In the framework of project C.I.F.R.A., the Istituto Cavazza has created a new structure, the Technology Help Centre (Ausilioteca), which offers opportunities to know and experiment with a wide range of educational, computer and electronic aids, designed and developed to support independance for blind and visually impaired persons.

Ernesto Dini

Project C.I.F.R.A. stands for Centre for Integration, Education, Rehabilitation and Independence for blind and visually impaired persons (Centro per l’Integrazione, la Formazione, la Riabilitazione e l’Autonomia delle persone non vedenti ed ipovedenti)  and has been operating for a little over a year, close at hand to the Istituto Cavazza. Among the initiatives promoted and carried out by C.I.F.R.A., the Technology Help Centre is of outstanding importance. Opened last March, the Technology Help Centre offers persons with a visual disability, as well as schools, socio-sanitary centres, professionals and institutions dedicated to problems relating to blindness, the opportunity to learn and experiment with a very wide range of educational, computer and electronic aids. These aids are specifically designed and developed to increase efficiency in school activities, to perform work with more ease, to have accessibility to the world of information and communication, which would otherwise be exclusive to those who see. The Technology Help Centre occupies a vast area inside the Istituto Cavazza. It is separated in three sections, organized in a way that not only the type of aids exhibited is taken into consideration, but also and above all, the development process of those for whom these devices were designed and developed.

The first section is devoted to typhlo-teaching aids, predominantly used in educational activities with elementary school-age children from kindergarden to 11th grade. These aids include game-related teaching tools appropriate to childhood, recognition of height, consistency, shapes, etc.; tools for writing like the traditional slate with stylus to the most modern braille typewriter; aids for drawing and moulding; aids for exercices in math and geometry; maps in raised lines for the study of geography, architecture, natural sciences, biology, chemistry, physics, the human body, wildlife and astronomy; books, booklets and tales with tactile images.

In the second section is organized a large collection of technical, computer and electronic aids among which are the personal computer with Braille display and voice synthesis; scanners and printers; Braille Lite; teaching kits (in print, Braille, CD-ROM or cassette) to learn how to use Windows and the Internet with the use of screen reader software; Clicking-Clicking CD-ROM (Cliccando cliccando), a multimedia technology for persons with disabilities under the care of Aldo Costa; Invitation to Braille (Invito al Braille) CD-ROM, an interactive project with a special keyboard linked to the computer to teach Braille to sighted persons (teachers, professionals, parents, etc.); numerous CD-ROM (Italian, Latin, English and Spanish  language dictionaries, great masterpieces of Italian and foreign literature, etc.), analyzed by the C.I.S.A.D. and made accessible for persons who are blind and visually impaired. The C.I.S.A.D. is the Computer Centre for Experimentation of Teaching Aids (Centro Informatico per la Sperimentazione degli Ausili Didattici) which operates within Cavazza.

And finally, the third section is reserved to Low Vision aids, such as video magnification systems, portable and table models, used for reading printed texts in colours or in black and white, or for distance vision, as for example, the system for classes which enables low vision students to see what is written on the blackboard. Magnification systems may be used for mobility like the infrared system, which enables night mobility for persons who have pigmentosa retinitis and therefore experience problems with night vision. Systems have evolved in such a way that they are of small size, and may be placed on the hat or glasses. In some cases, it is possible to interface systems with the computer, using both devices and making it easier for studies, work, etc.

The Technology Help Centre is coordinated by Dr. Fernando Torrente with the collaboration of two highly specialized technicians and, when necessary, experts from the Istituto Cavazza, from the Centre on Typhlo-Teaching Aids Consulting of the Italian Library of Queen Margherita di Monza (Centro di Consulenza Tiflodidattica della Biblioteca Italiana Regina Margherita di Monza), which is located within the institute, from the C.I.S.A.D. and the Centre for Low Vision (Centro per l'Ipovisione). Cavazza's Technology Help Centre is working with schools, socio-sanitary centres, the Technology Help Centre of A.I.A.S., and Bologna's Centre for Technological Aids in order to create appropriate contacts for a useful exchange of expertise, collaboration and consultation in order to avoid isolation and division of the new structure, and to further increase its integration within the operative and cultural fabric of the our city.