Computer Labs for the blind and the visually impaired persons

The establishment of computer laboratories for blind persons and persons with visual impairments aims at providing a new non-profit service for the blind and visually impaired persons of Al-Quds Open University and community members to enable them catch up with their colleagues and benefit from the services that computers provide for this segment of the society.

This project was implemented in 2005 in cooperation with an Italian organization (RC) and the Foundation of Arab Thought - Jerusalem and the support of Ta'awon. The two laboratories were established in Hebron and Jenin. It is hoped that this project will be expanded to include the largest possible number of beneficiaries in all branches and areas of Al-Quds Open University in West Bank and Gaza.

The main objective of establishing computer labs for visually impaired persons is to enhance the capacities of blind students and enable them to catch up with technology through modern tools, software, and training courses in order to improve their academic performance and thus improve their job opportunities and living conditions.

This project targets blind students at the University and also at the local community in the northern and southern parts of West Bank. These two areas were selected based on their distance from the central area (Ramallah and Jerusalem) and due to the limited resources available in these areas. Furthermore , it was estimated that that there were 24 blind students in these areas in addition to 50 students with vision impairments.

Major impacts of establishing these laboratories: Achieving computer literacy for blind students, which helps them integrate into their society and access information, enable enabling blind students to actively participate in discussions and suggest ideas, and achieve self-reliance . Furthermore, and enhancing motivation of the visually impaired and blind students.

Each lab contains three computers equipped with special software such as JAWS 6.1 screen reader supported by Arabic language as well as Focus 40 Cell Braille display, which converts text to Braille and displays it on the device to make it easier for students to read. The lab also contains a special printer (Everest Index) for Braille letters and a special program to convert any plain text into Win Braille symbols to print them.

Some of the training courses that the students receive:

  1. Introduction to Computer Sciences
  2. Keyboard and printing
  3. Windows XP
  4. Word text editor MS-Word 2003 program
  5. Internet
  6. MS-Outlook 2003