By Byron Mutingwende
The helping hand and gesture of love extended to persons with disabilities (PWDs) by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ) has been hailed for fostering information communication technology (ICT) among this needy group.
Speaking soon after receiving 20 laptop computers and 20 Fusion software licences from POTRAZ Director-General, Dr. Gift Machengete that were worth US$11 004 in Harare today, Mr. Nyamayabo Mashavakure, representing the National League for the Blind, thanked POTRAZ for the kind gesture which he said will go a long way in helping persons with visual impairment.
“We are very grateful for the donation done by POTRAZ to the National League for the Blind. Fusion software is used by students with visual impairments and is a combination of JAWS and Zoom Text. Fusion provides screen reading and magnification, which can assist a blind or low vision user to independently use a computer and keyboard with speech or Braille display.
“We encourage mobile telephone companies to emulate this kind gesture by POTRAZ through availing PWDs like us with cheap data and other devices like smartphones,” Mashavakure said.
Stella Mutasa, the Resource Unit Teacher at McKeurtan Primary School in Bulawayo also sang from the same hymnbook with Mashavakure.
“The donation by POTRAZ is very helpful to us as McKeurtan Primary School taking into consideration the fact that we have a computer laboratory at the school. Our learners with visual impairment were not benefitting because there was no software on the 13 laptop computers we received from POTRAZ last year.
“With the 13 Fusion Software licences provided to us today that we are told cost US$7 204. 90 our learners can now be computer literate. We have a challenge of shortages of textbooks but with this donation, our learners can now have soft copies of the textbooks,” Mutasa said.
POTRAZ through the Universal service Fund (USF) procured and handed over laptop computers to Karoi High School, Capota High School, Jairos Jiri School (Kadoma) and McKeurtan Primary School (Bulawayo) in July 2018. To complete this initiative, POTRAZ procured 101 Fusion Service licences that it intends to handed over to the institutions.
In his handover speech, Dr. Machengete said POTRAZ, through the Universal Services Fund (USF), is mandated by the Postal and Telecommunication Act Chapter 12.05 to provide ICT services to people living with disabilities. In line with this mandate the Fund is used to empower people with special needs to participate in the digital space as a way to bridge the digital divide between the able bodied and people living with disabilities. The fund also seeks to promote digital inclusion among people with special needs by addressing the shortage of assistive gadgets, e-learning and teaching resources in learning institutions for pupils with special needs.
“In an increasingly evolving digital age, information and communication technologies (ICTs) have the potential for making significant improvements in the lives of persons with disabilities, allowing them to improve their social, cultural, political and economic integration in communities by enlarging the scope of activities at their disposal,” Dr. Machengete said.
POTRAZ handed over 16 desktops computers in 2016 to Emerald Hill for use in setting up a Computer Lab.
It also handed over Audio-Verifit scan equipment to Emerald Hill School for the deaf. The audio-verifit scan equipment is a hearing aid analyser and fitting equipment. It is used to verify electro-acoustic performance of hearing equipment connected to a standard hearing coupler or while won on the ear of the end user. The audio –verifit scan is the most advanced hearing aid and real ear measurement system currently on the market.
Furthermore, POTRAZ, through USF procured 20 desktops to Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre. Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre serves people with physical, visual, hearing and speech or mental disabilities.
The Authority has, in the past, disbursed ICT gadgets to Harare City Library, Bulawayo City Library, and Dorothy Duncan, which are institutions that deal with people with disabilities.
Dr. Machengete revealed that POTRAZ is in the process of procuring ICT gadgets and software for use by PWDs in a number of other institutions like the University of Zimbabwe, the National University of Science and technology, Ingutsheni Hospital and Chengetai Special School in Mutare.