Impact of the conference on future developments
Vladimir Radulov, Bulgaria

(professor in special education at the Sofia University, Bulgaria)

Plenary session 4, Thursday 13 July 2000, 14.00 - 15.30

Dear Mr President, dear colleagues and friends,

Only a few people in this hall probably remember the year 1975. What actually happened then? It was the year that the first European Conference on the education of people with visual impairment took place in Liubliana. It has been a long time since then. I remember being rather young then.

In Liubliana we made the first step towards Cracow 2000. We do not need to compare the two conferences, but everything that we have been doing through the years has taken us closer and closer to the event of today. In 1977 at the World Conference of ICVI in Paris we put forward for the first time, although rather modestly, the problems of the multi -disabled visually handicapped children.

One of the important features of the Conference in Cracow is that it strongly focuses on the methods, strategies and means for the education of this group of children. Now we are leaving the World Conference of ICEVI with more ideas how to train these children.
The conference in Cracow has offered some new points of view towards blindness and visual impairment. Thanks to the accumulated experience and to the new scientific research, we have to reconsider some of our beliefs and leave some myths and prejudices behind, so that we can see the future, which belongs to us all. This conference highlighted the social education and the different approaches in changing social behaviour. The social skills programs have strongly developed. We all know, that without social skills integration into society is impossible.
I would also like to give emphasis to the issue of the parent organizations, which was largely discussed at this conference. Parent organizations support groups of different structures and models shared experience. Parents themselves shared their practical knowledge.

During the conference we have come to understand that we cannot think of the future without bearing in mind the new technologies. We are facing a lot of challenges. On one hand the electronic book has developed, on the other hand - there is still the basic need for Braille literacy. Both the Braille and synthetic languages will go together but we must find the right balance between them. Sighted children have similar problems. They can choose between television, video, the Internet and at the same time they need to become literate. The visually impaired children have the chance to join the others in this complicated situation.

The discussions on the partnership were orientated mainly at three levels: Partnership and cooperation at national level - between national institutions and agencies; international partnership and bilateral projects.
In conclusion, allow me to make a special mention of three significant features of this conference:

  1. The European Conference in Cracow has been the largest one till this moment.
  2. The participants showed the highest degree of activity compared to all the previous conferences.
  3. And last but not least, the fact that this conference was remarkably accessible to all who wanted to attend it and especially to the countries of the Eastern Block which were supported by ICEVI one more time. We enter the new millennium with optimism because we are together and thus we can achieve a lot more.

Sofia University, dept. of special education
Shipchensky prohod str. 69A, Sofia 1574 Bulgaria

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