YouthSpark Profiles highlight young people in Asia Pacific who are dedicated to changing the world through technology and inspiring others along the way.
Name: Gargi Nepal
Occupation: Student at Trichandra College
Born visually impaired, 24-year-old Gargi Nepal has overcome many of the barriers faced by people with disabilities to hone her computing skills. Today, the 24-year-old college student is dedicated to addressing the lack of assistive technology in Nepal, leveraging her own learning experiences to pave the way to a brighter future for other visually impaired students.
What were some challenges you faced when you were younger?
When I was a secondary school student, the school I attended was not able to provide a learning environment conducive for visually impaired students. Our textbooks were not readily available in Braille script, and I was unable to participate with sighted students in various classroom activities. I believe the lack of specialised teachers and assistive technology in Nepal is a key hurdle that many visually impaired individuals still face today.
How did you overcome these challenges to become proficient with technology?
Through my friends’ recommendation, I enrolled in the Technical and Skill Development Centre for Blind and Disabled (TSDCBD) in Kirtipur as part of my college education. Through the training, I realised how technology can help me communicate with others easily, such as through emails, and allows me to learn more about the world via the Internet. I also discovered the wonders of the Dristibachak software, which, to my delight, allowed me to read and write in the Nepali language.
After achieving an adequate level of technical proficiency, I decided to volunteer with Forward Looking Nepal in late 2012, serving as the computer instructor for visually impaired people in the rural Palpa district. This was my first teaching experience, and it gave me the confidence that I can make use of my skills and ability to help those with special needs.
How have you been able to use your experiences to help other visually impaired students?
While working with Forward Looking, I was tasked with teaching high school students as well as their instructors; the majority of whom had never had experience with a computer before.
Being able to teach them about computing software was very rewarding—it also reminded me that the lack of access to learning opportunities faced by disabled people is even more pronounced in underprivileged communities. Assistive technology can play a big role in transforming lives, and I used my past learning experiences to introduce new techniques that can help visually impaired students learn faster and pick up computing skills more easily. I am delighted to learn that some of the students I trained are now themselves capable of imparting computing knowledge to others!
What are your next steps, and how has Microsoft been able to support your purpose?
My immediate goal is to start and lead a campaign to provide more extensive IT training to visually impaired people across Nepal. In our country, most disabled people are deprived of learning opportunities due to the lack of facilities. It is estimated that out of the 78 schools providing education to visually impaired children, computer education is available at only three of them. I believe Microsoft can provide the support that individuals like us need to bridge the digital divide—and empower visually impaired students in Nepal to be computer literate.