The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will establish a
computer-training centre in Ethiopia to assist the blind and visually impaired
community in Ethiopia to gain access to information and communication
The two UN agencies will support the Adaptive Technology Centre for the Blind
(ATCB), based in Addis Ababa, by training blind students, government employees
and others to use computers equipped with adaptive devices such as voice
synthesizers, magnifying hardware and software as well as Braille embossers,
scanners and printers. The Centre will help raise awareness that blind and
visually impaired people can fulfil their potential through the assistance of
ITU and the local partner ATCB will provide the training equipment and
software. UNESCO will supply training and curriculum development materials. The
local partner, ATCB, will also make available administrative and professional
staff and will provide the project office with the necessary facilities and
transport. The project has a total cost of more than USD 70,000.
"ITU is committed to remove limitations on access to telecommunication
facilities and services," said Brahima Sanou, Head of the ITU Regional
Office for Africa. "This joint initiative gives a special group of citizens
non-discriminatory access to the benefits and opportunities of the information
society, and makes them equal competitors in academics and job
"Through adaptive information technologies, unprecedented in Ethiopian
society, the blind and visually-impaired will be empowered to play a more
constructive role in overall national development," said Mamady Lamine
Conde, Director and Resident Representative of UNESCO.
As part of the project, a course for trainers and students will be organized
at five technical schools across Ethiopia. The project will charge a moderate
training fee from clients who can afford it or their sponsors. Proceeds from
sale of Braille publications such as training manuals, newspapers and other
materials as well as fees and charges from individuals and organizations will
also contribute to sustaining the initiative. In addition, periodic fund-raising
events are expected to mobilize community support.
According to the US-based International Eye Foundation (IEF), there are about
45 million blind people in the world, the vast majority of them living in
Africa. In Ethiopia, the latest census has revealed that there are well over
five hundred thousand people who are totally blind. Although this project is not
the first of its kind in Africa, it seeks to share its experience with other
African countries in establishing a similar centre for this minority community.
ITU and UNESCO have joined forces in an effort to increase the accessibility of
ICTs to this target group.
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