HISTORICAL DATA ABOUT THE INSTITUTION
NATIONAL REHABILITATION CENTER FOR THE BLIND – FOUNDATION AND DEVELOPMENT
1. FOUNDATION AND FIRST STEPS /1966 - 1975/
The Rehabilitation Center for the Blind opens up on 17 October 1966 in Plovdiv. The first 12 clients from different parts of the country come for basic rehabilitation. The Central managing body of the Union of the blind /UBB/ has taken the decision for the foundation of such a center in Plovdiv six months before that. Its organization is confided to Hristo Belobradov – a former school inspector, director and an activist for the development of education and services for blind people in Bulgaria – a newly-blind person himself ( Danchev, 1999).
Hristo Belobradov brilliantly manages his task. He investigates the experience of the western European and central European countries and the USA in the field of basic rehabilitation of visually impaired people. He organizes the delivery of special literature and its translation to Bulgarian, which sets the commencement of a unique in its character specialized library collection. (Dochev, 1970)
He attracts consultants and teachers - enthusiastic and dedicated specialists. He measures are outlined to enlist, admit and orientate clients. The studies are furnished with the most necessary learning appliances. The first lesson plans and schedules in the different rehabilitation subjects are made. , as well as the job description of the personnel and the daily routine. Competitions for the best Braille reader are held on a regular basis. The in-the-job practice and learning-educational excursions are introduced. (Belobradov, 1970)
With the very foundation of the Center for rehabilitation, along with the training in basic rehabilitation, the vocational training in electro installing and cord-bag knitting. The training in electro installing is necessary due to the fact that in most specialized production enterprises of the Union of the blind in Bulgaria (UBB) at the time exist electro installing work shops. Many of the trainees, who have taken vocational training, begin work there. Cord-bag knitting turns out to be especially perspective. The greater parts of the trainees start work mainly as home workers. The director of the Center for rehabilitation Hristo Belobradov takes special care for the pre-vocational and vocational training. Special attention is paid to the vocational realization of the clients. Members of the then rehabilitation team say that about 90 % of the graduators have started work in the specialized enterprises and the Peoples’-customer cooperation of the blind. Since its very beginning the center becomes a unit, developing school-books, learning aids and different didactic materials in different rehabilitation subjects. Members of its team such as Hristo Belobradov , Damian M. Damianov, Vladimir Zhelev, Roza Ivanova, Elfina Bozhilova and Stefka Stoycheva are the authors or co-authors of such aids.
Not only has Hristo Belobradov started the Center, guides its activity, but he manages it till his final day – 14 May 1975
2. NEW FUNCTIONS AND APPROACHES /1975 - 1986/
During this period the Center expands its capacity for clients’ admittance in boarding-house form of training from 12 to 15 clients in a stream. Sometimes the number of the clients reaches up to 18 people.
The first regular teacher positions are opened in 1977. Tests and check-lists for measuring the achievements in the different rehabilitation subjects are incorporated in the work (Radulov, 1991). The NRCB takes part in the work of an international conference in the field of rehabilitation of visually impaired people for the first time in 1977 in the Netherlands. At the conference Dimitar Paraponov delivers a report on the Bulgarian experience in the field of basic rehabilitation.
The individual approach is incorporated in the rehabilitation work in 1978. (Parapanov, 1986). Specialized short-term rehabilitation courses are organized for newly-blind with diabetes and elderly people (Sotirov, 2001). Two courses for vocational training are organized in the Center: in 1977 – training for piano tuners; and in 1981-1983 for training of programmers. The piano tuners’ course might be evaluated as quite successful. Two of the graduators are appointed and others work when summoned. Unfortunately, neither of the programmer graduators starts work, despite the great efforts on the managers’ side, as well as the Central management of the UBB in the person of dr. Evdokia Tzutzulova (Sotirov, 2000).
Courses for training of instructors in orientation and mobility for the needs of the schools for visually impaired children, of the local organizations of the UBB, structures of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy and the Municipalities have been organized in the Center since 1979.
