Sunday, July 16, 2017

Dilmah National Cricket Tournament for the Visually Impaired 2017 My Experience.

This year we had our qualifies at Monaragala. We had 5 teams in our group. They were Shakthi, Super Kings, Senehasa, Rathmalana School Team and The Sri Lanka Council for the Blind. We had to travel for 8 hours to reach Monaragala, but everything was arranged nicely for our players and we had a good rest before our matches.
We won our first match against the Thangalle Senehasa Team. Kalyan Kumar scored a half century, in balling me and Kalyan took 3 wickets each. Kalyan Kumar is a member of the national cricket team since 1998 so it was a great experience for me to play with him in the same team. After the first round we placed 3rd in the group. In the quarter finals we lost to Super Kings Team. In that match Madusanka Vishvanath scored a half century, In balling he took 3 wickets, me and Kalyan took 1 wicket each.

I’m satisfied with my performances in the tournament this year. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Chess for the visually impaired in Sri Lanka

For a long time I wanted to write something and create awareness in the SL chess community about the Visually impaired chess players of Sri Lanka.
Most of us do not have the faintest idea that such 'visually handicapped' players exist in Sri Lanka. That includes most of the National players who have played against IBCA in the Olympiads.
Recently I (along with Marlon Fernando) had the good fortune of assisting the preparation of three Sri Lankan players who represented Sri Lanka at IBCA Asia Pacific Chess Championship for Visually Challenged, 2017 held in India.
Few simple words of encouragement would also mean a great deal for Visually handicapped players. Also please note some of them learned to play chess AFTER they became completely blind, which is something incredible. (Most of them are soldiers who fought the war and lost their precious eye sight due to explosions)
The leader of our Visually handicapped Chess team Mr Tuan Rushdi Cassim has following message to our chess community. In his message he discusses the need for them to play in regular tournaments in order to improve. I implore all our International rated tournament organizers to consider his request and provide them with an opportunity. (FIDE rules allow Visually handicapped players to play in regular tournaments)

"Chess is the only sport a visually impaired player can play with a sighted player with an equal-ground. Chess for the visually impaired first started in Sri Lanka in early 2000’s. The Sri Lankan national visually impaired Chess team has represented the country in the Asia Pacific Chess Championship for Visually Challenged in the year 2003 and 2017. There are about 40 visually impaired Chess players in Sri Lanka. As a member of the visually impaired national Chess team I feel that, the best way to improve Chess for the visually impaired in Sri Lanka is to give us an opportunity to play in some tournaments organised for the sighted Chess players. This will help our players to get tournament practice and to get ratings"

How visually impaired play Chess


The Chess Board of 64 squares has the following modifications:
•All the Black squares are raised about 3-4 mm above the white squares. By feeling the squares, the player is able to determine whether the square is a black or a white one.
•Each of the squares on the Board has a hole in the centre so that the pieces can be fixed in these holes.
•Each of the pieces has a downward projection (nail) at the base, which fits into the hole in the squares on the Board, thereby fixing the piece securely on the board.
•All the Black pieces have a pin fixed on their heads helping the player distinguish between a white and a black piece.


The players therefore, by feeling the raised or the lowered squares can figure out whether the piece is on a black or a white square. By feeling the shape of the piece, they can determine whether the piece is a Pawn, Rook, Bishop, Knight, Queen or King. The touch of the pin on the pieces helps the player from distinguishing a white piece from a black one. The player is therefore able to have a clear picture in his mind of the position on the Board. He is now ready to take on any opponent, sighted or otherwise.

