Vi­sion to help oth­ers

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - FRONT PAGE - Kaylee Martin

A VIC­TO­RIA Park res­i­dent has been hon­oured for his ded­i­ca­tion to im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion for blind and vi­sion im­paired peo­ple. The pro­grams he helped cre­ate are now used in over 15 coun­tries.

WHEN Vic­to­ria Park’s Iain Mur­ray re­alised ed­u­ca­tion for peo­ple with vi­sion im­pair­ment was very lim­ited, he pledged to make a change.

Now, the Curtin Univer­sity as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor is the one of the brains behind a pro­gram that helps ed­u­cate more than 150 vi­sion-im­paired in over 15 coun­tries.

For his ex­ten­sive ser­vice to peo­ple who are vi­sion im­paired and for his con­tri­bu­tion to ed­u­ca­tion in as­sis­tive tech­nol­ogy, Mr Mur­ray was named on the Queen’s Birth­day 2016 Hon­ours List.

“I’m feel­ing rather pleased ac­tu­ally, but apart from the per­sonal grat­i­fi­ca­tion, I think this is a great op­por­tu­nity to try and raise aware­ness,” Mr Mur­ray said.

“Blind and vi­sion im­paired peo­ple can per­form al­most any job that a sighted per­son can, if given the right train­ing and as­sis­tive tech­nol­ogy.”

Grow­ing up, Mr Mur­ray wit­nessed the strug­gles that a vi­sion-im­paired per­son faced, par­tic­u­larly in ed­u­ca­tion.

“My brother was blind and I grew up with many mem­bers of the blind com­mu­nity, so I got to un­der­stand some of the is­sues they had to deal with,” he said.

“Back in the ’60s and ’70s, ed­u­ca­tion for peo­ple with vi­sion im­pair­ment was rudi­men­tary at best, it was never thought that blind peo­ple could go to univer­sity or hold ‘real jobs’. “Of course this is not true. “What is lack­ing is the ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing, and that’s where I – as an ed­u­ca­tor – thought I could make a dif­fer­ence.”

The Cisco Academy for the Vi­sion Im­paired (CAVI) was born when Mr Mur­ray was devel­op­ing a new course in com­puter sys­tems at Curtin.

He found that a lot of what he was work­ing on would be suited for blind or vi­sion im­paired peo­ple.

“As­sis­tive tech­nol­ogy al­lows blind peo­ple to use com­put­ers as well as any sighted per­son; net­work en­gi­neer­ing doesn’t re­quire high lev­els of mo­bil­ity,” Mr Mur­ray said.

“So I thought I would try out a par­tic­u­lar pro­gram from Cisco Sys­tems. Af­ter a great deal of mod­i­fi­ca­tion and build­ing tools – like a re­motely ac­ces­si­ble net­work­ing lab­o­ra­tory – we man­aged to get through the course.”

Mr Mur­ray said Cisco now used the same tools and mod­i­fi­ca­tions his team had cre­ated, with cour­ses de­liv­ered to a mil­lion stu­dents world­wide.

“We con­tinue to de­velop new cour­ses, mostly in tech­nol­ogy, for ex­am­ple au­dio edit­ing and web de­sign, be­cause yes, blind peo­ple can make web­sites,” Mr Mur­ray said.

By work­ing with part­ners such as En­able In­dia, Cey­lon Fed­er­a­tion of Em­ploy­ers and the Royal Na­tional Col­lege for the Blind (UK), the pro­grams are reach­ing more and more peo­ple.

“I am al­ways look­ing for new part­ner or­gan­i­sa­tions to help us reach ar­eas we don’t have any pres­ence or stu­dents, par­tic­u­larly in devel­op­ing coun­tries where this sort of ed­u­ca­tion is des­per­ately needed,” he said.

Pic­ture: Jon Hew­son d455287

Vi­sion­ary... Iain Mur­ray’s team de­signed a com­puter course for vi­sion-im­paired peo­ple.

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