Computers extended to the blind in Zambia

 Zambia Information Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) has provided 10 computers to Ndola’s Lions School for the Visually Impaired on the Copperbelt.

The computers have been installed in a computer laboratory that is being used by blind pupils and teachers.

Computer literacy is one of the subjects that the Ministry of Education has made compulsory for all learners at basic and secondary schools, whether blind, able-bodied or disabled.

Blind teacher uses a computer at Ndola's Lion School for the Blind. PICTURE:HUMPHREY NKONDE

Blind teacher uses a computer at Ndola’s Lion School for the Blind.

Blind and partially sighted pupils are being examined on computers by the Examinations Council of Zambia.

The computers have Job Access with Speech (JAWS), software that transforms text into speech.

School head teacher Kombe Mulenga said in an interview that the computers were mostly being used by teachers and pupils in Grade 12, the last grade at senior secondary school.

“Blind pupils are able to work effectively because JAWS software has been installed in the computers,” Mulenga said. “It is now a requirement in Zambia that those who are at school should have basics in computers.”

He said that the Curriculum Development Centre had donated a Braille embosser that would be connected to the computers to allow Braille outputs for pupils and teachers.

Braille is a raised dot system embossed on special paper that enables the blind to read by sense of touch.

Extra curricula uses of Braille at the school include production of poems, plays and short stories by pupils and teachers.

Visually impaired pupils who do well at secondary school proceed to Ndola’s National Vocational Rehabilitation Centre (NVRC), where they do advanced courses in computers.

ZICTA has also donated computers to other blind schools throughout the country.

Facilities at learning institutions for the disabled were being computerised following Zambia’s domestication of the United Nations (UN) Conventions on the Right of Persons with Disabilities.

Zambia enacted the Persons with Disabilities Act No. 6 of 2012 that extends to the international law on the disabled shortly after the Patriotic Front (PF) government came into power in 2011.

Copperbelt coordinator for Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities (ZAPD) Anthony Mwansa commended ZICTA for donating computers to the Lions School for the Visually Impaired.

 “The laboratory is accessible by learners on wheel chairs because a lamp has been provided in the design,” Mwansa said.

He said he appreciated that computers had been introduced at Lions School for the Blind, but lamented that the general access to education by people with disabilities was still low compared to the able-bodied.

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