Since the Plovdiv boarding-house center has began to do rehabilitation in residence, which include 18 of the 27 then existing county organizations of the UBB.
During this period the Center’ management takes great efforts to expand the necessary equipment. The Center’s director at that time, Dimitar Parapanov, looks after popularizing the Center’s activity, clients’ recruiting and their further social reintegration.
3. EXPANDING THE ACTIVITY AND THE NECESSARY EQUIPMENT
Angel Sotirov is a director of the Center during the period 1988— 2001. He does his best as well to expand the necessary equipment, improvement of the living standards, enlarging the number of the offered services and renovation of the whole documentation. All curricula and the learning plan are updated, a diagnostic period is initiated and on its basis individual rehabilitation plans are made for each client.
The necessary equipment of the Center expands three times and as a result of this its capacity is expanded to 24 clients per a stream. The living conditions in the boarding-house are extremely improved and toilets and bathrooms are established in each room. 9 new studies are opened up, telephones and radios are installed in the Center. The efficiency of its overall activity is increased. New functions are mastered, the offered services are expanded. (Sotirov, 2001). For the needs of the local organizations of the UBB in the Center has begun to be prepared instructors in useful skills since 1988 and since 1991 – the rehabilitation teachers from all day-time centers for newly blind have received their initial special preparation in it.
The first Bulgarian visual rehabilitation study has been opened up since June 1992 in the Center. The visual therapist teams with an ophthalmologist and an optometrist. By means of special exercises, visually impaired people develop skills for more efficient use of their residual sight. This is of great importance, bearing in mind the fact that the number of totally blind people reduces on the account of people with residual visual functions. The experts, working in the study get their preparation in “Training the poor vision” in Sweden and in the Institute for the blind in Hadley – USA. With the cooperation of Jack and Vera Twinder and their foundation Evidente – the Netherlands in 2000-2003 the study has completed its equipment with all necessary optical and technical devices. With their financial and expert assistance during this period a thorough repair of the toilets and the bathrooms was done, which substantially improved the living conditions in the boarding-house, as well as in the administrative part of the Center.
Services for home rehabilitation, headed by Dimitar Parapanov has been functioning in the NRCB since 1991–1993. for the period of its functioning dozens of visually impaired people, mainly from Plovdiv have been using its services. During the training in cognitive skills, in 1998-1999 a collection of models of different animals and machines was made to the aim of forming realistic ideas in the congenital blind clients.
Deaf-blind clients are rehabilitated in the Center since its foundation. In December 1998 with the assistance of “Sense international” – Great Britain and the partnership of National Association of deaf-blind in Bulgaria /NADBB/ and department “Special pedagogic” of the SU “St Kl. Ohridski” a one-week training was held at the center for its team and NADBB representatives. The English team evaluates diagnostically such people. (Sotirov, 1999). Foreign clients have been admitted for rehabilitation at the NRCB as well. In 1995 and 2002 visually impaired people from Moldova were included in Basic rehabilitation courses and in 2005 one teacher in Upholstery was trained for the needs of the Union of the blind in Moldova.
In 1995 — 1996 in the Center are organized courses for vocational training in “Operator of a phone center”, “Repair of bicycles” and “Electroinstalling” under a project, funded by fund “Vocational qualification and unemployment” to the Council of ministers. After the training several people start work with the new vocational qualification. Since 1995 the Rehabilitation center starts work with visually impaired integrated students from Plovdiv and its environs. In 2003 MES hires a resource teacher, who takes their education. Closed TV and other learning assisting aids are given to the integrated school-students and visually impaired students by the NRCB for home use. In 1994 the Center starts assisting the training of specialties Special pedagogic and Social pedagogic of the PU “P. Hilendarski” and VTU “St St Kiril and Metodi”, being a base for their practice. The students from specialty “Pedagogic of visually impaired” from the SU “St Kliment Ohridski” get to know on a permanent base with the activity of the Center and its equipment.
