Africa

Perkins International Director Aubrey Webson holds hands with a student who is blind in South Africa
Perkins International Director Aubrey Webson with a student who is blind in South Africa.

Since the early 1990s, Perkins International has worked with local partners throughout Africa to create quality educational opportunities for children and young adults who are blind, deafblind, or blind with additional disabilities.

Perkins' work in Africa is particularly unique because of the Institutional Development Program (IDP). The IDP builds and strengthens organizations of and for the blind and is led by individuals with blindness and low vision. This program embodies Perkins' philosophy of supporting individuals, organizations and communities in realizing their full potential.

In 2011, as a result of services provided by Perkins International and our partners:

  • 2,947 children benefited from educational opportunities they otherwise would not have been able to access
  • 533 professionals received training to better serve children who are blind, deafblind, or blind with additional disabilities
  • 23 organizations worked with parents and empowered them to become advocates for their children’s rights
  • 1,472 Perkins Braillers®, the pen and paper for a person who is blind, were distributed throughout the region
  • 856 Perkins Braillers were repaired through the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust

View a full list of our local partners in Africa »

Project Highlights

Learn more about our work with these examples of recent achievements and find out how you can be part of the transformation. Together, we can turn possibilities into realities and empower more people with disabilities throughout Africa to realize their full potential.

5th Africa Forum is Continent’s Largest-Ever Gathering in the Blindness Field

A student who is deafblind touches a braille book. Her teacher stands beside her.
Sylvia, the first person in Ghana who is deafblind to sit for secondary exams, with her teacher at the 2011 Africa Forum.

The Challenge: The World Health Organization estimates that nine million Africans are blind and another 27 million have impaired vision,the world’s highest regional blindness ratio. The numbers are expected to double by 2020. Most of these children do not attend school and most of those few who do are unable to get jobs. Historically, misperception and superstition about blindness have created artificial roadblocks to progress. There is a critical need to build awareness throughout the continent and bring professionals, families, and government officials together to create opportunities for children and adults who are blind or blind with additional disabilities.

The Intervention: With a goal of making Ghana and all of Africa a more inclusive society, the 5th Africa Forum: “Access Africa” was held on July 3-8, 2011 with a focus on technology. The Forum drew 400 individuals from 43 countries from Africa and various parts of the world ranging from consumers and educators to members of nonprofit organizations and manufacturers. Co-sponsored by Perkins International, Sight Savers International, the World Blind Union and the Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted, the Forum was the continent’s largest ever gathering in the blindness field.

The Method: The Africa Forum is the first and only international conference on blindness services in Africa and it brings together organizational leaders, experts, service providers and educators to exchange experiences, best practices, and raise awareness. The Forum is a program of the Institutional Development Program (IDP), co-sponsored by Perkins International and Sightsavers International, which focuses on building and strengthening organizations of and for the blind primarily within Africa.

The Result: The 5th Africa Forum included a number of significant milestones including:

  • The launch of TechShare, the largest exhibition and training on assistive technology in Africa. Such extensive sharing of high-tech solutions for people who are blind provides transformational opportunities for education, rehabilitation and more productive living. Microsoft Corporation was one of the many technology companies represented.
  • Creation of the Ghana Braille Authority: Reading braille is essential to effectively educate people who are blind. At the Forum, the Ghana Braille Authority was created to set common standards for the use of braille in Ghana and ultimately to serve as a model for other countries, thus advancing literacy and educational standards for all of Africa.

Read more about the accomplishments of the 5th Africa Forum and download papers and presentations from the event »

Building Capacity for Local Brailler Repair Increases Opportunities in East Africa

The Challenge: The Perkins Brailler® is the pen and paper for people who are blind, and it is an essential tool for braille literacy across the world that promotes education and creates brighter futures for its users. With proper maintenance, Perkins Braillers can last for decades. However, without skilled repair technicians, broken devices are often reduced to nothing more than simple doorstops. Across East Africa, an enormous lack of brailler repair professionals had rendered thousands of devices useless, and poorly trained technicians who tried to help would often damage braillers instead of making them operable.

Technicians work on repairing Perkins Braillers in East Africa
Specialists work on damaged braillers at a  Perkins Brailler® repair workshop in East Africa.

The Intervention: Recognizing this key capacity gap, with support from the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Perkins International worked with partners to create local capacity to repair these devices quickly and effectively, increasing the number of children who are blind with access to this essential tool.

The Method: Our approach involved a rigorous training curriculum to create a cadre of skilled brailler repair technicians. Working closely with the Uganda National Association of the Blind, Kenya’s African Braille Centre, and the Tanzania League of the Blind, Perkins established maintenance centers and parts depots in key population hubs and trained local braille specialists to fix devices in more rural areas. Other efforts included establishing a computerized system to anticipate when braillers require repair, allowing technicians to engage in preventative maintenance and assuring that more braillers stay in use. A program was even established to loan braillers to individuals and organizations while their own devices are being repaired, allowing users who are blind to continue to write even while their machines might be in the shop.

The Result: The combination of these interventions has been transformative. Since 2007, more than 75 Perkins trained technicians have repaired more than 3,000 braillers in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Braillers once piled in a corner of a storage room are now being used by children who are blind in primary school classrooms in all three countries. This increase in available devices has allowed students who are blind to fully participate in learning when they otherwise could only listen to classroom instruction and not take notes or capture key ideas. In one school alone, five students who are blind passed their national examinations for the first time, thanks partly to the availability of previously broken braillers.

For more information about Perkins International's work in Africa contact Regional Coordinator, Angela Affran at Angela.Affran@Perkins.org