The National Institute for the Blind, Visually Impaired, and Deaf-blind in Iceland is a national institute governed by the Ministry of Welfare and was established in 2009. The main goals of the institute are rehabilitation, education, and counseling. The primary purpose of the institute is to service clients, their families, teachers, and other professionals in their immediate environment. Services take place in the environment that the client is in and are based on his/her wishes in the home, school, and workplace, and are aimed at encouraging participation, reducing social isolation and increasing independence. At the institute, ind ividual service plans are based on the client´s own needs and abilities.
The institute offers services in all areas for people who are visually impaired or blind, including mobility and orientation training, daily living skills, braille, low vision aids, guide dogs, computers and technology, social counseling and providing Braille and large print materials and books.
Recently the institute was visited by their Sound of Vision partners from the University of Iceland and Fondazione Istituto Per L‘Interscambio Scientifico in Italy. After learning about the institute and the services it provides, an Orientation and Mobility specialist informed the group about how people learn Orientation and Mobility (O&M) and how to use a white cane. To be able to understand O&M better the guests were blindfolded, given a white cane and they had their first lessons in O&M. The lessons were both inside and outside the institute and involved for example how to avoid obstacles, to find a way from one place to another and to walk up and down stairs. Also, they were tested in detecting where sounds were coming from by the O&M specialist clicking on a device from different distances and different heights compared to where the individual was standing. According to the O&M specialists at the institute lessons like this help sighted people to better perceive how it is to be visually impaired or blind and how a device like the Sound of Vision team is designing could be useful in these circumstances.
Sound of Vision project members during a first lesson in Mobility and Orientation