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Computer Skills for Every Blind Child

Teaching all blind and visually impaired learners how to work with computers before they leave school

Photo of Trust Mutekwa
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What problem does your idea solve?

If blind learners do not learn how to use computers in primary and secondary school, they hardly have a chance to learn effectively on their own or, in colleges. Blind students in colleges have a double workload in learning computer skills for research and their course modules. Braille production is not consistent. So, computers afford blind learners to access textbooks and online information. Computer skills allow blind learners to be in any school with teachers who are not braille literate.

Explain your idea

Every special school or resource unit working with blind learners should have 5 to 10 computers for lessons and practice. Even if there could be more than 40 students, the learners take turns to use the computers. Preferably, the computers should be laptops- those that work with rechargeable batteries. Wherever there could be electricity problems, the computers will be charged where the teachers charge their phones. School textbooks should be supplied in soft versions for the benefit of blind learners. Print texts can be scanned and saved in accessible versions. Teachers working with blind learners need workshops on how blind people use computers.

Who benefits?

About 90 teachers currently working in 39 special schools and resources units will get skills on how to work with blind learners in ICT. About 4500 blind learners in the 39 institutions will leave school with ICT skills. The next generations of blind learners will enjoy family life at childhood and learn at par with their sighted counterparts from their homes or choice schools- not necessarily special schools. All blind learners in college will be skilled and happy with less burdens

How is your idea unique?

We have not been teaching blind learners how to use computers. Currently, hundreds of blind learners just leave school without computer skills. I have successfully launched a computer initiative for blind learners at my school. Families will support this idea. We started our school initiative with family computers. A primary school learner went blind and remained in his old school after I taught him how to work with the computer. Awareness of potential and progress in ICT skills for blind learners is growing in the country through various media platforms. All the teachers concerned are ready to acquire ICT skills for the benefit of blind students. Blind learners will acquire ICT skills from the earliest level in education. Being skilled and experienced in ICT for the blind is a unique advantage for me. Success of this initiative is not imaginary. In less than 6 months, my primary school students acquired computer skills envied by professionals who use computers everyday.

Tell us more about you

We are 88 teachers in all the country's special schools and resource units working with blind children. We seek collaboration with partners who can provide computers for our institutions. We seek platforms that afford all of us to be equipped with appropriate ICT skills. We are ready to receive computers and skills on how to use them with our blind students. We are ready to share our skills and knowledge with colleagues in our communities as they receive blind students in their schools.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

Blind people use the ordinary computer with a speech software. We want all our blind learners to have computer skills. We are correctly positioned to make this a success. If skilled primary school blind learners graduate or transfer to schools that do not have computer initiatives, we may lose the skills we have acquired in a particular school. That means, we continue to send raw products into the society. We are eagerly waiting for a day we have training in ICT skills for blind people and at least 5 laptops in all our schools. We intend to have workshops with some of our pupils attending so that the training exercises become more fruitful. We will be trained in groups that will be determined by time, venue spaces and available computers.

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Zimbabwe

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.

Organizational Status

  • We are not formally registered but are a formal initiative through a school / university.

Idea Maturity

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

31 comments

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Spam
Photo of gonay 72833
Team

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Spam
Photo of ommy zubery
Team

Hi,
Mutekwa,
to many who thinks a blind person cannot coop with ITC is a day dream, to what you have explore the means to engage these fellow people into the world of technology comes to a solved puzzle that can work at even rural area where now days solar system has been introduced to charge  computers and other electronic equipment for the training purpose.

Spam
Photo of Trust Mutekwa
Team

Conclusions we make about visual impairment without engaging the people usually mislead and further disable! I am happier when we have more and more people with visual impairments active and visible on mainstream platforms of socialisation and development. Indeed, technology in all places can benefit everyone- the visually impaired included! Issues of accessibility need serious consideration for the benefit of everyone! I appreciate your contribution!

Spam
Photo of Nyanduri Moyo
Team

Great idea Ticha, I like your passion how innovative you are. May God grant you the right partners to drive your cause and achieve your vision.

