Bridging the digital divide for people with disabilities

Saturday, November 23, 2013

By Gabi Khumalo

Phokeng – People with disabilities, enrolled at Phokeng in Education in the North West province, will now have access to IT devices, which will empower them with the skills to become independent and employable.

The Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, and mobile company Cell C on Friday officially opened the school’s computer lab, which has 10 computers installed with the relevant software to meet the students’ needs. This includes Open Book scanning and reading software to enable visually impaired students to read and make notes.

The lab also boasts a double-sided braille printer so students can print copies in braille. Over R300 000 was spent on the equipment.

During the opening of the lab, Cell C also donated three mobile devices, airtime and access to internet connection for a period of 12 months to wheelchair tennis stars.

The event forms part of marking Disability Rights Awareness Month, held under the theme ‘Break barriers, open doors: for an inclusive society for all’.

Speaking at the event, Bogopane-Zulu thanked Cell C for coming on board and making it possible for students with disabilities to access technology tools. She said this would make it easier for them to carry on with their studies and it would give them the skills needed in the workplace.

Bogopane-Zulu had approached Cell C to make them aware of the plight facing people with disabilities, and asked them to assist.

“... This is the beginning of more centres like this to be established in the province,” she said.

She impressed upon students to get ready for the workplace and create the kind of life they want for themselves. She also encouraged them to strive for greatness every day.

“Let us be active citizens… to make South Africa a better place... As you receive these computers, make use of them. We are hoping that you are going to learn to use this equipment to get yourselves ready for work,” Bogopane-Zulu said.

Cell C Executive: Government Relations, Joshua Moela, said the company was honoured to take part in Disability Rights Awareness Month.

“People with disabilities have a right to access to ICT equipment, such as mobile devices,” Moela said, adding that they will be proud when they see the students making a difference in their communities.

North West Education MEC Wendy Matsemela said the department was in the process of empowering teachers in South African Sign Language. She said the computer lab would help to level the playing field for students with disabilities.

Phokeng in Education is an independent training and skills development service provider, which specialises in braille studies, South African Sign Language, ICT training for youth with disabilities, visually impaired and hard of hearing persons in and around the rural villages of Rustenburg and the greater North West province.

The institution also provides training in scarce skills such as braille production, orientation and mobility services to enable visually impaired people to live more independent lives.

The school was founded in 2003 as a satellite campus of a prominent business college operating in the mainstream sector. In February 2007, it was registered as an independent institute of training, skills development and research focused on programmes affecting people with disabilities and rural youth in and around the province. –


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