App to help hearing impaired

18 November 2021 | Social Issues

Windhoek • [email protected]

“I urge every Namibian to make a special effort to become a campaigner for people with disabilities,” the Deputy Minister for Disability Affairs in the ministry in the presidency responsible for gender equality, poverty eradication and social welfare, Alexia Manombe-Ncube, said.
She was speaking at a NamPower event where the institution announced its support for Possible Trading, a local company that develops the Connect Africa app.
Connect Africa is an app that converts written words to spoken language, or spoken language to written words.
Possible Trading’s Timothy Nangombe, hearing impaired Ester Negumbo Kumbu and visually impaired Pilgrim Shimanu Ndumba demonstrated how the app works.
Ndumba said access to information could make disabled people excel and give them the chance to contribute to the economy. “We will create jobs for other disabled people,” she said.
NamPower's donation included two laptops, two video projectors, three tablets, one computer and one camera worth approximately N$70 000.
“Technology is good when it brings people together. With this initiative, our beneficiaries - the visually impaired and the hearing impaired - will experience a sense of acceptance. We believe this equipment will empower beneficiaries to gather and share knowledge and information. Knowledge is power,” Otilie Mujoro, head of the NamPower Foundation, said.

Innovation
The Deputy Director of Research and Innovation in the Ministry of Higher Education, Technology and Innovation, dr. Nhlanhla Lupahla, elaborated on the national system of innovation that focuses on the connection between participants such as private enterprises, universities and public research institutions.
He thanked NamPower for their support to young Namibian innovators. “In this way you not only offer hope to many visually and hearing impaired children out there, but you also comply with the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) industrialisation strategy, to create jobs for young people in line with the theme of promoting infrastructure development and youth empowerment,” Lupahla said.
The chairperson of the Namibian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD), Beata Armas, through an interpreter, emphasized that the app cannot replace an interpreter, especially not for hearing-impaired people.
Many hearing-impaired people cannot read, so the app does not help them, she says. The app can also not replace a live conversation with an interpreter, she insists.
“Our motto is still, ‘nothing about us without us’. So many of you have gone ahead and decided for us without making us part of negotiation to give advice for the best possible outcome. When we ask for direct funding requests for the promotion of interpreters or other sign language training, many of you are not willing to help,” she said.
The app is currently unable to translate or process sign language at all, but Nangombe says it is still just a prototype and they are working on including it as a function too.
Furthermore, they also want to ensure the app can process native languages, describe pictures, and be used offline.

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