press release


Armenia Fund USA
152 Madison Ave, #803
New York, NY 10016
Contact: Lisa Markarian
Tel: 212-689-5307
Fax: 212-689-5317
E-mail: [email protected]

Mgrdich Ghazarian is 54 years old. He lost his vision three years ago
due to a workplace accident. “I’ve never used a computer before in my
life, not even when I had my vision. I can’t read Braille because my
fingertips are not sensitive enough. I think I’m slower than the others
and it takes a lot of effort but I’m getting the hang of it. I can
finally get information I want without depending on my family to read to
me and I can write letters or notes that people will actually be able to
understand. I can search the internet and send emails. All this is new
to me and it’s very exciting” he says. Thanks to the efforts of Armenia
Fund USA and YCRDI this is possible.

June 15, 2004

Armenia Fund USA Helps Arev Shine for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Two years ago when Professor Arman Kuchukyan and his team of programmers
and engineers at YCRDI (Yerevan Computer Research and Development
Institute, better known as Mergelian Institute), embarked on an
experiment to create a software program that could help the blind and
visually impaired use computers. Today that experiment is a reality.
Today the blind and visually impaired in Armenia have hope for the
future. Today there is Arev.

Arev (Armenian Reader with Elocutionary Voice) is assisted technology.
It substitutes sight with sound and allows the blind and visually
impaired to be able to operate a computer just like any person with
perfect vision. Unlike other comparable software programs, Arev operates
entirely in Armenian. It is a screen-reading program that reads out
text on the screen through headphones and speakers. Whatever the screen
says, the program will read. This program will allow the blind and
visually impaired person to learn, study, and work independently.

“We asked ourselves, how could computers help the blind and visually
impaired become more independent, self-sufficient, and better integrate
into the work force and society? Those who are blind and visually
impaired are very quick learners, have amazing memories, and no trouble
understanding the computer during the one month tutorial course” says
Sargis Karapetyan, a leading engineer. And today, after much hard work
and very little money we have the only program of its kind ever created
or used in any of the former CIS countries” says Professor Kuchukyan.

With Arev the user can scan in books and articles they want to read, or
write letters and papers. They can play chess, email, and search the
web. The advantages Arev offers the blind and visually impaired in
Armenia is extensive, however the limited number of computers available
is disheartening to the students.

The Braille system for learning, reading, and writing is an important
one, but it has its limitations. Braille texts in Armenia are outdated
and worn from years of use. For individuals who become blind and
visually impaired later in their life Braille is nearly impossible to

Every blind and visually impaired person in Armenia can take advantage
of Arev. The software, valued at $800, will be given free of charge to
those who are in need, however there remains the very real problem of
being able to secure computers for those individuals. “We are willing
to install the program free of charge. Every blind and visually
impaired person in Armenia can have Arev, but we can’t accommodate them
with computers and hardware. Unfortunately, we don’t have this
capability,” Professor Kucukyan said. Ideally, both Director Alexan
Aharonyan of School #14, a state funded boarding school for the blind
and visually impaired, and Professor Kuchukyan would like for every
student there to have in-school access to computers so that they may
have long term training before moving on.

This year Armenia Fund USA’s generous contributors Dr. and Mrs. Lawrence
Howard helped equip a classroom at School #14 complete with 6 computers,
2 scanners, printers, desks, chairs, and all the necessities required
such as headphones. The school currently has 120 students eight of whom
will graduate this year. Of those eight students, six will continue on
to higher education.

Arev has much to offer these bright students. And after graduating they
will have more opportunities available to them than they previously
imagined. They will be armed with the knowledge that they too have
solid, marketable skills that employers will find valuable.

“What we need to do now is organize a round-table discussion with
individuals who are willing to consider the positive effects of this new
program in Armenia. This means bringing together people from the
Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Labor, and those who might
be future employers, to help them understand how this can be of benefit
to everyone in Armenia”. Plans to expand these training programs for
the blind and visually impaired in Karabakh as well as other regions of
Armenia are currently being discussed.

While the programmers and engineers at YCRDI laid the groundwork to help
make the lives of the blind and visually impaired a little easier in
Armenia, there is still much to be done in helping to actualize their
commendable work. Thanks to Armenia Fund USA’s ongoing efforts to help
realize the work done at YCRDI, Arev can keep shining for the blind and
visually impaired who are eager to take a more active part in the
Armenian community.

Those who want to support the project can send in a 100% tax deductible
contribution to Armenia Fund USA, Inc., 152 Madison Avenue, Suite 803,
New York, NY 10016. Or, visit us on the web at
<; to make your contribution online and
learn about other Armenia Fund USA projects.

Armenia Fund USA is a non-profit 501(c)(3)organization under U.S. law,
and restricts its contributions exclusively to humanitarian aid projects
as defined and determined by the Internal Revenue Code and prevailing
rules and regulations.