According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 2.2 billion people worldwide suffer from some form of visual impairment, and in nearly half of those, vision impairment could have been prevented. The leading causes of vision impairment and blindness worldwide are uncorrected refractive errors and cataracts.With the rising burden of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, blindness due to diabetic neuropathy has been increasing steadily in the last two decades.
October is the World Blindness Awareness Month, established to highlight the realities of living without sight while pointing out the challenges of visual impairment, approaches to maintaining eye health and actions that can be taken to improve the quality of life for persons with visual impairments and ensure they live to their full potential. October is a good time to reflect on how vision loss affects our lives and those of the people around us and discuss how we can make it better as a society.
Technological advances continue to be leveraged in many spheres to improve health and the general quality of life. For visually impared persons, these could include assistive technologies and other solutions that are built to serve their needs as well. We must also consider how technology can help those with visual impairments, whether they are partial or total. Technology that ensures inclusivity of people suffering from blindness and other vision impairments will empower people suffering from blindness and low vision with the ability to independently navigate their environment, interact with others, and participate in all aspects of life. The first step towards inclusive technology is to remove the obstacles that make it difficult for people with disabilities to use devices. This includes making sure that our mobile apps are compatible with screen readers, which provide alternative text, and/or convert text on a computer screen into speech or braille.
Inclusive and accessible design is an approach that enables people with disabilities to use technology and participate fully in society. It means designing products, services and environments so they are usable by everyone. The Principles for Digital Development (the “Digital Principles”) are a living set of guidelines that assist donors and implementing partners in incorporating digital technology into development and humanitarian assistance initiatives. These principles and approaches to universal and accessible design aim at ‘Leaving No one Behind’ as part of efforts to make the Internet more inclusive.
The digital principles were stewarded by Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) and are intended for use by governments, businesses, civil society organizations and others who are designing or implementing policies or programs that promote access to digital technologies for all people. The Principles for Digital Development are now endorsed by more than 250 organizations, and IntelliSOFT is recognized as a Gold endorser of the Digital Principles.
IntelliSOFT has established a consortium known as the Uwezo wa Dijiti Kenya (UWADI-KE) which is an acronym in Swahili that literally translates to “Capability of digital”. The consortium consists of the University of Nairobi’s Department of Computing and Informatics and AuraSafira.
Centered on inclusive innovation that aims to leave no one behind, at IntelliSOFT,we are committed to ensuring that our products and services are accessible to people with disabilities (PWDs) including those with impared vision. To improve inclusivity and accessibility for people with disabilities, IntelliSOFT is working with the University of Nairobi and the Kenya Society for the Blind to create a Learning Management System (LMS) that can merge technical solutions, accessibility guidelines, and universal design.
The UWADI-KE initiative places great emphasis on accessibility and digital inclusion for PWDs, and aims to offer a platform for conversation and co-creation. UWADI-KE encourages the practical application of the digital principles, with particular emphasis on the first principle: Design with the user .This is intended to provide improved project development and implementation information for tools and systems that include PWDs, ultimately promoting inclusion.