Jaime mauricio Gaitán gómez
This profile was prepared when Jaime mauricio Gaitán gómez was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2000.
The New Idea
Jaime believes that the power that the visually impaired have as an untapped consumer market, and, as a misunderstood and marginalized voice, is key to their integration into a society from which they have traditionally been excluded. Whereas Colombians with no or highly-limited vision generally keep to themselves–because of discomfort or even fear in mainstream society, or because family-member guardians are ashamed or frustrated with them–Jaime's Red Punto Visión (Vision Point Network) is trying to break through the vicious cycle that keeps them in isolation. By making public and commercial spaces physically accessible to the visually impaired, and by creating economic and cultural incentives for them to begin to enter and utilize these spaces, Jaime intends to integrate them into mainstream society. These efforts both involve the impaired citizens themselves in a broader scope of society than they have ever been part of, and at the same time sensitize the seeing to the realities of the visually impaired–what they offer in addition to what their unique needs are. Using his background as a communications specialist, Jaime is directing much of his effort towards the establishment of Braille signs and relief maps in the important and highly-trafficked public and commercial spaces of Bogotá, Colombia's capital and largest city, such as shopping malls, museums, parks, and specialized bus stations. The spaces' owners, be they private or municipal, are encouraged to sponsor the signs, receiving in return not only the public relations benefit of being associated with providing a service to the visually impaired, but in many cases additional training from Vision Point Network on how to better serve visually-impaired customers. Jaime also sells advertising space above the signs to local businesses, generating income for the signage effort and for Vision Point Network's activities generally. Together with Vision Point Network's other efforts to integrate the visually impaired into professional, educational, recreational and cultural activities–including workshops, brochures and public-awareness campaigns–Jaime is using market-based strategies to bring sellers and buyers, the seeing and the visually impaired, and indeed the nondisabled and the disabled in general, closer together in a more integrated and sensitized culture.