5th Africa Forum Blindness Conference
Breakthrough African event focuses on accessible technology, braille, albinism
The 5th Africa Forum, the largest-ever gathering in the blindness field, concluded July 8, 2011. For five days Accra, Ghana was transformed into a bustling hub for the exchange of ideas, information and empowerment for individuals living with blindness or visual impairment. (Download a French language press release (traduction en francais du communique de presse).
Download Papers & Keynotes from the 5th Africa Forum
We are pleased to offer downloadable English and French versions of keynote addresses and papers presented during the 5th Africa Forum. Download papers and presentations here.
Milestones and notable "firsts" from the 5th Africa Forum
A number of significant milestones for African people who are visually impaired were announced or launched at the event, the only international conference on blindness in Africa.
Spreading Education, Empowerment, and Technology Across the Continent
The 5th Africa Forum, sponsored by Perkins, Sight Savers International, the World Blind Union and the Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted, drew 400 individuals ranging from consumers and educators to members of nonprofit organizations and manufacturers. Some came to share their personal stories of living with a disability. Others came to network and unite in their advocacy and awareness efforts.
Still more came to experience accessible technology available for the first time in Africa, a major step toward the inclusion and empowerment of all individuals with disabilities on that continent.
“It’s become something of a marketplace where people come to buy and share,” said Martin Kieti, senior consultant for the Institutional Development Program and Perkins’ consultant in Africa. “It’s the place to be in Africa.”
The seeds of Africa Forum were planted in 1996, when the continent’s first and only pan-African conference dedicated to organizations of and for the blind attracted 75 attendees. The program was an overwhelming success. Much anticipation at this year’s conference swelled around the launch of TechShare Africa, presented by the Royal National Institute for the Blind, to introduce and showcase assistive technology from a range of manufacturers. The event was a critical step toward improving the inclusion and empowerment of individuals who are blind or visually impaired, Kieti said.
“TechShare is exposing African consumers to the available products out there,” said Kieti. “And for the manufacturers, it’s the first time they’re coming to Africa, and they’re finding a whole market sitting there waiting.”
The number of individuals in need of assistive technology is growing. About 15 percent of the world’s population – more than one billion people – lives with some form of disability, according to the international report compiled by the World Health Organization and the World Bank, unveiled at Africa Forum.
The five-day program also launched the Ghana Braille Authority, a major milestone for the support of braille literacy for Africans. The Authority will assist in the development and standardization of braille in that country. The Forum was also the largest gathering to date of individuals with albinism, and provided an opportunity for discussion and advocacy.
The 6th Forum, scheduled for 2015, will build on the successes of this summer and work to include even more stakeholders. Issues affecting individuals with deafblindness will likely have a central role, and TechShare Africa will return with more manufacturers and more examples of technology.
It is estimated that over 90% of students with disabilities do not attend school. The number is higher for students who are deafblind.
“Africa Forum has grown into one of the major conferences on blindness in the world," said Dr. Aubrey Webson, Perkins International director, IDP director, and chief organizer of Africa Forum. "The object of every Africa Forum is to create opportunities so that Africans who are visually impaired can become part of the dream of exploring and accessing the continent as others do. In addition, the involvement of governments is helping to make the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities a practical reality in the lives of people in Africa. Perkins is proud to be a leader with the African people in making this event relevant and successful.”
Audio of certain portions of the 5th Africa Forum are available online at Insight Radio, the radio station from RNIB in England. Click here to listen to key sessions and interviews on RNIB's website.
Perkins International - Sight Savers International - The World Blind Union - Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted