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A Massey University professor will travel to Mongolia to teach blind people the skills they need to become more mobile.
Head of the School of Health and Social Services, Professor Steve La Grow, will spend three weeks in Mongolia training six people in orientation mobility.
World Blind Union is sponsoring the project, paid for by the Danish Association of the Blind, as there are no mobility specialists in Mongolia.
Professor La Grow will travel to Mongolia in August to work with the Mongolian National Federation of the Blind. He will train staff so they can work with blind people.
He says they will learn how to teach blind people to use white canes and adaptive skills to orient themselves and safely move within communities and cities, developing their independence.
“You often find in situations where these skills haven’t been taught before, people are very restricted. They simply can’t get out and around by themselves,” Professor La Grow says.
“In New Zealand we are used to seeing blind people out and about but in countries where these skills have not been taught, blind people can be stuck as they can’t explore or interact with the world,” he says. “You see them sitting, or being dragged around by someone else. We try to break that cycle with these skills.”
Professor La Grow, who has more than 30 years experience in rehabilitation with blind people and those with low vision, spent three weeks in Indonesia in 2010 on a similar project. He expects major challenges with language barriers and facing the unknown in Mongolia.
“The big challenge to me will be the environment. I have no idea what the environment will be like – in Indonesia there were no controls,” he says, explaining the traffic chaos, and lack of distinction between road and footpath was challenging.
But he is excited to be part of a project shifting the focus in Mongolia from caring for blind people to teaching new skills to develop their independence and confidence. “It’s fascinating to think you’re going to step in and do something like that,” Professor La Grow says.