Reference : http://www.ibca-info.org/how-visually-impaired-play-chess.php

Monday, July 3, 2017

Workshop on Supporting Inclusive Society 2017

“Inclusive Society”, a topic which is so close to my heart. Firstly I would like to share my experience and what I know about an inclusive society. When I started my first job as a manager at a wedding decoration firm I was just an undergraduate.  At that time I didn’t know my eyesight was so poor to work in an office environment. Employees who worked under me at that time had noticed I had a poor eyesight and they have told this matter to the director of the organization. They have tested my eyesight while I was at work in different ways that I didn’t have any clue that they were testing me. One day the director told me I got a poor eyesight which is a barrier for the position I was working at that time and told me to resign from the job. It was a shock for me, I can still remember the day I left that job. I stood in the bus stop wondering what to do or where to go for a long time. After that I was afraid to apply for any jobs and I was at home for 2 years trying different treatments to improve my eyesight.
Then I joined the Sri Lanka Council for the Blind rehabilitation program, to learn how to use the computer with screen readers and to learn Braille. I also joined the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon ICT program for the visually impaired. I gained good knowledge about screen readers and I also served as a volunteer information technology instructor at Rathmalana School for the Blind. At that time I was confident that I can work in an office environment because I had good knowledge in tools that a visually impaired person can use in an office environment to perform different tasks. When I was a member in the Sri Lanka Federation of Visually Handicapped Youth I got my dream job, the job that I loved to do. To be an e-Marketing Consultant. I was very happy about my new job. I had lots of experience and knowledge to apply at my work to improve the business for the new organization I joined.
As usual I started analysing their web site and recognised some changes and started working on them. I checked their email marketing system and fixed an issue they were facing at that time, I created new social media pages which are essential for their kind of business, checking emails, social media inquiries, analysing website hits etc. e-Marketing was a new area for business at that time so no one at the organisation didn’t know much about e-Marketing. For them e-Marketing was, the number of Facebook Fan Page likes and the number of Facebook friends. I was working with screen readers, a magnified computer screen and a video magnifier to read printed documents. I felt like I was an “Alien”, who has come from another world, where others were performing their tasks normally. Other employees in the organisation  made me feel like that. They were focussing more on things I couldn’t do than things I can do. For example designing leaflets, which is challenging for me to do with my vision. They didn’t believe in building a strong e-marketing base which will help an organisation to improve their business in the future and a visually challenged person can do it for them. I didn’t want to work there anymore because my working environment was very uncomfortable.
After that I got an opportunity to work with the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon. To manage the e-Marketing campaign for their biggest event, “The EFC Business Symposium”. And to manage the e-Marketing campaign for the project “Local Empowerment through Economic Development” (LEED), organized by The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon Disability Network. It was a totally different working environment for me. When I was working with them I felt that my voice was heard and I’m an important person in the organization. I also got an opportunity to work as a “Bio Medical Support Technician”, a job title many visually impaired persons would skip when applying for a job. Managing a person with disability at a working place is a rare skill for an employer. I saw that quality in all the workers in the company where I worked as a Bio Medical Technician. It’s amazing how encouraging they were, my boss always used to say “Believe in God, He can do miracles” and he told others to support me at work. I had my own tool set. I had a portable video magnifier, a torch, a normal magnifier and my screen reading software installed to the laptop. My boss used to take my opinion in IT related issues in the company. I felt that I’m an important employee in the company. I supported in repairing bio medical equipment’s, preparing documents, managing maintenance reports, handing over repaired machines to hospitals and managing IT related tasks in the company.
In sports I got the opportunity to practice and play with regular vision players and I was welcomed to join with them both in Swimming and Chess. When I was reading for my degree and other courses I got all the resources I needed to complete my tasks. Lecturers and my colleagues were very supportive and friendly. With all these mixed experiences about an inclusive society I was so excited and happy to participate in the workshop on “Supporting Inclusive Society”.
The workshop was organized by the Asian Blind Union (ABU). venue of the workshop was Opulent River Face Hotel. It was a 4 day workshop, starting from the 21st May to 24th May 2017. The facilitator for the workshop was Ms. Soha Fleyfil. Members from India, Pakistan, Afganistan and Sri Lanka participated in the workshop.
The main topics covered in the workshop were defining inclusion, disability inclusion, Characteristics of an inclusive organisation, Characteristics of an inclusive manager, the project cycle, vision, mission, overall strategy, accessibility and areas of accessibility. We did lot of practical’s to understand the meanings of all the lessons and how we can practically use what we learned from the workshop. The lessons were structured in a way that we can understand everything about an inclusive society. Among South Asian countries I felt that India is in front when it comes to protecting rights for a person with disability. In Pakistan and Afganistan it is similar  to what we are practicing here in Sri Lanka.

