September 10, 2015Byline: Paysha RhoneIt’s highly anticipated. It’s bigger than ever. And it will have a lasting impact on the future of blindness advocacy for an entire continent. It’s the 6th Africa Forum, the signature event of Perkins School for the Blind’s Institutional Development Program (IDP). Scheduled for October 4-8 at the Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala, Uganda, it draws participants from around the globe who will come together to explore the Forum’s ambitious theme: “Beyond 2015: Delivering on the Agenda for Persons with Visual Impairment in Africa.” Here are six things about Africa Forum that make it historic and unique: It’s the largest gathering of Africa’s blindness community, attracting an international array of leaders, policymakers, activists, educators and technology experts. More than 20 million people in Africa are blind or visually impaired, and the Forum is the place to learn, network and help steer the future of blindness advocacy in Africa. It features a world-class line-up of insightful, inspirational speakers. U.N. General Assembly President Sam Kahamba Kutesa is the first keynote speaker. Other keynote speakers include Eliya Limbani Nsapato, CEO for the Africa Network Campaign on Education For All (ANCEFA); His Excellency Dr. W. Aubrey Webson, U.N. ambassador for Antigua and Barbuda and former director of Perkins International; and Professor Ruth L. Okediji of the University of Minnesota Law School, and international expert on copyright and international intellectual property law. Perkins President and CEO Dave Power will also speak. It’s held just outside Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, which is known for its dynamic markets and proximity to majestic national parks filled with endangered gorillas, tree-climbing lions and rare birds. The five-star Speke Resort Munyonyo, located on Lake Victoria (and only a boat ride away from the source of the Nile), features international restaurants, an Olympic-size pool and an equestrian center. It will focus on the U.N.’s world-changing development goals. The conference follows the expected release of the new U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, a blueprint to create a more just, peaceful, inclusive world. Presentations will focus on equitable education, economic self-reliance, sustainable development and more. As Martin Kieti, IDP program coordinator said recently, it’s the perfect time for Africans who are blind or visually impaired to collaboratively develop their own ambitious agenda. It features the popular TechShare Africa Exhibition. Conference-goers can check out new assistive technology and innovative gadgets – from accessible cell phones to refreshable braille displays – for people who are blind or partially sighted. TechShare has grown exponentially since its 2011 debut, and offers products, consultation and free workshops from the world’s leading manufacturers and distributors. It’s hosted by the Institutional Development Program. Co-founded by Perkins in 1991, the IDP works to change what it means to be blind or visually impaired in Africa. It promotes empowerment and independence for individuals, and strengthens the operational capacity of advocacy and service agencies that provide training, technical support, consultancy and mentoring to people with visual impairments. From building networks and strengthening advocacy to exploring new technology and shaping an ambitious continent-wide agenda, the 6th Africa Forum is the premier gathering for the African blindness community. It’s not too late to register to be part of this historic event.