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Event Highlights Needs of The Blind

Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from Cyprus Mail, Cyprus, April 26, 2007.

DISCRIMINATION is rife in Cyprus, with stricter measures needed in the fight against prejudice, lack of tolerance and inequality.

That was the verdict of Christos Nicolaides, the President of the Pancyprian Organization for the Blind, who was yesterday speaking at a special event at the St. Barnabus School for the Blind on the occasion of European Equal Opportunities Year.

"Half of all Europeans believe that attempts to stop discrimination against the blind are not enough, so our organization has decided to undertake an information campaign relating to matters of equal opportunity, which must be for all," he said.

Law Commissioner Leda Koursoumba, who is also the President of the National Institution for the Protection of Human Rights, made a speech on the current situation regarding equal opportunities in Cyprus, and she was followed by Justice Minister Sophocles Sophocleous, who also addressed the audience.

Nicosia Mayor Eleni Mavrou was also present, speaking out on equal opportunities from theory to practice, while Greek MP Eleftheria Bernidaki-Altous spoke of the right to equal opportunities for blind women.

Layia Karpasitis, who is a teacher at St. Barnabas, told the Mail that there are 1,050 people in Cyprus who are registered as blind, but that the organization believes the total number is over actually around 2,000.

She added that the most important thing is to make people aware of the problems facing the blind.

"Once they receive education and training, blind people can function just like everybody else. We don't want to create myths about the blind as they're just ordinary people."

The European Commission has designated 2007 as "European Year of Equal Opportunities for All" as part of a concerted effort to promote equality and non-discrimination in the European Union. The European Year is the centrepiece of a framework strategy designed to ensure that discrimination is effectively tackled, diversity is celebrated and equal opportunities for all are promoted.

European Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimir Ipidla, said: "Europe must work towards real equality in practice. The European Year of Equal Opportunities for All and the framework strategy will provide a new drive towards ensuring the full application of EU anti-discrimination legislation, which has encountered too many obstacles and delays. Fundamental rights, non-discrimination and equal opportunities will remain key priorities for the European Commission."

The four core themes of the European Year proposed by the Commission are: Rights, representation, recognition, and respect and tolerance.