Blindness is relative: inABLE’s IT Bootcamp

Thika Primary School for the blind signpost.
Thika Primary School for the blind signpost. Success is our major goal: Disability is not inability.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.- Helen Keller

Cocktail parties are places of filled with possibilities. This one introduced me to the great work of inABLE. That evening, Microsoft was awarding nonprofit organizations with monetary donation of $50,000 each. They had just been awarded the Microsoft #Upgradeyourworld prize, as one of the Kenyan NGOs that impact lives positively.

I was curious about their initiative because they work with visually impaired children. Catherine Wamwangi, their country representative was more than willing to let me tell their story. She introduced me to Peter Okeyo, their program manager who took it over.

November 29, 2015, I set out to Thika Primary School for the Blind to see how visually impaired people use computers. They had an IT boot camp for students from three schools. Thika, St. Oda and St. Lucy schools for the blind.

Those children challenged me to my core. They use desktop computers and iPads like real gurus. The camp aimed at equipping the students with Java programing skills.

Walking around the school compound, I was accompanied by Zackary Muasya, a totally blind trainer with inABLE. He knew his way around the school pretty well. At some point, I was torn between offering my help, to help him navigate the not so familiar way through the school. I know too well how it feels for a person living with a disability when everyone thinks you need their help. It has happened to me- from very well meaning people.

I ask how I may assist him. “Just hold my hand”, he says. All along the way, he is really aware of his surroundings. Greeting people, noticing a fire that’s burning rubbish, and even directing me on the way to go. Zack knows how to build rapport and keeps the conversation going until we reach the secondary school block. I learn that Zack recently graduated from the University of Nairobi. One of the achievements he left there was a body representing students living with disabilities.

We reach the class that has over 20 students, all busy on their talking iPads. I address them like many other visitors who have probably come to see them working in the past. Then, just then, I feel compelled to inform them that I am also physically challenged. “Today you have proven to me that disability is really not inability”, I tell them.

Part off the IT Boot Camp.
Part off the IT Boot Camp using iPads.

These children have great dreams of becoming great people in society. One girl wants to be a lawyer another a magistrate to fight for the rights of people with disability. Moses from St. Oda wants to be a teacher, because he appreciates the work teachers have put into their lives. One boy even types my blog address on an iPad.

There are totally blind, partially blind and students living with albinism. Georbert Athoo, one of the instructors tells me that people living with Albinism are classified as visually impaired. “We train them on braille because eventually, there is the possibility of losing their sight altogether”, he says.  “We train primary school children and the staff working in the schools”, he adds.

Walking back to the primary school block, Zack gives me a tip on typing using one hand. “Have you tried using the sticky keys?” he asks. “It helps when you have to type multiple keys on the keyboard concurrently”, he adds. I went in search for a story and ended up with more than one lessons, I silently tell myself.

As if to crown it all, Zack remarks, “I don’t worry of my Inability, Instead, I focus on what I can do”, he said. “I live a normal life, just like a visually able person”, he adds.

Zackary Muasya, an instructor at inABLE and Juliet.
Zackary Muasya, an instructor at inABLE and Juliet.

Peter tells me that they discovered some of these tricks when they were met with challenges. “We have grown from a few slow computers in 2009, now we have computer labs for the blind”, he says.

inABLE encourages corporates to develop easily accessible sites for visually impaired people. Keeping in line with their mission to provide accessibility to visually impaired persons, they offer their services to corporates, making websites more accessible. Some of the corporates they work closely with are Safaricom Ltd and Safaricom Foundation.

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