WTBBL director learns about global disability issues during Egypt trip

WTBBL director learns about global disability issues during Egypt trip

WTBBL Director Danielle Miller visits the Federal Egyptian Association for Intellectual Disabilities during her trip to Egypt. (Photos courtesy of Danielle Miller)

The Washington Talking Book & Braille Library provides a comprehensive library service to Washington residents unable to read standard print. As its director, Danielle Miller is very aware of issues involving persons with disabilities.

During a recent trip to Egypt, Miller had a chance to discuss and learn more about issues involving rights for persons with disabilities globally.

After hosting two participants in the U.S. Department of State’s Professional Fellows Program at WTBBL last May, Miller traveled to Egypt on a reverse exchange program Jan. 28-Feb. 8.

The trip was made possible by Hands Along the Nile Development Services, Inc. (HANDS), administrator of a Professional Fellows Program of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

“My time spent in Cairo was filled primarily with site visits to NGOs working in disability-related areas, and attending presentations on the current state of affairs relating to disability rights and rights and issues relating to women in Egypt,” Miller said. “My colleagues and I had the opportunity to present on proposal writing and our own organizations. We also visited the Library of Alexandria. There was some time for sightseeing and you can’t go wrong beginning an adventure with a trip to the Pyramids.”

Danielle at the Pyramids outside Cairo.

Miller said meeting people working in disability advocacy and going on the site visits were the high points of the trip, adding she looks forward to continuing new relationships and exploring opportunities for collaboration.

Some of the organizations Miller visited include the Alhassan Foundation, Takfik Namati TV, and the Federal Egyptian Association for Intellectual Disabilities. The Alhassan Foundation focuses on the diversity and inclusion of differently abled people by providing customized wheelchairs and offering programs like equipped rides, source of living, and social awareness.

“I had the opportunity to see someone getting fitted for a customized wheelchair and learn so much about the impact the mobility and programming has on people’s lives,” Miller said.

Danille and others visit Taha Hussein Library for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Takfik Namati TV is a channel serving people with disabilities, started by a blind photographer, and run by a staff of many persons with disabilities. The channel’s goals are seeking the rights of the disabled, linking to education and employment, holding computer trainings for people who are blind, and more.

Miller said the Library of Alexandria has several specialized areas and collections, but the most directly related to WTBBL was the Taha Hussein Library for the Blind and Visually Impaired. This library within a library provides computers with screen readers and magnification for patrons, training, audio books to read while in the library, and programming like art education and orientation and mobility. There is also a recording studio where books in Arabic are being produced in DAISY format for audio readers.

What was one takeaway from the trip for Miller?

“We all have work to do to improve rights and services for people with disabilities, regardless of location, and the strong spirit of empowerment and inclusion I found when speaking with people throughout my trip will certainly go a long way toward that goal.”

WTBBL is part of the Washington State Library, which is a division of the Office of Secretary of State.

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