Keywords: Kenya, students who are blind, digital skills, in-school support

inABLE Computer Labs for the Blind Programme 

inABLE is a US-based NGO working in Kenya. They equip specialised schools for the blind and visually impaired with computer labs providing a full range of assistive technology including PCs, software and teacher training. These labs support students to develop technological skills and access information relevant to their education. InABLE is looking to expand from their current 6 schools to all the specialist schools in Kenya, as well as replicating in other East African countries.

About the practice at a glance
Name of OrganisationinABLE
Type of organisationNGO
Country
of Implementation
Kenya
Year started2009
Funding modelFunding through traditional fundraising from individuals, institutional donors and fundraising events.

IMPACT

In 9 years, inABLE has grown from one to eight assistive technology labs in six special schools for students who are blind in Kenya. Enrollment exceeds 7,700 students, over 30,000 training hours, maintains 155 desktop computers, 53 laptops and 61 iPads. Over the years, the program has developed an entire curriculum to instruct blind students (ages 6-20) on computer use including email, web browsing, productivity software, HTML web page design.  The program has been integrated in both primary and high schools. Per a Georgia Tech nationwide survey of blind/low-vision students at schools across Kenya, inABLE students had a positive outlook about themselves and life as whole, with higher self-confidence compared to students in schools that did not have a computer program. In 2017, inABLE signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Education (MOE) to increase access to education by learners with visual impairment through digitalization of all learning materials, basic computer-training curriculum, and impact research. They have secured a 5-year STEM research partnership with Georgia Tech to measure the impact of their technology program. 

THEORY OF CHANGE

We asked projects to outline their impact model (also called Theory of Change) – their main target groups, the key activities they offer these target groups, and what impact they want to achieve:

Target GroupActivityImpact
Students
Assistive technology computer training

Employable computer skills and ability to access accessible online resources.
TeachersAssistive technology computer trainingSufficient skilled personnel on assistive technology
Parents/Employers/CommunityInformation sharing and communicationAttitude change and practices supporting the education and
employment of blind and visually impaired people.

REPLICATION EXPERIENCE

inABLE has already replicated its innovation. They have established eight computer assistive technology labs in six schools in Kenya, and have developed an assistive technology curriculum. The plan is to replicate this model across the 16 special schools for the blind in Kenya, as well as across other disabilities and developing countries. A feasibility study would need to be undertaken to determine financial implications and funding sources. Numerous charitable foundations, civic organizations, and individual donations have helped to fund the expansion of the program, including the hiring of 15 instructors. inABLE has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with iLab at Strathmore University to support further instructor training. The programme has been successfully implemented at both primary and secondary school level. 

ORGANISATIONAL CAPACITY AND STRATEGY

Although the program began in Kenya, the Board and Leadership team have always maintained the vision that computer labs could be and should be replicated wherever there is a lack of inclusion and computer literacy education for people who are blind in developing countries. The inherent programme knowledge for replication is available within the organisation, but resources are required to hire, train and deploy staff for the further replication of the project.

MOTIVATION

Using assistive computer technology and effective instruction, inABLE would like to present a solution to the challenges associated with the high cost of Braille books that forces many blind students in Kenya and other African nations to share a single text-book. inABLE is looking for guidance to identify where, how best and when to replicate their computer lab model in other African nations. inABLE is also motivated to join the program to strengthen the current monitoring, evaluation and learning components of the program to ensure that there is better documentation and learning. There is a need to have regularly commissioned evaluations that would give the board and leadership team clearly defined metrics of measuring progress. This is critical in the replication strategy to learn from the new and expanded components of the program.