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Kenya: Portable Devices to Help Students with Visual Impairment Access Education

March 05, 2020

Nearly 200 grade three visually impaired pupils will be able to pursue education using digital technology such as bluetooth in 34 schools countrywide.

Through the 'Orbit Reader 20' - a paperless and portable device - they will access the entire study syllabus and Curriculum Based Competency content just like their sighted peers.

The new 'reader' has been described as a game changer due to it's affordability with a retail price of Sh65,000 unlike the classic Braille machine which costs Sh100,000 and are cumbersome to use as they require rims of papers and expensive bulky textbooks.

The project is spearheaded by Kilimanjaro Blind Trust Africa (KBTA) working with the Ministry of Education, Citi Bank Kenya, among others.

So far 600 devices benefiting 60 schools countrywide valued at Sh45 Million have been rolled out with the latest beneficiaries are drawn from schools in Nairobi, Meru, Kiambu, Mombasa, Kwale, Kitui, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kisii, Kisumu, Siaya, Bomet, West Pokot, Turkana, Machakos, Kakamega, Wajir, Garissa, Kericho, Isiolo, Narok, Mandera, Kajiado, Nakuru and Homabay.

"Unlike the traditional 6.5 kg braille machine used in most schools, the 'Orbit Reader 20' is a digitally portable device which will ease challenges the visually impaired learners face with the costly braille equipment. We are bridging the gap for the blind and visually impaired to access education using latest reading technology," said Suparna Biswas, Executive Director, KBTA.

The device has proven secure for exam purposes ensuring fairness and inclusion for visually impaired learners. With this device the visually impaired learners have the same access to education and choice of careers in their adult lives.

"We will continue to work with such organizations like KBTA to promote equal access and fairness to education for the blind and visually impaired learners," said the Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mumina Bonaya.

Kilimanjaro Blind Trust Africa KBTA is a registered charitable Trust in Kenya that promotes Braille literacy and helps to improve the lives of learners with visual impairment in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Malawi.

UN statistics says there are over 600 million persons with disabilities worldwide - 400 million of whom live in developing countries while 80 million in Africa. WHO says about 40% of Africa's population consists of people with disabilities, including 10-15 percent of school-age children.

Majority of Africans with disabilities are excluded from schools and opportunities for work. School enrolment for the disabled is estimated at no more than 5-10 percent and as many as 70-80 percent of working-age people with disabilities are unemployed.

Source: All Africa

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