Originally known as "Our Reading Spaces", in-ABLE's journey began in 2006, with the initial goal of establishing reading havens for impoverished children in the rural areas of Kenya. However, during one of Our Reading Spaces' events in 2008, founder Irene Mbari-Kirika came into contact with a group of bright, eager and quite competitive students that stole the show at that event, including winning one of the reading competitions - despite the fact that all of them were blind. After visiting the nearby Thika School for the Blind, the organization decided that while we would continue with our original mission of creating reading spaces for students and children, the blind and visually impaired within that group were in much more urgent need of assistance.
The blind, visually impaired, and the disabled in general, are a forgotten group in Africa. Educational opportunities for--- them are scarce as families will often focus their resources on educating their sighted children first. On top of this debilitating lack of education, opportunities to join the workforce are further hindered by general bias and a lack of awareness that people with vision loss can handle many of the same tasks that sighted people can. The end result is that the blind are a marginalized and dependent constituency, separated and hidden from the rest of society. Those whose families cannot (or will not) support them end up going into the only two avenues for income that they see - begging or prostitution. For those few blind children that do make it into schools, their path is stacked with obstacles. A single text book when converted to Braille consists of several thick volumes two feet tall, printed on an expensive form of paper. Braille books therefore cost many times what regular text books cost, which again pushes families to direct resources towards sighted children. Furthermore, the teaching curricula and testing methods put visually impaired students at a major disadvantage because progression to higher levels of education is governed through national exams that pay no regard to accessibility. (Consider, for example, the number of graphs and charts found in a typical mathematics exam). This confluence of factors means that a blind child finds it difficult to start an education, and then extremely difficult to complete that education close to par with sighted peers, and therefore effectively impossible to build the foundation for self-reliance in the community.
To improve future opportunities for these students, we transformed Our Reading Spaces into inABLE with the mission of bringing computers, the internet and assistive technology to the blind children of Africa. We strongly believe that computer literacy will not only allow our students to bridge the academic gap with their sighted peers, but also arm them with valuable skills that allow them to enter a job marketplace that has dismissed them for too long