3 Reasons Why We Need To Make Technology More Accessible For The Visually Impaired

One of the children at the Likoni School for the Blind shows his skills after the opening of the computer lab. Photo courtesy of Microsoft East Africa

Disability is not inability were words initially stated by New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia in 1945. Over the years those words have served to empower people living with disabilities from all over the world. According to data research compiled by World Health Organization (WHO) from 2010, there are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in today’s world. It is our responsibility to provide them with a conducive environment for their success and prosperity. Technology is key in the creation of this environment. So why is it important that we expose the blind and visually impaired to technology?

  1. Access to improved educational tools

Denise M Robinson, a teacher for the visually impaired, stated that access to technology enables blind children to progress in their learning as quickly as sighted children. Technology has levelled the playing field allowing blind people to work alongside their sighted peers at their maximum potential.

InABLE, an NGO that deals with the empowerment of people living with disabilities has provided ‘assistive technology’ to various schools. This technology has led to the development of software like screen readers and magnifiers. This software has gone long way in providing the blind community with a chance to compete favourably in the world.

One of the children at the Likoni School for the Blind shows his skills after the opening of the computer lab. Photo courtesy of Microsoft East Africa
  1. Enlarging the scope of employment opportunities

It is human nature to reject what we truly do not understand. Laurisden who works with blind people stated that one of the barriers to job finding for the blind is computer literacy. She noted that employers will shy away from hiring visually impaired persons for lack of technological know-how. Technology provides the opportunity to tutor these people in software development, coding and website creation. Armed with these skills, they can easily compete favourably in the job market,

  1. Entertainment

Every human being loves to indulge in recreational activities. It is how the body unwinds from stressful day to day experiences. Some of these recreational activities become inaccessible to the blind and visually impaired. In this day and era, the phone has increasingly become a recreational gadget.  These are the small pleasures in life the visually impaired may not get to enjoy.

However, advancements in technology have led to the development of screen reader applications that convert written words and images into sound. This way the visually impaired can chat with their friends, order food and shop online. Advancements in technology can only prove to better improve the lives of visually impaired persons.

Image from http://www.perkins.org/stories/how-assistive-technology-can-improve-your-quality-of-life

In line with ensuring that the vision of facilitating access to technology to the blind and visually impaired, Microsoft has partnered up with InABLE in opening up an assistive technology lab at The Likoni School for the blind. This is aimed to ensure that the blind and visually impaired community have access to digital learning materials.

The opening of this lab will see an increase in access to youth learning Computer Science and building a more accessible and inclusive world. The opening of this Lab is part of the Microsoft philanthropies initiative which will benefit more than 500 pupils benefit from it. This is part of a larger initiative by Microsoft to create educational, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for more than 300 youth in the world.

The partnership will involve training for students on how to code, create software and websites to boost the innovative and creative skills for the visually impaired. It will provide these students with early creator’s editions so they can also give feedback to the product teams at Microsoft.

Microsoft’s main mission is to empower every person and organization on this planet to achieve more. This passion has led to the partnering with The Ministry of Education, The Ministry of ICT and InABLE to provide assistive labs all over the country in time.  In collaboration with stakeholders in the education sector, Microsoft is at the forefront of implementing a basic computer training program developed for learners with blindness and low vision.

The Ministry of Education, InABLE and other partners such as Strathmore University iLab will participate in research and development in a bid to measure the impact of the computer training programs to inform policy and decision-making. This is among the first steps in the right direction to ensuring easy and accessible technology to people living with disabilities for the betterment of their lives.

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