On May 18, 2022, the Blind and Visually Impaired Community will celebrate the 108th anniversary of work for the blind in Trinidad and Tobago.
The gentleman who pioneered this work was the late James Alves. A Guyanese by birth, Alves lost his sight at a young age and later was sent to England to receive training. He returned to the Caribbean with a strong desire to impart his knowledge and skills.
After traversing the region, he found favour and support in Trinidad and Tobago to set up an institute for the blind. To facilitate this, Alves was required to travel around the length and breadth of the island to find blind and visually impaired persons. At the end of that fact-finding mission, he identified 528 such individuals. On May 18, 1914, the doors of the institute were opened to facilitate training in basic areas such as braille and handicraft. This institute was indeed the pioneer which gave rise to the establishment of similar type organisations in other territories in the region. In 1947, by an Act of Parliament, The Trinidad and Tobago Blind Welfare Association was incorporated thus replacing the Institute for the Blind. In 1952, the School for Blind Children opened its doors to welcome students not only from Trinidad and Tobago but from other territories of the region: Guyana in the south, to St Kitts-Nevis in the north. The intake of foreign students ended around 1980 since by that time, most of the other territories had established units to deal with special education.
By the 1960s, blind persons themselves established groups such as the Sunshine Group for the Blind which focused more on social and cultural activities, which lent to the work of the Trinidad and Tobago Blind Welfare Association. Additionally in 1975, The Trinidad and Tobago Congress of the Blind, a lobby and advocacy group was formed and focused on the inclusion and advancement of the overall development of blind and visually impaired persons. Sadly, by the 1990s both the Sunshine Group for the Blind and the Trinidad and Tobago Congress of the Blind were dissolved. In October 1995, a new organisation for the blind was launched and is still operating today.
This organisation is known as Persons Associated with Visual Impairment ( PAVI). One of PAVI’s main objectives is to provide rehabilitation services to blind and visually impaired persons. This training includes adjustment to blindness services such as orientation and mobility training, daily living skills, family counselling and the formation of support groups.
PAVI was successful in advocating for voting rights which allowed for blind and visually impaired persons in Trinidad and Tobago to vote independently. PAVI continues to work with NALIS (National Library and Information System) to have its library services facilitate blind and visually impaired persons within its community library facilities.
Additionally, PAVI lobbied government agencies to insure participation of blind and visually impaired persons in training programmes such as OJT- On the Job Training.
For a list of services CLICK HERE. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the operations of some programmes. We are currently in need of premises to house our office and conduct training for our clients. We welcome donations to assist us in facilitating our various programmes.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our bank account number at Republic Bank is 320427304201.