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Digital Technology for the Blind
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Digital Technology for the Blind

People who are blind and partially sighted have traditionally struggled to take advantage of digital technology, particularly in developing countries. But a new Adaptive Technology Center in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa is changing that. 

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Segment 1

VOICEOVER
Graduation day for a special group of people. Despite being blind or visually impaired, they've recently completed a course in computer use. For years, people with similar disabilities around the world were deprived of the benefits brought about by digital technology. Now computers can literally speak, making them accessible to those who can't see. In Ethiopia, in the Horn of Africa, for example, more than 500,000 people are blind. Millions of others are living with varying degrees of partial loss of sight. To help the blind and visually impaired take advantage of computer know-how and skills, the Adaptive Technology Center for the Blind was established in Addis Ababa four years ago. The General Manager of the center is Tamiru Ewnetu.
TAMIRU EWNETU
This technology is new for our country, and many blind people are using it nowadays in their offices and schools, and they are accessing information independently: reading and writing.
VOICEOVER
With support from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the center acquired new computers and adaptive devices such as voice synthesizers and Braille printers. Head of the ITU Regional Office for Africa is Brahima Sanou.
BRAHIMA SANOU
It's part of the framework of our activities, the framework of our pilot projects, to actually help and show to the whole community worldwide in Geneva in December how information technologies can be used today.
VOICEOVER
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, provided funds for training. Thirty-four blind people have been trained in the use of the new technology. One of them is 37-year-old lawyer, Metmku Yohannes.
METMKU YOHANNES
This technology gave me an access that I didn't have before to the Internet and a lot of other information. And also it made me self-supporting.
VOICEOVER
Temesgen Mulleta is also blind. He has been employed by the Ministry of Mines for 21 years. He's already using the adaptive technology he acquired through the training. His job's been made easier and his productivity enhanced. If they are given a chance, the blind and visually impaired can play a more constructive role in the socio-economic development of their countries. Making the information technology available to them will be among the issues to be discussed at the ITU-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society to be held in December this year in Geneva, Switzerland. This report was prepared by Kamil Taha for the United Nations.