- July 22, 2019
-- Ten years ago, Kenyan-born Washington DC resident Irene Mbari-Kirika was thrilled to be opening a rural library in her home country of Kenya, when she discovered that blind students had very limited educational resources. The significant disparity, compared to sighted students, led her to envision a way to empower blind and visually impaired students in Africa through computer assistive technology and led to the creation of inABLE.org a 501(c)(3) tax exempt non-profit organization based in the USA and Kenya. On July 24, 2009 the very first inABLE Computer-Lab-
for-the-Blind opened in Thika, Kenya.
"From day one the students, teachers and administrators at the Thika Primary School for the Blind believed that totally blind students could become computer literate and they did," explains Irene Mbari-Kirika is Founder and Executive Director of inABLE. "Now we see that our original goal of basic computer skills was modest after watching thousands of eager blind and visually impaired students master multiple computer devices, communicate with new friends, access Kindle books and STEM curriculum online, learn coding, and even becoming inABLE computer-instructor apprentices."
Today, inABLE operates eight assistive technology labs in six special primary and high schools for the blind in four Kenya counties (Kiambu, Meru, Siaya and Mombasa), and has hired 15 assistive technology instructors. Enrollment now exceeds 7000 students, with over 35,000 training hours. Over the years, the program has developed an entire curriculum to instruct visually impaired students (ages 6-20) on all aspects of assistive technology computer use, including email, web browsing, productivity software, HTML and web design. This learning model can be replicated across other countries.
Now with a decade of experience, Irene has ambitious plans for inABLE.org including:
• Scale the Computer Labs for the Blind program across all 16 special schools for the blind in Kenya and establish a coding program for primary and high school students.
• Establish the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Accessibility Tech Lab project to provide advanced tech skills training to youth with disabilities and promote their employment in the tech industry.
• Organize and host the Inclusive Africa Conference http://inclusiveafrica.org/
to promote digital accessibility, scheduled to take place in Nairobi on March 29th - 31, 2020.