Independence and National competitions in sound darts for the blind. In 2009, when he was a member of the sound darts club for the blind “Sound”, his team won the first place and in 2010, he won second place in national competitions.

Testimony Mike Brčine about rehabilitation:
“Blindness, in a later period of life, as a disability, reflects on the person in the way that it returns you almost to the beginning of adaptation. A person that becomes blind later in his/her lifetime comes to a position where he/she has to learn writing and orientation in space for independent movement all over again.

Getting wounded and instantly losing eyesight, I have completed the treatment phase where I had to learn how to meet my basic hygiene needs (going to the toilet, washing and brushing teeth, taking a shower) and have begun life adjusted to blindness. Afterwards I had to learn to perform various skills such as: using a spoon, fork and knife.

Starting with professional rehabilitation, I realized that by losing vision, I became illiterate (audio books are convenient but cannot replace the knowledge of the Braille alphabet). I had to learn the same way the children in the first grade of primary school learn the alphabet (standard letter).

I was trained in orientation and independent movement with the help of a white cane. In addition to exploring the techniques of using a long white cane, it was necessary to learn to recognize a variety of sounds in closed and open space and learn how to use them for better orientation.

In the course of time I learned new skills, but it was necessary to combine them all as a whole and step into the world independently.
“One learns as long as he is alive!” A sentence we often hear but don’t have the will or strength for. I still manage to acquire new knowledge that is provided to me by a computer and the Internet (of course with the help of voice and electronic Braille readers which are now available to people with visual impairment) and match them with everyday life. ”

Pancho Karamanski

4DJ, producer, audio engineer, and actor Pancho is 21 years old and likes good music and his smiling friends.

“I like to fall in love with women, technical equipment and, as of late, dogs – the latter, because of my guide dog.  In technical equipment, because in the field of audio engineering and DJ-ing the equipment is expensive, but very beautiful.  And last but not least – women.  The true ones deserve to be valued not only for their looks, and I am lucky in this respect, as looks make almost no difference.

But don’t think you can lie to me about the beauty in these three things.

There’s also a fourth thing I love, which, however should not be put in a list – this is music.”

http://facebook.com/dj.pancho.official

Bayrie Emin

5Hello, my name is Bayrie Emin.  I am 18 years old and I am a student in the 11th grade of the school for children with seeing impairment Louis Braille.  In my free time I am involved in different activities like chess, goal ball* (a game for the blind), which helps me in special orientation based on sound.  I like walking in the park.  I feel happy in nature.  I am part of a theatre group, named “Unseen theatre”.  We differ from other theatre groups because we deal with shadow theatre.

*Goalball is a team sport designed specifically for blind athletes. Participants compete in teams of three, and try to throw a ball into the opponents’ goal. . Players must use the sound of the ball to judge its position and movement.

Ralitsa Staneva

6Ralitsa Staneva studies in the school for children with seeing impairment “Louis Braille” and is currently in the 11th grade.  She’s been studying English in depth for years, and that is her main priority.  She enjoys theatre both as audience and participant in the unprofessional actor group “Classmate theatre”.  In her spare time she devotes herself to the arts.  She likes to travel, visit new places and meet new people.

 

 

 

Alexander Velkov

I have completed my university degrees in sociology and journalism.  I participated in the teams of several projects and studies, related to people with disabilities.  I have also worked for the radio and a news site.  I am currently responsible for the public relations of the Regional organization of the Union of the blind in Sofia.

In my spare time I like to read literature – among my favorite authors are Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Stephen King, Jaroslav Hašek, Robert Sheckley.  One of my main principles is that life is short and one must make the best of it – to see new places, enjoy new smells, have new experiences – the more often, the better.

Something very interesting in the project “Seeing in the dark” is that it involves many young people – of different professions, sensibilities and points of view.  Due to their good will and optimism, unusual and colorful ideas form.  We often are surprised by their courage and by the fact that the ideas, despite everything, seem possible.

Goran Denis Tomašković

Goran Denis was born in 1971. He lost most of his sight at age of eight (today he has 5% of  sight). In 1990 he finished secondary school in the Vinko Bek School for the Visually Impaired. He graduated history from Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb, in 1995. From 1995 till 2012 he worked as a professor of history in elementary and high school.  In 2009, upon completion of postgraduate studies he became a Master of Science. From September 2012 works as a secretary of the Association of the Blind Zagreb. Happily married and father of one child.

Veronika

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Katrin

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