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Blind lead the blind online

There are few opportunities for India's 13 million blind to learn computer skills
There are few opportunities for India's 13 million blind to learn computer skills  

From Satinder Bindra
CNN New Delhi Bureau Chief

MUMBAI, India (CNN) -- Millions in the developing world still have no access to computers or the web.

In India alone 13 million blind people are part of the country's growing digital divide.

But there may be some hope for India's blind.

Samir Latte is learning Microsoft Word. It's slow, agonizing work but Latte is undeterred, dreaming of soon being able to surf the net.

Eventually he hopes all blind people like him will be computer literate.

"I would like to tell them to learn something that would enable them to stand on their own feet and not be dependent on others," says Latte.

Latte uses a specially designed U.S. software package called Jaws. Every time he presses a key, the computer puts out a voice prompt.

India has 25 percent of the world's blind  
13 million people in India are blind  
Nine out of ten of the world's blind live in developing countries  

A full sound computer talks helps Latte but when he gets stuck there is trainer Arti Bubna.

She runs a special training institute for the blind in India's commercial capital, Mumbai.

With no help from the government, Bubna has trained 25 blind people in the past two years. She is also blind.

"The main aim for me to get into teaching was because when I wanted to learn computers there was nobody to teach,'' says Bubna.


So she trained herself by registering for correspondence courses in the United States.

Now, after years of practice, she surfs the web and can design web pages.

India's National Association for the Blind estimates there are 13 million blind people in this country. Most of them are poor, uneducated and only very few of them are computer literate.

To help more blind people overcome the digital divide, Bubna wants the Indian government or international organizations to subsidize software designed for the blind.

Currently such software costs almost $900 -- putting it out of reach for most of India's blind.

Bubna also wants companies who set up high tech operations in India to hire her students.

"Just by imparting training does not help. Finally everyone needs bread and butter. And they cannot get bread and butter just by learning. They have to have jobs,'' explains Bubna.

Bubna says its time people realized blind people don't need sympathy.

Like everyone else they need inspiration and education to help them build their lives and a better world for all.


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