Spam
Photo of Trust Mutekwa
Team

Thank you very much my ticha. We have breakthrough coming our way in various forms. Soo glad we have schools, new and old teachers embracing the drive!

Spam
Photo of Joseph Zindoga
Team

Good idea sir. How can i be part of the trainees. I would like skills for training the Blind.

Spam
Photo of Trust Mutekwa
Team

We are currently working on hosting the 6th edition of the Special Schools Arts Festival in Zimbabwe. This comes on the 10th of June. Participants are drawn from special schools and disability resource units. We also host a few artists from the mainstream industry and talented nondisabled children participants from mainstream institutions. We seek to work with children with disabilities from other countries. We also seek participation of our children in children's arts festival elsewhere. Children from St. Giles Special School participated in the 5th edition of the World Children's Festival- (2015). We want more children with disabilities to access mainstream arts, sporting and education platforms. Art presents a subtle way of breaking barriers towards inclusive practices as we go. Our disability story shall never be the same as we promote early interactions and awareness of diverse social issues.

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Photo of Heather
Team

It is so important for students with disabilities to have the same resources as students without disabilities. Great ideas.

Spam
Photo of Trust Mutekwa
Team

Thank you very much Heather. We are getting closer and closer to fulfilment. Schools open in the second week of May to revive our drive in all schools working with our children with visual impairments.

Spam
Photo of Jean Louis UWAMBAZA
Team

I like this initiative Trust, it's better you expand this idea around to help blind children getting computer skills early

Spam
Photo of Trust Mutekwa
Team

Thank you very much Jean Louis. We are beginning to have appreciation of ICT in all our schools working with blind children from the earliest level. ICT workshops for teachers working with all our blind children takes there. We are not turning back. The time is now.

Spam
Photo of Alice Zifunzi
Team

This is a brilliant initiatitive, considering that technology is the way to go nowdays. They also deserve to be ushered with this opportunity, disability is not inability. This is great.

Spam
Photo of Trust Mutekwa
Team

Thank you very much Alice. We appreciate your encouragement. It draws us to close to fulfilment. Our schools working with blind learners are beginning to appreciate the need for ICT skills. Every blind child in real sense of EVERY. Our story shall never be the same.

Spam
Photo of Trust Mutekwa
Team

Thank you very much Sir Kenneth. We have our children's computers working with NVDA. Thanks for linking us up with the https://scratch.mit.edu/. people. We are working everyday towards the first workshop to equip teachers working with our children.  Thank you very much for your pledge. We keep you updated on our progress.

Spam
Photo of Kenneth Walton
Team

Thank you Trust,
These are visual tool sets, but I can see how you can translate Scratch blocks for a non-visual programming learners. The MakersCAD (see the link below) application is for 3D modeling in Scratch, maybe a haptics tool could be created that would allow the students to virtually sculpt what they see in their minds eye, and 3D print those ideas. They can also program micro-controllers in Scratch like Arduino and various sensors. It could be possible for these students to change the way they interact with the physical world and the way the world interacts with them.
https://www.scratchfoundation.org/about-us/ Scratch Foundation was created by the Scratch inventor. This may be a better starting point than MIT.
https://makerscad.com/ 3D Modeling using Scratch
Good Luck! Keep us informed as you proceed!

Spam
Photo of Kenneth Walton
Team

One last note, I took this stereo haptics course at SIGGRAPH last year. https://www.disneyresearch.com/publication/stereohaptics/
This is a very low budget haptics interface that uses two small speakers as vibration elements. Your students may be able to develop and interface that allows them to feel what the model in MakersCAD and Scratch. I would reach out to Ali Israr at Carnegie Mellon University, He may be interested in working with your students. https://www.disneyresearch.com/people/ali-israr-3/

Spam
Photo of Trust Mutekwa
Team

Just today, we have been talking as a group of teachers in  this drive. We are ready for the workshop that gives us skills on teaching our students how to work with the computers. 

