Pelgrina Ndumba (34), who is visually impaired, and Ester Lumbu, (32), who is hearing-impaired, have developed a mobile and web application (app), called Connect-Africa, to help solve some ICT challenges they face with their disabilities.
The app assists the visually impaired by detecting, among others, the denomination of Namibian banknotes, newspaper articles, programmes, medical labels and bank statements, as well as translating these into speech.
It can also translate English text into local vernaculars.
For the hearing impaired, the app translates spoken word into text and Sign Language, and vice versa, allowing the hearing-impaired individual to attend school, university or any gathering without the aid of a Sign Language interpreter.
Ndumba is optimistic the app will improve their lives and enable them to perform better in their daily lives, while enhancing the knowledge of the uneducated hearing- and visually impaired.
They started working on the app in 2019 – and although it is still at a prototype stage, it has already received approval from the Namibian Federation of the Visually Impaired and Namibia National Association of the Deaf.
The duo recently received IT equipment worth N$69 799.25 from Nampower.
The donation includes two laptops, two projectors, three tablets, one desktop computer and one camera.
Speaking at the handover ceremony, Nampower Foundation head Otilie Mujoro said technology is good when it brings people together, with the hope that the equipment will empower the beneficiaries to impact or acquire knowledge and information.
“With this initiative, our beneficiaries – the visually- and hearing-impaired – will feel a great sense of belonging,” added Mujoro.
Deputy minister of disability affairs Alexia Manombe-Ncube said it was indeed a heart-warming moment for her when Connect-Africa visited her office to explain the purpose of the application that it wants to create for persons with hearing and visual impairment.
“We have to create and promote an enabling environment and equal opportunities for sustainable socio-economic development for the wellbeing of all,” added Manombe-Ncube.
Similar apps exist in the world.
For the visually impaired, there is Job Access With Speech (JAWS) and Non-Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) – computer screen reader programmes that allow blind and visually-impaired users to read the screen either with a text-to-speech output or by a refreshable Braille display.
Connect-Africa does the same but has gone one step further: it converts text into Sign Language and local Namibian vernaculars, scan paper documents and detect the value of banknotes.
Similar apps in the world for the hearing-impaired can only capture what people say and translate into text, but Connect-Africa can translate speech into Sign Language.