Blind Now Use the Internet
Hundreds of blind people in Romania are now using the Internet thanks to software developed and distributed by Lions clubs. The innovative BatPro software allows those with vision impairments to surf the Internet using the four arrow keys on the keyboard.
“It’s very easy to use,” says Radu Cristea of the Cluj-Napoca Transilvania Lions Club. “We had a blind person try it for the first time, and in two minutes they knew exactly how to use it.” The clubs were supported by a US$50,000 grant from the Orange Foundation, established in Romania in 2012 to assist the blind and others not fully participating in digital communication.
The clubs purchased more than 100 computers, installed the BatPro software and distributed the computers through associations for the blind and visually impaired.
The Arad Lions Club hired a programmer to design the software. The text-to-speech mechanism was developed and donated by a Lion from a company that designs software and hardware for the visually impaired.
Lions in Romania are devoting many volunteer hours to making Bat- Pro accessible. They visit the homes of those with vision impairments to train them how to use it. The software can be downloaded for free as well.
“There was nothing like this in Romania,” says Cristea, 40, a past club president and zone and region chairperson. He is the co-author of “Faces of Freedom, Lives of Courage,” which details (in English) the hardships suffered by Romanians under communism and the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Cristea says the software is superior in at least one respect to software for the blind available in the West. “The beauty of BatPro is the fact you only need four keys,” he says. “Younger blind people get used to computers or have smart phones. We’re targeting blind people over 45 that are captive in their home and only have the radio for information.”
Part of Lions Clubs International since 1990, Romania has 1,186 Lions in 58 clubs.