Less lip service, more sustained funding for disability projects – First Lady

…as ExxonMobil teams up with GCOPD for orientation, mobility training

“In every facet of life, we must be conscious of the limitations of persons with disabilities and reorganise our society in such a way that they are not excluded. It is critical to ensure that this is sustainable by mobilising and pooling resources and ensuring that persons with disabilities are able to benefit directly. This will call for continued collaboration, sustained funding, and less lip service.”

From left: President of ExxonMobil (Guyana) Alistair Routledge; a member of GCOPD, First Lady Arya Ali; US Ambassador to Guyana Sarah-Ann Lynch and GCOPD Chair Ganesh Singh

Those were the sentiments shared by First Lady of Guyana, Arya Ali as she gave the feature address during the launch of the orientation and mobility programme for blind and visually impaired persons.

The Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities (GCOPD) in collaboration with ExxonMobil (Guyana) and the Office of the First Lady on Tuesday launched an orientation and mobility programme aimed at assisting persons that are visually impaired to regain their independence and be reintegrated into society.

The event saw Chairman of the GCOPD Ganesh Singh, President of ExxonMobil (Guyana) Alistair Routledge, US Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch, and British High Commissioner to Guyana Jane Miller, in attendance.

A total of 500 blind and visually impaired persons hailing from Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven and 10 will soon be equipped with the necessary teachings that will see them learning how to use the white cane and carry out simple tasks on their own without assistance.

The First Lady lauded the programme and highlighted that the ultimate goal is to empower and build confidence among this group of persons.

She also noted that the programme is a step forward in creating the culture of acceptance and inclusivity as the country aims to build its “one Guyana”.

“This orientation and mobility training will help these individuals to claim enormous control over their lives by providing them with an opportunity to complete simple tasks on their own and reduce their dependence on others,” she expressed.

She went on to highlight that “Not only will this help to build self-awareness and raise their level of confidence, it is also a necessary step towards integration of these persons into the home, community, and by extension, the labour force. This should be our ultimate goal to ensure that these persons are equipped and empowered to live independent lives and to determine the direction of their future.”

Ali stressed that the ability to move independently, safely and purposefully should be of primary importance. “Any society that does not promote and facilitate orientation and mobility for visually impaired and blind persons is a regressive one,” she stated.


Chairman of the Guyana Council of Organisations for persons with disabilities (GCOPD) Ganesh Singh while giving an overview of the programme explained that the aim of the programme is to teach blind and visually impaired persons to be independent and be reintegrated.

“For persons who are blind and visually impaired, like all other forms of disability, rehabilitation is needed. Rehabilitation is needed to ensure that those individuals can be able to regain some level of independence and be reintegrated into society,” he stated.

He went on to explain that “For orientation and mobility, it’s the same as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and so forth, so as blind persons, an orientation and mobility officer specialist will provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge to use a white cane, do simple chores within your home like folding a blanket, washing some dishes, and probably even cooking, and use assistive devices, such as a computer with screen-reading software, a phone with the text-to-speech application and so on.”

“Without orientation and mobility, persons who are blind or visually impaired would be lost. Many of them would be sitting at home and depend on people to do simple things that they can do on their own. Many of them would become a burden to their relatives and the people around them. And they will also continue to have [of us] this perception that we are incapable of doing anything and being productive.”

The Chairman noted that this programme will aid in diminishing the dependence of visually impaired persons, giving them a new sense of purpose in society.


Meanwhile, President of ExxonMobil (Guyana) Alistair Routledge indicated that the company is privileged to be in partnership with GCOPD in their new venture, while noting that the company began its collaboration with the organisation in 2019, through the funding of the Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) club programme for children with disabilities.

“As a company that understands the true value of diversity and inclusion at every level, ExxonMobil is proud to support the Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities (GCOPD) in this orientation and mobility training programme,” Routledge posited.

“Many of us take for granted everyday activities such as travelling to work or for pleasure. This programme aims to give participants the freedom to travel safely and develop independent living skills. The impact of impairment on mobility on social interaction, recreation, and quality of life goes far beyond any superficial meaning of inclusion. This initiative can bring inclusion in an intangible way, allowing visually impaired people the opportunity [to fully enter] the communities and bring more of the valuable qualities and contributions to society.”

Routledge further noted that for those living with the challenge of impairment, having access to information, resources and support can be life-changing. This, he stated, is not just for the individual themselves, but also for their families who are also supporting them with these challenges. (G2)