Help those who cannot see
When Florence Nightingale was carrying a lamp in the dark looking for
wounded soldiers in the Crimean war, she suddenly spotted a soldier with
body injuries. The lady, who was also called the `Lady with the Lamp'
noticed that the soldier had received eye injuries too. Both his eyes
were badly injured. Although Florence took prompt action to restore his
eye sight , she was unable to do so. Later, she had come to know that
the soldier became totally blind.
When thinking of the life of this soldier who lost both eyes after
the war, there are people in today's society who were born blind either
by birth or after several years due to accidents or various other
Unlike many other ailments, blindness has become a serious problem.
Although blind people too have inborn talents, they have to seek the
help of others to carry out some of their day to day activities.
The Sunday Observer last week met some visually handicapped persons
living in Colombo, Ratnapura, Wanduramba in Galle, Anuradhapura, Seeduwa
in Ja-Ela , Matugama, Kurunegala and several other places in the
country. They got together in Colombo and conducted a conference to tell
the authorities about their grievances and also hardships faced by the
visually handicapped community in the country.
Senior President, Sri Lanka National Federation of the Visually
Handicapped (SLNFVH), W.M.D. Ratnasekara said according to Government
statistics over 60,000 Sri Lankans are visually impaired and out of them
only a handful of persons are receiving assistance from the Social
He therefore requested the Government to conduct a fresh countrywide
visually handicapped persons survey, so that authorities could get the
correct figure of the blind community.
Fifty-four year old Ratnasekara is a resident of Matugama. He was not
blind by birth. According to him he was educated at C.W.W. Kannangara
Vidyalaya, Matugama. He became blind at the age of 15 and thereafter he
had received his education at Ratmalana Blind School. He is a BA and MA
degree holder and graduated from Peradeniya University.
Ratnasekara said there were around 300 visually handicapped graduates
in the country and the Government should seek their assistance to start
welfare programs for the benefit of all blind persons in the country.
Ratnasekara further said that blind people have inborn talents and
they should not be isolated. The authorities should get their maximum
support to start development programms.
He said there are nearly 13 schools for visually handicapped persons
and authorities should visit these schools regularly and look into the
needs of school children.
He also said there is a severe teacher shortage at blind schools in
the rural sector and requested the Government to recruit teachers.
He also pledged the Government to increase the intake to state owned
Vidyapeeta and train more teachers.
Fifty two -year old SLNFVH, President Upali Chandrasiri said he was
blind at birth. He said his blindness did not trouble him to continue
with his educational activities.
A degree holder on fine arts, Chandrasiri requested authorities to
improve the technical knowledge and the knowledge of Information
Technology of blind children in the country.
He said there is a shortage of trained teachers to teach students at
almost all blind schools in the country and the Education Department
should take immediate steps to appoint new teachers.
A resident of Seeduwa in Ja-Ela, Kamal Sri Nanayakkara said he was
blind by birth, but it did not affect his education. Kamal is a BA
degree holder. He said he was working in the public sector.
He requested authorities to look into the living condition of many
poor visually handicapped persons, especially children who do not attend
schools due to poverty.
He said some young blind children are employed while not attending
Sixty-year old, R.A. Sunil of Kurunegala said he was blind at birth.
He said there is a shortage of Braille boards for school children and
requested educational authorities to provide them as early as possible.
A 48-year old visually handicapped P.A. Piyasena said he was blind at
birth and also was married to a blind lady.
His only daughter is not blind and is studying in a school at
He said the authorities attitude over their living condition was not
adequate. According to Piyasena an opportunity must be given to at least
one blind person to represent the Parliament of Sri Lanka, so that he
could forward many proposals for the benefit of blind community at the
country's highest legislature.
Mrs. Sheela Peris of Narammala said she became totally blind
following an accident , but leading a very happy life with her husband
who is a nurse in a private hospital . They have two daughters and one
is employed in a garment factory.
Sheela wanted the authorities to grant a small pension for blind
people who cannot do any job.
Forty eight year old Nimal Siri said he was blind at birth and
working in a bag manufacturing company at Ratmalana.
He proposed the Government to provide at least five percent jobs to
the blind people. He said although there is a rule to provide jobs in
the private and public sector for visually handicapped persons nobody
will follow this rule.
Nuwan Kodituwakku who is blind at birth said the Government should
appoint a Minister in the Parliament to look into the welfare of blind
people in the country .
Somasiri Guruge of Kuruwita thanked the Sri Lanka National Federation
of the Visually Handicapped for their co-operation extended towards the
welfare of blind community in the country and said that Government too
should increase their assistance for blind people.
He proposed the authorities to give at least a Rs. 5,000 payment
every month for elderly and unemployed blind people .
He said this could be easily done through Divisional Secretaries in
their respective areas. Meanwhile, former SLEAS Executive and a
consultant in the Social Service Ministry DLR Subasinghe said the
Government is helping not only the blind people in the country, but also
others who have many other disabilities .
He said his Department spends a large sum of money for the welfare of
disabled people in the country.