17 March 2021
As part of the regional COVID-19 crisis response support program for non-profit youth or sports initiatives, UNESCO provided financial and mentoring support to the “ALL IN” youth initiative group from Kyrgyzstan.Two young female members of this group, Aidai Burkutova and Darin Malikova, developed a project concept to create a specialized safe online educational platform to expand the knowledge and opportunities of visually impaired and blind people not only in Kyrgyzstan but also in the entire Central Asian region.
The platform, called AILIN, which means "ray of the moon" in Turkic languages, is designed to "illuminate" the lives of people with visual impairments by providing them with opportunities for self-development and improving their knowledge and skills.
This platform will provide access for visually impaired and blind people to a collection of audiobooks, useful training courses, physical activity and other necessary information following the requirements of the World Wide Web Consortium for accessibility of web content for people with special needs.
Aidai and Darin plan to adapt the platform in 5 languages, thereby reaching and influencing the vulnerable population of developing countries in Central Asia, as well as raising awareness of states and communities about the problem of social integration of visually impaired and blind people in the region.
WHO estimates that at least 2.2 billion people worldwide suffer from visual impairment or blindness, of which at least 1 billion suffer from visual impairment that could be prevented or yet to be eliminated. In 2018, more than 2.6% (1,872,000 people) of the total population of Central Asia suffered from blindness or moderate or severe visual impairment.
These people experience a huge number of problems and restrictions of their rights. For example, there is a lack of web resources available to them, which makes this group of people very vulnerable in terms of social adaptation and open access to news and relevant information (for example, COVID-19 precautions, treatment methods and mental health support during self-isolation). Many psychologists claim that due to the lack of access to information and virtual life, people with visual impairment or blindness lose self-confidence and become afraid of the outside world and everything that happens around them. They are isolated within the four walls of the house and cannot leave it, which also causes mental health problems, social exclusion, discrimination and even suicidal behavior among adolescents and young people.
Another significant fact is that this group of people do not engage in physical activity and sports due to the lack of available web resources in this area. Consequently, there is also a risk of an increase in the number of non-communicable diseases, which WHO always associates with low levels of physical activity.
During the pandemic, this situation became even more acute. People with visual impairment or blindness experience enormous psychological pressure and infringement of their rights, as they do not have access to almost all modern web resources, because they are not adapted for them.