Christel Sogenbits - The Advocate of the Blind People in Estonia

Christel Sogenbits is the Member of Board of the Northern-Estonian Association of the Blind and one of the key people at the upcoming Garage48 Enable Tallinn 2014 hackathon. Christel has been actively standing for the rights of the blind people and advocating the use of accessible solutions at the shops and everywhere else. If you would like to meet Christel in person and to contribute in making the world a better place for the blind, then you can still sign up for the hackathon at:

How would you describe yourself?

How would I describe myself? I am a woman, a girl, a little childish at times, but then again have grown up too fast, happy, sad, moody, good but sometimes bad. An activist… definitely, an activist. And when I cannot amount to being active, then I rest and just am. Very impatient and straightforward. I know what I want, but not always. I know what I want but now always, I am a real woman with emotions, wishes, desires and dreams. 

What do people not know about you?

If somebody doesn’t know something that interests them, then you should come and ask me:)

You are currently a student at TTÜ. What is your field of interest?’

I really do study at TTÜ and it is one fantastic and supportive school. Currently I am studying law, but more on I would like to engage in hands-on projects that are related to the youth and dogs. Most certainly dogs, especially the assistance dogs and the dog’s rights.

Do you think universities are equipped to accept people with disabilities, in general?

For me the main things is that universities would have the wish and willingness to adapt. If we would take step by step an universal design for use in the buildings, then the disabled students would come along. First should be the readiness and then the student will follow. But, I would like to say again, that TTÜ has an amazing attitude, that I’ve almost never had any sort of problems. There are now so many resources at the TTÜ library, so that the students with sight disablities could easily attend. 

In general I believe that universities will adapt and the workers at the universities won’t throw a person with an assistant dog out of the lecture. So usually the experience has been rather supoortive, than anything else. Though in the end it also comes down to the student’s and professor’s characteristics. 

What would you say is a misconception about the blind?

That all the blind can sing, play an instrument and are musical geniuses, also that all blind people should make brushes or be masseurs. Definitely the biggest misconception is that the blind cannot manage in terms of life. 

Do you use any apps currently that help you with your daily activities?

I don’t use apps, but I do use some computer programs. I am not a big user of gadgets, because I am used to using the old stuff.

Do the blind usually rely on technology?

In todays society the blind don’t have any other option than to reply on technology and to trust it and use it. Computers, glyco-meters, medical resources, special equipment for music listening and book reading, for orienting there are special aids, like vibrating glasses and a white stick etc. Sadly the situation is that even Smartpost package-automates are not usable for the blind. In America it is a little bit different, as there are things called Redboxes. And these are also not usable for the blind. Then the operating company had a court case on their shoulders and now they fixed the issue.

The same goes to tablet computers, as they were taken for use in the US schools. But they tablet computers they bought were the cheapest, but the only tablets to enable access were iPads for the disabled. And now there are again court battles going on. 

To be fair, no blind person can do without technology. In my opinion, all technology that is being developed could benefit and be accessible by all people, even the disabled people. 

You are the Board Member of the North-Estonian Association of the Blind. What sort of activities do you organise to help the community?

In the North-Estonian Association of the Blind I am not doing any event organisation. I have two main projects that I am in charge of and in addition I am the member of the statue committee. 

More over we are working on the NGO Challenge Your Senses activities. We organise events in schools and everywhere else, where you can  try out stimulations to challenge yourself. For example you can try how it’s like to open a jar with boxing gloves and see how you can take candies and condoms out from it. Or the obstacle course, that people can ride through with a wheelchair to simulate bumpy roads and sudden climbs. Also you can try to use a computer program with blindfolded eyes with the help of a speech-program that talks 100 words per minute.

In other words if the person has gone through the obstacles, we hope that he/she underestands that we are a just human beings with thoughts, ideas and dreams and that nothing has changed. 

What are you expecting from the Garage48 Enable event?

I am looking forward to many great ideas, successful outcomes and for something that would benefit everyone. 

What is your wish for the future?

World peace, heavenly stuff and just to chill. :)

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