Dream come true for blind radio presenter

Friday, February 24, 2017

Pretoria – It was a dream come true for Siyabonga Molotshwa, a visually impaired community radio presenter from KwaZulu-Natal, who received a portable talking computer for the blind.

“I’m excited that I got the SAnote because it will make accessing the computer easy for me. I struggle to use a cellphone and computer because I have to put my face up close to the screen,” Molotshwa said.

On Friday, Communications Deputy Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and Telecommunications and Postal Services Deputy Minister, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, handed over the SAnote to 20-year-old Molotshwa.

The SAnote is a multilingual, user-friendly and affordable device that is designed, developed, manufactured and distributed in South Africa. It is ready-to-use out-of-the-box, with customisable software.

Molotshwa said when working at the radio station, he needs to rely on his producer to tell him which song was going to be played on the radio.

As a pupil in high school, he also struggled to see what was written on the board.  

He said the SAnote is better than a computer because it talks to him.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) software developer Willem Van De Walt, who is also blind, said he conceived the idea for the SAnote because devices which were available in the market for the blind were expensive as they were manufactured overseas.

“I knew that it was possible to develop a device which would cater for the South African market. I am glad we are to this point where it’s available on the market. I believe there’s a lot of advantages on this device for blind people as it has good audio recording and a long battery life,” Van De Walt said.

He said the SAnote was developed from the experiences he had as a child, a student and a professional.

Van De Walt said he also got inputs about the features of the device from other blind people.

The SAnote emanated from the National Accessibility Programme (NAP), conceptualised in 2003 and developed by the CSIR in partnership with a representative group of Disabled Persons’ Organisations (DPOs) and the Office on the Status of Disabled Persons (OSDP) in the Presidency.

NAP was a five-year research and development initiative aimed at addressing the marginalisation of people with disabilities from the mainstream economy and society, through the use of information and communication technology (ICT).

The CSIR invested funding for its development from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the then Department of Communications (DoC) now Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS). The SAnote also features the Qfrency voices which were co-funded by the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC).

The SAnote will be distributed by the South African National Council of the Blind (SANCB) at an introductory retail price of R7 500 (including VAT) for the first 50 devices. The software will be supported by the CSIR.

Deputy Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams said South Africa needs to tell stories about people who are making a difference in the country.

According to the Deputy Minister, her department’s digital terrestrial television (DTT) migration programme presents the opportunity for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to have a channel for people who have different needs.

“DTT is going to help the SABC to increase its channels from the existing four to 16 channels. This means job opportunities for people who work in front and behind the cameras. We’ve got to be able to produce our own programmes,” said Deputy Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams.

South Africa has started with the process of migrating broadcasting signals from analogue to digital. – SAnews.gov.za

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