Since 2005 the Center has been a base for holding the students’ practices of visually impaired students from all universities in the country, organized by the UBB. From 1994 to 2004 all teachers from the Center got a post-graduate qualification at the SU “St Kl. Ohridski” in the specialty Pedagogic of the visually impaired. In 1999 together with the Rehabilitation of the blind Foundation, a Resource center for assisting the rehabilitation of the visually impaired people in Bulgaria is opened at the NRCB. It develops and prepares different didactic materials for the training of blind and visually impaired, issues special literature, textbooks and training aids in Braille and large print. As authors and compilers are involved prof. Vladimir Radulov, dr. Petar Staikov, Angel Sotirov, Stefan Danchev, Ivan Dobrovolov, Viktor Lubenov, Sergei Dubina and others.
In 2000, taking advantage of the Swedish experience, the first in Bulgaria Resource study was opened in the Center. This study is a place for exchange of information, creating contacts and applying obtained rehabilitational skills. It is equipped with special technical devices for visually impaired people, Braille display and Braille and ordinary printers, typewriters in Braille and flat print, closed TV, different kind of magnifiers, etc. all people who have taken a training course and are prepared have access to these technical devices. Permanent access to the Internet is provided. If needed, the clients are consulted by the teachers in visual rehabilitation and computer skills (Stoicheva, 2000). After 1990 the Center develops a significant in volume and effectiveness international activity. Representatives of non profit organizations and rehabilitation centers from Russia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Macedonia, Germany, France, Italy, Finland, Spain, the USA, Slovakia, Austria, Cyprus, Moldova, Lithuania, Rumania and Serbia visit the Center. Experts from the Center also visit related centers and non profit organizations in Russia, the Netherlands, Germany, Serbia, Macedonia, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy, Finland, Spain and Austria.
In 2001 – 2002 two teachers specialize in the Netherlands, where they get to know in details the training in upholstery and are trained for teachers in upholstery for visually impaired people. The Dutch colleagues give them high evaluation for the mastered skills and knowledge during the training. It becomes clear that it is a profession, applicable in the Bulgarian conditions for visually impaired people. On the territory of “Uspeh Commerce – UBB” Ltd – Plovdiv a premise is equipped for training in upholstery and the training in this profession starts in 2003. this activity of the NRCB is started with the financial support of the Sonneheerdt Foundation – the Netherlands and is developed with the financial support of the State budget of Republic of Bulgaria and the Agency of people with disabilities.
Three scientific-practical conferences, one symposium, one round table and a seminar – most of them with international participation were held at the NRCB in 1991 - 2004. the scientific-practical conferences and the round table had as a scientific advisor PD prof. Vladimir Radulov, an inexhaustible consultant of the NRCB both in preparing the school documentation and the issues of the learning-rehabilitation activity. The lectures from the symposium and the scientific-practical conferences have been published in four different collections on paper, mainly with the partnership of Rehabilitation of the Blind Foundation.
1. Chronicle book of the NRCB
2. Minute book of the NRCB
3. Belobradov, Hr. „The union rehabilitation center in Plovdiv” „Life of the blind” Magazine, 1970, book 9
4. Danchev, D., „Lesson in dedication”, “Zari” Magazine, 1999, book 11
5. Dochev, R., „Regaining faith in life”, „Life of the blind” Magazine, 1970, book 9
6. Parapanov, D., Basic rehabilitation Collection, Union of the Blind in Bulgaria – Main council, 1986
7. Radulov, Vl., lectures from the scientific-practical conference on “The role of the rehabilitation center in the process of elementary rehabilitation of newly blind”, Union of the blind in Bulgaria and Center for elementary rehabilitation of newly blind, Plovdiv, 1991.
8. Sotirov, A., “35 years National rehabilitation Center for the blind”, “Zari” Magazine, 1981, book 12
9. Sotirov, A., “Sense international” helps the Bulgarian deaf-blind”, “Zari” Magazine, 1999, book 1
10. Sotirov, A., “Vocational training of newly blind in Bulgaria”, “Actual problems of the work-professional realization of the visually impaired in Bulgaria”, Rehabilitation for the Blind Foundation, Plovdiv, 2000
11. Stoicheva, St. “Resource study in Plovdiv”, “Zari”, 2001, book 6