Kilimanjaro Blind Trust Africa celebrated 10 years of service to learners with blindness/visual impairment in East Africa and Malawi on November 23, 2018. The celebration took place at the Kilimani Integrated Primary School, Nairobi and was attended by over 200 people. The guest list included blind children from different primary schools, teachers, government and corporate dignitaries, partners and other stakeholders.
At this event, KBTA took the opportunity to showcase the needs of blind/visually impaired learners as well as the different solutions available to them in Africa. Safaricom, with its history of supporting the needs of people with disabilities, also joined KBTA to launch their White Cane campaign. Other partners working in the visual disability sector also presented their work to the guests.
The day’s program included a panel discussion on the impact of technology in the education of learners with visual impairment. This was to inform stakeholders of the various future opportunities for the education of visually impaired learners. The panel comprised experienced representatives of organizations working in the special needs education sector as well as the private sector and social entrepreneurs.
The highlight of the program was the launch of the Orbit Reader 20 which is an electronic Braille note-taker and reader. This innovation for Braille users will be a step-change in the way that learners with blindness/visual impairment in Africa can access information and prescribed learning materials in electronic Braille from different sources. KBTA has actively supported the development of this technology and now has the distribution rights within our partner countries.
Unlocking Literacy for Life Using Assistive Technology
ne of the most important things that we do is to provide affordable assistive technology that helps keep blind/visually impaired learners who have access to what is taught in the classrooms of schools and colleges. We make available assistive devices such as Perkins Braillers and Orbit Readers. We regularly review the need for Braille assistive devices in all the countries that we serve, based on the precise numbers and enrollment in each classroom, of learners with visual impairment and deliver these devices. The current ratio of Braillers to blind/visually impaired learners is 3:1. Our target is to change this ratio to 1:1.
We also regularly review new and innovative technology in this digital age to evaluate its efficacy and affordability for those whom we serve. We are currently in the process of evaluating ‘smart’ devices especially being developed for the blind/visually impaired and which promise to provide a ‘quantum leap’ in such assistive devices for Africa.
Braille Paper Supply
Unlike traditional copy/printing paper, Braille paper is a thick, special quality of paper used specifically with Braille printers or the Perkins Brailler. Braille paper keeps the shape and firmness of the embossed Braille dots for a long time. Braille paper is more expensive than normal copy paper and larger volumes are needed as the number of Braille characters to a standard page is much less than print characters.
KBTA provides much needed Braille paper to schools in its area of work. To date, 190 tonnes of Braille paper has been donated to different schools in East Africa and Malawi.
Since Braille is a tactile reading and writing medium necessary for the literacy of the blind/visually impaired, the teaching of Braille is a unique vocation, not comparable to any other teaching skills required to educate either sighted students or those with other disabilities.
Before a blind/visually impaired child can even begin to be educated in the normal world, geared for sighted learners, he or she needs the help of a trained Braille teacher. Teaching Braille is also the first vocational preference of many educated blind/visually impaired persons. KBTA helps to encourage and support teachers with teaching aids and tools so that they can be as effective in the classroom as possible.
Brailler Repair & Maintenance
As a core function of KBTA’s work with facilitating education through literacy for the blind/visually impaired children in East and southern Africa, we help build school-based Brailler repair ecosystems in all of the countries where we operate. We do this by providing spare parts for different kinds of Braillers.
Braille Technician Training & Support
An important part of setting up an efficient Brailler repair ecosystem, promoted by KBTA, is to train school-based repair technicians placed in all of the schools and institutions that we support across the countries in which we operate. To date, KBTA has conducted training workshops that trained 190 technicians and provided 190 Brailler Maintenance Kits to enable technicians in repairing malfunctioning Braillers in schools allowing continuity of use.
Internships & Employability for the Blind/Visually Impaired Youth
The ultimate goal of KBTA for blind/visually impaired youth is to level the playing field for their education through the use of technology and innovation. KBTA provides electronic Braille readers/note-takers to ensure that they have access to learning materials just as their sighted peers in integrated school settings. This, in turn, will ensure that the blind/visually impaired students will have the same level of education and choice of careers in their adult lives so that they enjoy social and economic inclusion as every other student. Read more…(Link to Our Commitment page – paragraph on Internships & Employability…)
KBTA works with the government and many other stakeholders to address the issues of stigma, ignorance, and lack of resources for the blind and visually impaired. KBTA supports awareness-raising programs and other practical areas of support to youth in helping to educate them and providing on the ground access to potential job seekers through the internship and placement programs while sensitizing corporate companies about the need to open their doors to blind/visually impaired job seekers.