Being blind is a considerable handicap, but being blind in Africa is even more challenging. In many respects, a blind person in Africa, particularly rural Africa, loses the ability to provide for his family since he or she cannot farm.
The 5th Africa Forum on Blindness is taking place this week in Accra, Ghana.
Yaw Ofori Debra, president of the Ghana Blind Union and Vice President of the African Union of the Blind, said the conference is discussing ways to use technology to advance the equality and rights of blind people.
“[During] this 5th African Forum, the theme is ‘Access Africa: Exploiting the full benefits of social inclusion.’ It’s a platform that offers opportunities for blind persons and all professionals working in the field of blindness to come together, discuss, and find solutions to situations that challenge the lives of persons with visual disability on the continent of Africa,” he said.
Ofori Debra described as severe the challenges facing the blind in Africa, including access to reading materials, safer streets and the lack of employment.
“Conditions of blindness in Africa are very severe in the sense that, one, the [public’s] attitude toward blindness in Africa is very appalling. Two, opportunities to overcoming the challenges of blindness are almost non-existent, and you realize that, after even having the opportunities to go through education, getting employment is also very scarce in Africa. For that matter, we can say that being blind in Africa is a challenging situation,” Ofori Debra said.
He said the Accra conference will launch “TechShare Africa,” a new program to bring modern and practical technology to be part of the daily lives of persons who are blind, or partially blind, in Africa.
“TechShare Africa is exposing a lot of technology to policy makers and to those who are managing blindness in Africa. These technologies are going to be made available for everybody to see and impress upon governments and institutions that deal with persons with visual disability to make resources available to secure those devices for Africa,” Ofori Debra said.
He said despite the fact that some African governments have passed legislation to provide resources for the disabled, implementing those laws has been lagging.