Posted by: DigitalAmazon on May 27, 2011
Imagine that you are a middle aged woman living in a township called Kamwala in Zambia. You are HIV positive, widowed and yet you have managed to rise above the odds and raise two healthy children aged ten and sixteen. You are the breadwinner and everyday you ensure that your children are well fed and taken care of. You grew up having big dreams just like anyone else. Now those dreams are not as vivid as they used to be because everyday your daughter has to give you your ARV’s and you need to use a walking stick, not because you are weak but because you have gone blind.
Mary Chapo wakes up to harsh reality of being HIV positive and being blind in a country that does not have support structures for people with her kind of disability. She says, “many blind women line up on the streets to ask for help and nothing is been done to address such issues” (http://www.worldpulse.com/node/27314).
Mary supports her children with the money she receives from people that donate money towards an organisation she is building. This organisation that is still underway is one that aims to educate and teach blind women to be self sufficient by starting their own businesses. When asked why she wants to have an organisation for blind women her she said, “I want to help blind women understand their rights and help vulnerable children because I understand what they are going through”.
Technology for the blind
In today’s business world it is highly important to have access to basic technology. Technology has become a channel of communication. If you are well equipped with technological devices you have the upper hand because already you are exposed to broader way of thinking. By just clicking a button you can have access to the latest business news, stock market, and many more.
Now when we look at today’s technology, how inclusive is it of people that are blind? Let’s look at laptops or computers. Blind people cannot use a computer unless it has screen reader software and Braille displays. The screen reader speaks all the information that appears on the screen out to the user and the Braille line lets the user read the information by touching it. This all sounds very easy but in actual fact, when you operate the computer as a blind person you need to be very quick and skilled.
Although there are a variety of screen readers for the blind, they still remain extremely expensive and therefore inaccessible for the average person. How can someone like Mary have access to a screen reader? Should she be deprived the opportunity to keep up with the latest technology because of her disability?
I can only imagine how many lives Mary would be able to touch if she was not constrained by lack of transport and information. Speaking of transport for the blind, Anthony Riccobono an executive director of the National Federation of the Blind’s Jernigan Institute recently had the opportunity to drive a Ford Escape with the help of laser technology.
Now my question is, if technology has developed to a point where blind people can drive, why do people like Mary still have no access to basic things such as screen readers?
Imagine how different things would be if Mary went to a local library and she had the opportunity to read and work on a computer just like anyone who has eyesight. If she had a screen reader then she would be able to run her organization for blind women more effectively. She would be able to communicate with her members and also be aware of the new inventions that make life easier for people with the same disability. Who knows, maybe one day she too would have the opportunity like Anthony to drive a Ford Escape.