According to my experiences and the knowledge I gained from the workshop I feel that if you are a person with a disability no matter what tools you use, for a visually impaired person even though you have a synthetic pair of eyes that you can use at your workplace, if the working environment is not comfortable for you, it is hard for you to perform your tasks effectively and efficiently. For me an inclusive organisation is an organisation which values the contribution of all employees, including individuals with disabilities. Our voice should be heard. It makes us feel we are also a part of the organisation. I felt that, if employers can participate in these kinds of workshops they would also learn something that they can use at their workplace. The manager plays a crucial role in an inclusive organisation. For an inclusive organisation, “Full participation  is not the goal it is the action”!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Dilmah National Cricket Tournament 2017 for the blind and Visually challenged

The 6th Dilmah Challenge Trophy National Blind Cricket Tournament is set to begin tomorrow, it has been announced. The tournament, which will run over the course of nearly two months from 3 June-29 July, will see 11 teams taking part in 30 matches across Colombo and Monaragala. 

This year’s tournament is being organised by Dilmah, who have been supporting the event since 2005, and the Sri Lanka Cricket Association for the Visually Handicapped (SLCAVH). Together they hope to attract many more novice players to the sport by giving all teams registered with the SLCAVH the chance to compete at a national level, with the tournament’s best players being selected to play for the national side. The teams, which include those from the North as well as Army personnel, will consist of both fully and partially blind cricketers.

“It reflects a commitment not only as a business and a family but as a nation, to recognise these gentlemen and to recognise their ability to celebrate what they can do, and not to focus on what they cannot,” said Dilmah Marketing Director Dilhan Fernando at media briefing on Wednesday. 

“We have been very honoured for several years to have been involved with several of them, and why that has been particularly inspiring is the effect it has had on each of them. Many of the young men who have participated have gone on to develop themselves, because the most important thing of this challenge trophy is the dignity that it offers the contestants.”

Sri Lanka has been the third best team in the world since 2012 and Norbert Silva, Secretary of the Sri Lanka Cricket Association for the Visually Handicapped, expressed his gratitude to Dilmah for their continuous support in this achievement.

“Dilmah are the first organisation who joined us to uplift and upgrade cricket for the visually handicapped. I think before 2005 we couldn’t arrange any national tournaments but now we’re about to hold our sixth one. It has at times been a challenge to try and improve cricket for the visually handicapped in the country but we had to accept the challenge, if not we would’ve have been neglected.” 

The national blind cricket tournament is a cause close to the heart of Dilmah Founder, Merrill J. Fernando, who established the MJF Charitable Foundation to fulfil his commitment of making “business a matter of human service”.

Said Fernando in a press release: “A national blind cricket tournament is a manifestation of their strengths. It is everyone’s responsibility to help them develop their talents. Sri Lanka is known as a cricket country and the Dilmah country, and I hope that visually impaired cricketers will gain due recognition through the event.”


Apart from supporting the national blind cricket tournament, the MJF Charitable Foundation has throughout the years assisted the visually impaired through various initiatives such as the annual AIDEX sports meet that rewards the talents of the differently-abled community in Sri Lanka and the Knowledge Chest initiative which voice records publications to ensure those who are visually impaired have access to vital publications without having to bear the high cost of Braille books. The MJF Charitable Foundation is also working closely with the School for the Deaf and Blind in Ratmalana and Subhagya Vidyalaya - the School for the Hearing and Visual lmpaired in Moneragala. (MB)-Pix by Upul Abayasekera

The Asian Pacific Chess Championship for the Visually Challenge 2017.

I was so happy to be selected for the Asian chess tournament for the visually challenge 2017. The tournament was an individual tournament and 3 players were selected for the tournament from Sri Lanka.

