Technology is a driving force for change in the developing world. With the aid of the latest high-tech devices and innovations, people who are blind or visually impaired are now shattering barriers that previously seemed insurmountable.
“Technology is the equalizer,” said Perkins International Director Dr. W. Aubrey Webson.
When Africa’s blindness community convenes in Kampala, Uganda, next year for the 6th Africa Forum, many of the world’s leading manufacturers and distributors of assistive technology will be there too.
The 2nd TechShare Africa Exhibition will showcase the latest high-tech solutions available to people who are blind – from accessible cell phones to refreshable braille displays, and more.
“Technology is vital to any development in the 21st century,” said Webson. “If you want people to be intellectually and socially developed, they have to have access to technology.”
Next year’s TechShare Africa promises to be the biggest and best exhibition yet. The multi-day event will offer Africa Forum participants the unique chance to interact with manufacturers and suppliers of technology solutions for people who are blind. Some vendors will also offer free training sessions on using and maintaining their devices.
“Participants get the opportunity to learn about new developments in technology and can even learn valuable skills at no cost,” said Martin Kieti, program coordinator for the Institutional Development Program (IDP), which hosts Africa Forum.
Next year’s Africa Forum will have a strong focus on the United Nations’ post-2015 development goals; accordingly, exhibitors at TechShare Africa will demonstrate how science, technology and innovation can promote an inclusive and sustainable development agenda.
“Technology for persons with visual impairments – especially in Africa – is an integral part of this,” said Kieti.
The first-ever technology exhibition at Africa Forum was held in 2004. By the 2011 Africa Forum, the exhibition had grown exponentially and officially adopted the TechShare name.
“By then the exhibition was a beehive of activity,” said Kieti. “There was something for everybody – discount prices, giveaways, trainings, networking and information packets.”
The 2011 Africa Forum was also where Perkins Products showcased a prototype of its SMART Brailler®. Perkins Products staff gathered input from forum participants, which was then used in the product development process before the SMART Brailler officially launched in 2012.
Next year’s TechShare Africa Exhibition will feature the African debut of a new high-tech device from Perkins Products – the LightAide, an innovative LED-powered learning tool for young students with low vision.
“TechShare Africa is a great opportunity for us to introduce some of the new technologies we’ve been working on that have already made differences in the lives of students in the U.S. and elsewhere,” said Laura Matz, Perkins Products director of sales and marketing. “Most Forum participants haven’t used the latest technology. And when they do, they realize, ‘I can do anything if I have this.’ When people see what the capabilities are, it’s mind-boggling because it really removes many of the hurdles.”
A New Agenda for Africa
The 2015 Africa Forum promises to be the largest-ever gathering of Africa’s blindness community. Scheduled for Oct. 4-8 in Kampala, Uganda, the Forum offers unparalleled opportunities to learn, collaborate and discuss the future of people with visual impairments on the continent.
The Forum theme is “Beyond 2015: Delivering on the Agenda for Persons with Visual Impairment in Africa.” Participants will focus on a new development agenda for African blindness services beyond the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. To learn more or to register for the Forum, visit our Africa Forum page.