Helping blind and visually impaired children improve their literacy

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Helping blind and visually impaired children improve their literacy
29 Jul 2019

We’re very pleased to be taking our Adaptive Technology project from Uganda into Sierra Leone helping more blind and visually impaired children improve their literacy.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries with over 50% of the population living in multidimensional poverty. Unfortunately, children with disabilities (including those who are blind or visually impaired) are often denied their right to education. Many families keep their children out of school and when they are enrolled, they face complex barriers; negative attitudes, a lack of resources and specialist teachers.

This project spans over three years.  Year one will act as a pilot in 1 school with a further 9 schools in year 2 and 3.  The project aims to provide blind and visually impaired (VI) children the opportunity to live without poverty. Blind and VI children are the highest percentage of disabilities other than physical, yet there are only 6 schools that accommodate these children in a country of 7.3m.

The project will also improve well-being and education opportunities with the following activities:

  1. The provision of training on assistive technology and audio books
  2. Training teachers to use speech enabled computers through a ‘train the trainer’ course
  3. Creation of a teaching manual by Dr Cristian Bernareggi and delivery of training in cooperation with ST Foundation
  4. Installation of an adaptive tech computer labs

By providing an equal opportunity to gain basic literacy and computer skills, barriers posed by disability, marginalisation and poverty will be overcome. Providing the freedom of learning, through the use of adaptive technology, it also provides enhanced learning and the basic skills and knowledge to attend further education. As a result, we’ll see increased opportunities for economic empowerment through employability and income generation.

The primary focus of this project is to improve the quality of life of children in Sierra Leone who are blind or visually impaired.   Within Sierra Leone only one school offers the facility to learn informatics with technology, yet digital competence is now a vital aspect of both education and employment. Worldwide, providing digital literacy for blind and visually impaired children is essential for ensuring their success, empowerment and future contribution to global economic growth. There has never been a more powerful influence on human behaviour, irrespective of country or culture, than the combined effect of digital technologies. It provides platforms that allow us to connect and collaborate. It opens up opportunities to learn about new and important issues, and empowers innovation in ways that were unimaginable to these groups until now.

Employers expect their workforce to have the skills needed to live, work, and thrive in a society. So, when preparing special needs students for the world of work, digital literacy is essential, however the use of ‘adaptive’ technology is the key. It’s clear that if in Sierra Leone we do not have any infrastructure for digital learning, these children will continue to live on the margins of society. The internet is a tool that brings together people, cultures, abilities or disabilities connecting the world in an innovative format.  In Sierra Leone, special needs children do not study with students who are not disabled or have additional needs, they are sent to separate institutes where they are given minimal tools as they are not seen as worth investing in. Informatics is a democratic device that offers the same possibility to everyone.

If you or your company would like to support this project in any way please get in touch.