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ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Date: October 28, 2017
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One of the most important things we do is to focus on innovation and technology in order to provide affordable assistive devices that help keep blind/visually impaired learners on track with their educational requirements by providing the Perkins Braillers and Orbit Readers. We work closely with the governments in the countries where we have a presence and across 150 schools to review the needs of the learners with visual impairment. Given the urgent need for affordable assistive devices for blind and deaf-blind learners in Africa, KBTA has identified the digital Braille, Orbit Reader 20 which is also a note taker and communicator between the blind and sighted individuals in an inclusive classroom. To date, KBTA has raised 400 000 dollars and delivered 560 Orbit readers to primary school children in Kenya, Malawi, and Rwanda. This is only 20 percent of the identified need for blind and deaf-blind children to access quality education in the region. The current ratio of Braille assistive devices to blind learners is 3:1. Our goal 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.

 

The use of Braille has, over the last 200 years, been the primary mode of instruction for learners and adults who are blind/visually impaired. A wide range of Braille production equipment has been produced to aid access to information and learning material. These include the mechanical Braille machine/typewriter and Braille embossers that produce computer-generated Braille material on special Braille paper. In addition, the Classic Perkins Brailler, manufactured by Perkins, USA has been widely used both in classrooms and in the workplace as a means of written communication between blind/ visually impaired learners and their sighted peers.

However, the high cost of Braille technology and the fact that the Perkins Brailler is heavy, noisy to use, easy to breakdown and requires equally expensive and bulky Braille paper and textbooks, has not helped learners who use the classic Brailler in a classroom situation. KBTA has, for several years, been dedicated to identifying affordable technology for assistive devices in Africa. In 2018 KBTA launched the Orbit Reader 20 which was developed as an affordable electronic Braille device for use in Africa and other developing countries.  

The Orbit Reader is also a note-taker and has the following main functions:

  • Cheaper in price and easy to use in both the classroom and the work environment.
  • It eliminates the cost of producing Braille material on paper.
  • The device is small, portable with the following features:
  • Refreshable display of 20 Braille cells with pins that represent any six- or eight-dot Braille code
  • Reads the contents of files on an SD card for stand-alone operation
  • Connects to computers and portable devices via USB or Bluetooth for use with a screen reader
  • Braille input keys
  • Includes the simple note-taking capability
  • Rechargeable batteries (user replaceable)

With the Orbit Reader 20, KBTA plans to ensure that each blind/visually impaired child in school can have one in order to further literacy and education.