This was the first time I represented my country in an international sports event. The tournament was very tuff. Indian players dominated the tournament, winning the top 5 places. I placed 20th in the tournament by getting 2 points out of 8 rounds, while my other team members got 1 point each. I had some good wins against higher rated visually challenged players via Skype real time tournaments before we went to India for the Asian Chess tournament, but when it comes to real tournament games the atmosphere is totally different. We last played our national tournament in 2014, since then we didn’t have any tournaments organized for the visually challenged players in Sri Lanka. This was a great experience for me.


During the tournament we had 2 workshops in the topic of “How to develop Chess in Asia for the visually challenge”.  And I learned a lot from the case study presented by Mr. Charu Daththa how they developed Chess in India for the visually challenged. What I felt was we are in a similar situation where India was in 1998. No one has taken the responsibility to develop Chess in Sri Lanka for the visually challenged.  This is a good time for all Chess lovers in Sri Lanka to get together and develop Chess for the visually challenge in Sri Lanka.

Helping visually challenged friends part 1

Hospitality means helping people feel comfortable in your home. There are limits, of course. You can’t let guests eat all your food or kick you out of your own bed. But other than extremes, you want to be a good host, roommate, or partner.

Things get a bit complicated when you’re working with someone who has vision problems. It could be blindness, or it could just be a problem with glare and clarity. But how can you show good hospitality when working with the visually impaired? You make some simple changes, that’s how.

 Focus On Colours and Contrasts
Making things colourful for people with vision problems might not make sense at first. But remember that not all vision impairments are blindness. Many people can still see — they just have trouble seeing clearly or differentiating between objects.

That’s why colour and contrast are two indispensable tools for you. Solid, bright colours are easier to see, so they can make things easier for anyone with a vision problem. On the opposite end, avoid dark colours (dark blues, browns, and blacks) as they can look identical.

Contrast is another way to help the visually impaired live more fully in your home. Light objects against dark backgrounds (and vice versa) can make them much easier to focus on. That’s also why you should avoid pale or clear items like glasses. Put a white piece of paper on a light-coloured wall, and some people might not be able to see it at all. 
Getting Your Kitchen Organized
Even if someone isn’t fully blind, anyone with a visual impairment will rely on predictability and organization. That’s because they cannot trust their eyes like others do. You can take advantage of that to help people with vision problems work in your kitchen more safely and comfortably.

Start by getting large labels and clearly writing (with colour and contrast in mind) what’s inside a given can, box, or container. You probably don’t have to label a gallon of milk this way since the shape and colour are familiar. But doing this for canned goods can mean the difference between rice-n-beans and rice-n-green beans.

You’ll also want to organize things in the kitchen. Keep all the spices in one place, preferably not over the stove. Put all pans in one cabinet, pots in another, and make sure you get the right lids with the right cookware. You can even organize your fridge by always putting drinks on one shelf, vegetables in the crisper, and so on.
Pay Close Attention to Floors
Unless you have a problem with your vision, you probably don’t think about how the floors in your home can be a problem. If there’s something in the way or a rug that you know can move about, you just step around it. But that’s hard to do when you have trouble seeing those.

That’s why you need to examine your floors for any trouble spots. Make sure your carpeting isn’t worn or torn, and tape/tack any area rugs so they won’t move. If you have tile or wood flooring, check to see how much glare comes off them. A shiny hardwood floor in strong lighting might look pretty, but if you have vision problems, it could be one giant glare — and a serious problem to walk on.

Lastly, make sure there’s as many straight paths inside as possible. The last thing you want is someone with impaired vision to have to navigate a twisty path around footrests, standing lamps, out-of-place chairs, and random boxes on the floor.
Everyone Can Feel Welcome
Having a houseguest that has a visual impairment can be intimidating. How can you make sure they’re safe and comfortable? By paying attention to colour and contrast, organizing things in the kitchen, and the state of your floors, you can help everyone feel welcome. It also doesn’t hurt to keep in mind that your guest might be facing other issues, such as depression (which in extreme cases can even lead to substance abuse and addiction). Beyond just making your home more suitable, try to show some compassion and put yourself in their shoes.


By Jackie Waters.