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Beyond the Net 14 June 2017

For Me the Internet Is Everything: Supporting Local Heroes in Armenia

By Ilda SimaoFormer Chapter Grants Programme Manager, Internet Society Foundation

Andranik, Sipan, Rudolf and Vahan have several things in common: they are young, they have dreams, they love music, and they love the Internet. The four of them are visual impaired.

They met through the Internet Availability Center at the Cultural House of the Armenian Society of Blinds (ASB).

I had the chance to visit the Center last year and Rudolf told me: “For me the Internet is everything. I cannot imagine what my life, my studies would be without it.”

The Internet Availability Center for visually impaired was created in 2013 following an initiative of the Internet Society Armenia Chapter supported by Internet Society Grants programme. Soon after its creation, the center became a meeting place for young people with visual impairments. They realized the importance of the reach of the Internet in their community  and came up with the idea to create an Internet radio for visually impaired individuals in the Armenian language.

Radio Menq (‘We’ in Armenian) went live on May 30th, 2017. The programs cover rights and privileges, practical problems faced in day-to-day life, and provides advice and solutions for those who are visually impaired. It also talks about opportunities and tells success stories from famous blind people.

The project was selected as one of the 90 ITU WSIS Prizes 2017 Champions. It was recognized as an innovative initiative to empower a local community through the Internet.

Sipan Asatryan, the editor of Radio Menq programs, told us: “It was a good surprise and an inspiration to me that our radio was nominated as one of Champions of the WSIS Prizes 2017. I think it shows that our audience liked our work targeted to increasing public trust toward visually impaired people, spreading proper information, and promoting tolerance toward visually impaired in Armenia.”

Igor Mkrtmyan, the Armenia Chapter President, shared:

“Blind people must believe in their own strength and abilities. After Radio MENQ went live, many participated in the radio either as a program presenter or a sound technician. Internet radio is becoming a path to new horizons and opportunities for blind people. Often there is a stereotype that the blind person can’t work on an equal footing. Internet work, whether in a freelance capacity or as part of a team, allows you to break down these stereotypes. The Internet enables people to be who they choose, to develop for themselves, and as a part of their community.”

Watch the video and meet the Radio MENQ team

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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