Ernesto Dini

Created in 2001, C.I.F.R.A. is the Centre for Integration, Training, Rehabilitation, and Autonomy of persons who are blind and low vision.

Alberto Borghi has written abundantly concerning the constitution of the organization in no 2 of this magazine in 2001. Let's recall that the Centre was born out of an initiative of the Istituto Cavazza, and thanks to a significant financial contribution of the Fondazione della Cassa di Risparmio of Bologna. It aims to provide greater and more efficient support of school and work integration for young people and adults with sensory disability. This will be done through initiatives and services aimed at awakening, reinforcing, and developing a greater awareness of the problems linked to disability. It encourages training of teachers and workers involved in the educational and training process of blind and low vision persons, stimulating collaboration with schools and other institutions working in the field of rehabilitation of persons in difficulty. As a matter of fact, as is written in the preamble of the Centre's project document, the basic steps are medical, as well as ophthalmologic assessment and assistance; psychological help to families and individuals; pedagogical and didactic advice to schools and teachers; functional rehabilitation of disabled persons; training and professional orientation; help with the use of common and special technology aids, and, lastly, development of advanced qualification and updating courses for curricular and support teachers.

Since the beginning, C.I.F.R.A. has integrated perfectly the structures already in place at the Istituto Cavazza (Talking and Digital Book Library, Experimental Centre of Teaching Aids, Typhlotechnical and Computer Service, Professional Training Centre, Anteros Tactile Museum, Low Vision Service, Typhlo-pedagogy Consulting Service), enriching and enhancing the activities and roles of each sector, in full respect of the individual and specific competence and professionalism they provide. Important and highly significant collaborations are now taking place with the National Federation of Institutions for the Blind, with the Region of Emilia-Romagna, and with the Italian Library for the Blind Regina Margherita di Monza, as well as recent projects with Azienda U.S.L. Bologna Sud, the Administrative Service Centre (school) and the University of Bologna. Those who are in charge of the life and operations of Project C.I.F.R.A., setting guidelines and intervention criteria, have oriented themselves towards a mid-term programme, given the fact that the financial contribution of the CARISBO Foundation, determinant in the life of the Centre, has a duration of four years. However, this has not prevented them from undertaking important initiatives, some of which, the most important ones, will be briefly described here, taking into account that at the end of the four-year period, a comprehensive and in depth review of the whole experience will be done.
The work done by C.I.F.R.A. in its first two years is remarkable, and lays foundations for ulterior development of great interest.

Information Service with U.S.L. Bologna Sud
The series of initiatives begin with the agreement with Azienda U.S.L. Bologna Sud, which allows the possibility for blind and low vision people living in the area to directly, and personally take advantage of the establishment's information service, through the use of special aids (booklets and brochures reproduced in braille, on audiocassette or CD-ROM, access to the Web portal, etc.).

Light Eyes Project
This is another important project consisting of a sight prevention program to detect potential sight problems of students in all of Bologna's elementary schools. The campaign kept a group of ophthalmologists and orthoptists busy for quite a few months, examining over 10,000 students. The research has recently ended, and data is in the process of being entered in a computer database designed specifically for this. A special study on epidemiology will be published, and it is promising important results, susceptible to be used by health and prevention services.

Almabraille Project
This project aims to offer an assistance service to blind and low vision university students. A room at the library of the University of Bologna is about to be completely set up with special accessories and computer aids. The project's plan is also to hire two highly specialized teachers who will work with students using devices, doing research, reproducing study tests, etc.

Tactile Mouse Project
This project is in the process of being carried out. It aims at producing tactile maps with highly scientific characteristics in terms of the quality of the material, and the adoption of modality, codification, and symbology purposely studied and agreed on at the international level. Initially, tactile maps of the Istituto Cavazza will be produced, then some general maps of the City of Bologna, and others for orientation and mobility, relative to the representative development of the Quartiere Santo Stefano, within ring roads. The achievement and production of so-called video-tactile maps have requested, as it is easy to imagine, very specific studies, and a long and careful experimentation because of the obvious difference between the ability and capacity of reading through the use of the touch, compared to the use of sight.

