Sat | Aug 24, 2019

Jamaica Society for the Blind, a beacon of hope

Published:Monday | May 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMRocheda Bartley
Conrad Harris, of the Jamaica Society for the Blind.
Conrad Harris, of the Jamaica Society for the Blind.
Conrad Harris, of the Jamaica Society for the Blind.

At some point, you must have heard that the eyes are the windows to the world. So, just imagine the world of a blind person. Many sighted persons will wonder if blind persons can lead a perfectly normal life. And the answer is, absolutely yes. With the intervention of the Jamaica Society for the Blind (JSB), blind persons have hope of living happily, independently, and even contributing to the country in ways you would have never imagined. And JSB is where our focus should be, whether we're sighted or unsighted.

Conrad Harris is the executive director of the Old Hope Road-based entity for over seven years. Harris, who was born blind, is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and works diligently with the society to get its blind trainees to actualise their full potential.

"We're set up to do two main things. One is to help persons who are blind to be as independent as possible ... with the adjustment to the blindness programme. And the other is to do all that we can to prevent blindness in Jamaica, with our vision centre," Harris told Flair in a recent interview.

The society offers a myriad of services, including training blind persons, especially the newly blinded, to travel independently to as far as Westmoreland, even using a GPS system. Other daily chores like cooking, banking and doing the laundry, and skill development training such as reading, using a computer, manoeuvring cell phones, including smartphones with applications designed for these purposes, are other lessons that are primarily taught by the society.




This year, the society will celebrate its 64th anniversary, and boasts of its endless and invaluable contribution to uplifting the Jamaican society and putting it one step further to achieving prosperity.

"We have had some big success stories. For example, Senator Floyd Morris was trained here. There is also a policeman working in Portland, who got blind while working and came and did his training and went back to work. But the greater impact is in the number of blind persons we have trained over the years to be independent," he said.

In working to accomplishing its vision, the JSB shines as a ray of hope for blind persons. And with several social activities ,such as quarterly cookouts, where blind persons come together - to cook, eat and have a festive time - these persons are kept motivated to live an emotionally healthy and happy life.




The JBS has a welfare service and scholarship programme that helps two blind persons who are studying, but admits that it is facing some challenges in meeting its mandate. The organisation is training fewer persons than in the years before.

"There were times when we had more field officers and we were training more persons, but limited resources have caused us to cut back," he explained.

The society gets its funding from projects and donations from the entities, including the Government.

He added: "Another major challenge we have is with employment. I think the attitudes that exist sometimes prevent blind people from being employed. People don't want to give them an opportunity to work," he explained.

To remedy this, the society is encouraging blind persons to venture into their own businesses, such as chicken rearing, beekeeping, operating small shops and becoming massage therapists.