Computer Aid Project in Kenya Enables Blind & Partially Sighted Access to Education & Employment

Computer Aid Project in Kenya Enables Blind & Partially Sighted Access to Education & Employment

Posted on Jun.22, 2009, by , under Educational, Inspirational Stories


New vision for computing in Africa…

Dan Simmons visits a project in Kenya that helps blind and partially sighted users compete in a jobs market that values computer skills.

In the slums of Kibera, an area of Nairobi, it is hard enough getting a job if you live here and are able-bodied. Joseph is partially blind, but doing well, running his own business selling wool and making intricate trinkets, necklaces, and lamp shades. But he is the exception in a country which is more likely to shun the visually-impaired than to offer any help.

After shipping more than 120,000 refurbished PCs to the developing world, Computer Aid now wants its kit to be usable by all – so, working alongside local experts, it is testing out adaptive technologies.

Software aid

Loice, a student, is completely blind but she does not need to see the screen because she can touch type faster than most and hear what she is writing thanks to a USB dongle running a commercial program from a company called Dolphin.

The dongle means Loice can carry the software with her, making almost any Windows PC accessible. Now, for the first time she can write her essays without anyone’s help.

“It makes me proud and it makes me feel independent and also competent. I’m able to compete with other people,” she says.

This sort of software has been available for almost a decade, but at a high cost and only in English. Another program aimed at those with visual disabilities is ZoomText which goes further than the basic accessibility software built in to Microsoft Windows. This program has more colour and magnification options, making a big difference. But Computer Aid’s ambitious project is not just about teaching people, it is about getting them into jobs.

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