Technology Help Centre
Cavazza's Technology Help Centre (Ausilioteca) is another interesting initiative, which offers the public opportunities to know and experiment with a wide range of educational, computer, and electronic aids designed for studies and communication. The Technology Help Centre is divided into three sections: the first section is devoted to teaching aids used in pre-school, elementary school up to the 11th grade. These aids include game-related teaching tools for Braille writing, for studies in math, geometry, geography, sciences, etc. In the second section is organized a collection of technical, computer and electronic aids for the blind (Braille displays, voice synthesis, special software for access to multimedia products, which otherwise would not be readily available). The third section is reserved to low vision aids such as video magnification systems, and special boards allowing low vision people to use and protect their residual vision without having to use tactile or vocal aids.

Blindfolded Pirates and To Free the Dream Projects
These are two important projects dedicated to school activities with young and older blind and low vision children, as well as the knowledge and in-depth learning of problems related to the link between disability and family, school, and institutions. Both projects have been proposed by the Parents Committee, which works within the Bolognese subdivision of the Italian Blind Union. The first one, called Blindfolded Pirates, is a special experience realized by children in school, where sighted students are blindfolded, and asked to accomplish the same activities as their blind and low vision companions. The second project, called To Free the Dream, is in the process of being carried out, and concerns a series of ten meetings for families, curricular and support teachers, professionals in schools and institutions responsible of integrating young and older children with physical and sensory disabilities. Participating are experts in the fields of psychology, typhlology, typhlo-teaching, neuropsychiatry, and specialized in the social, institutional, and associative areas as well. Meetings have begun on October 11th, and will extend until February 21st.

Echoes in the Night
The 150th anniversary of the death of Louis Braille, the great inventor of the writing and reading system bearing his name, has just been celebrated. And it is still the year dedicated to persons with disabilities. The Istituto Cavazza could not resist the temptation of celebrating these important events, in particular the anniversary of the death of Louis Braille. His brilliant and hard-fought invention, has contributed to save the blind from a condition of hopeless isolation and total ignorance, providing them with an easy to use instrument for reading and writing. It therefore gave them opportunity to educate themselves, to study, to learn, and access information, as well as employment. With courage and sensibility, the Istituto Cavazza has faced the risks of an uneasy challenge, and has encouraged, with the solicitous and concrete collaboration of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Bologna, the production of a film entitled Echoes in the Night. From some events related to the life of Louis Braille and his brilliant invention, the film discusses the importance that had and still has the Braille system, an irreplaceable instrument of cultural and social emancipation for those who are blind. The title of the film Echoes in the Night (Echi di Sera) has the same title as a musical composition from the 30's by master Antonio Belletti, who was a student and later a teacher at the Istituto Cavazza. The composition is actually the soundtrack of the movie. The movie was directed by Bolognese director Enza Neuroni, working with a group of excellent young actors. It was presented to the press these past weeks, as well as to authorities, and to the closest collaborators of the Istituto Cavazza and the Foundation. It will be introduced through the usual distribution channels, and we hope it will have the success it deserves. A Web site for Project C.I.F.R.A. was created (www.progettocifra.net), presenting information, news, logistics, and activities.

Re-reading these notes, we realize that the initiatives, carried out during the first two years of life of Project C.I.F.R.A., have been written somewhat hastily, and that the necessity for synthesis does not necessarily agree with being clear and exhaustive. Each initiative deserves to be fully discussed one by one. As we know, behind each project there are, other than the human and financial resources which are not always easily available, the continuous, intense, and passionate work of many, often linked to fantasy and creative ability. Their work is often disinterested, motivated by a generous feeling of solidarity, and a strong moral and social commitment.

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