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Photo of Kenneth Walton
Team

This is a great idea! My dad was blind and never learned to use a computer, which I believe would have given him a richer life. I think you should look into One Laptop / One Child http://one.laptop.org/ a program that provides laptops for children at no cost. Also look into NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) this is a free screen reader written in Python, that could be useful for the students.
Maybe you could reach out to the team that developed Scratch (a programming language for kids) at the MIT Media Lab https://scratch.mit.edu/. Scratch uses visual programming (blocks) to develop simple applications and games. The team there may be able to develop a way for a screen reader like NVDA which is open source to read the Scratch blocks? This would give the students an added empowerment to their ICT skills. Like Mr. Machacha would also be willing to pledge $50.00 to this solution.
Really good thinking Trust!

Spam
Photo of Trust Mutekwa
Team

My school has computers enough for every child. There are two other schools for the blind with computers. The rest are resource units with learners ranging from 5 to 16. We are working together for teachers to have computer skills on how to work with blind students. We also work towards having at least 5 computers in these resource units for every blind child in our country to have skills and increased opportunities in learning and interaction.

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Photo of Saori Ooka
Team

You have really great project! I like it so let me help you when you need some help.

Spam
Photo of Trust Mutekwa
Team

Thank you very much Saori. We are working on having the first ICT workshop for 44 of the teachers currently working with our children during the August schools break. We keep you posted as we move towards this.

Spam
Photo of Joseph MUNYANDAMUTSA
Team

Great idea Mr. Mutekwa! you have a good project.

Spam
Photo of Trust Mutekwa
Team

Thank you very much Sir Munyandamutsa. We are looking forward to a transformed disability story in our society. One chapter at a time, we get there one day soon!

Spam
Photo of Lloyd Machacha
Team

The C in the acronym "ICT" is for Communications, and this is very crucial in the inclusion and development of children visually impaired. You will notice that in most cases communication between visually impaired children and others has been difficult because of language barriers. The use of computers will enhance communication between children visually impaired and others because computers have many forms and facets of conveying information, which include voice as well. For this reason I personally believe this project is a noble idea which calls all of us to rally behind it. I think you need to set up a national fund for buying the computers which people can contribute to. I am thus pledging $50 towards the project for a start.   

Spam
Photo of Trust Mutekwa
Team

Thank you very much Sir Lloyd. We appreciate your ideas and encouragement. Your pledge is going to take us to the next level in this drive. We grow in this idea as each day comes. We have talked about Teacher Readiness for too long. We have coordinated ourselves for the first workshop with half of all the teachers we have identified. We have proposed a five-day workshop for 44 teachers during the August school break. We have so far identified 4 facilitators to work with us in all the areas that will give our children proficiency and independence with the computer. We will keep you updated about all the progress...

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Photo of Constance Chidemo-mtandwa
Team

I think this is a noble effort indeed for children who are blind it solves the problem of having the information they need in Braille which is very limited .inclusive education would be good to open societies eyes that these children are as competitive as any other child .once they have be included in the schools even the cooperate world will be ready to recieve them

Spam
Photo of Trust Mutekwa
Team

Braille: I go back to crisis and tears of 2010 when we fought for braille machines. I realise we can buy two computers where we buy a braille machine. We can also produce braille with a computer and have countless functions we can hardly have with a traditional brailler...

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Photo of Gwyneth McCormack
Team

Learning independent access skills for any child who is visually impaired is crucial to enable them to participate equally alongside their sighted peers. IT skills are absolutely of paramount importance and are lifelong core skills. The young person who learns these skills will be ready to participate in society, to work, to contribute, to take an equal place. Each young person learning IT needs their own computer/laptop to do this. This project follows best practice for children and young people with vision impairment.

Spam
Photo of Trust Mutekwa
Team

Thanks a lot Gwyneth. Independent access skills: sure, I enjoy myself everyday as the students work without need for assistance in their daily class activities.

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Photo of Kudakwashe Mufandaedza
Team

Teaching visually impaired students ICT skills at Primary and secondary level equips them with Morden and relevant skills to participate in society. I think it levels the playing field with their peers who are not visually impaired. Everyone deserves a chance and this is a big stepping stone for the visually impaired.

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Photo of Trust Mutekwa
Team

Thank you very much Kudakwashe. It levels the playing field- taking us close to inclusive practices in education.