eKitabu Tunaenda Digital Newsletter June 2022
In May, we held a hands-on workshop with local publishers to build accessible digital content together in Blantyre, Malawi. It was a multi-stakeholder training on developing and using accessible digital content in local languages: Malawian Sign Language, Tumbuka, Chichewa, Yao, and Lomwe to support inclusive education in Malawi, bringing together content developers and stakeholders: publishers, teachers, Organizations of Persons with Disabilities and Malawian government representatives.
The main purpose of the workshop was to introduce accessible digital content to participants and demonstrate how it can support inclusive education for all children, building on the principles of Universal Design for Learning. The approach was to give content developers hands-on experience with “born accessible” publishing practices using an Accessible EPUB toolkit to help them digitize their existing titles to open standards for accessibility.
We trained more than 50 representatives from local publishers in the 4-day workshop, equipping them with open source tools (see Toolkit.eKitabu.com/malawi for more on these) to incorporate accessibility into their products and practices. In the process, we built skills and relationships for a more accessible and sustainable Malawian publishing ecosystem. We also began to address gaps in accessible materials for more inclusive and equitable quality education in Malawi. From the 4-day workshop, participants were able to develop 5 initial EPUB titles following the steps in the Accessible EPUB toolkit.
Feedback we received from the workshop:
“We have the publishers, writers, illustrators, and editors. Let us all work together to remove barriers experienced by persons with disabilities.” Lucy Magagula, Deputy Director for Inclusive Education, Ministry Of Education, Malawi.
“For a long time ‘accessibility’ issues were highly focused on physical accessibility forgetting other means of accessibility in the form of materials adaptation and use of a friendly language. The workshop opened eyes for many producers, publishers, and curriculum developers, and I hope it will accelerate more production of accessible digital materials on the principle of leaving no one behind.” Sekerani Kufakwina, Advocacy Committee Chairperson, Malawi National Association of the Deaf (MANAD).
“In order for us to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4, we must consider how to go digital.” Odala Banda, Senior Education Specialist, USAID Malawi.
“Capacity can only be measured if given the opportunity to show what has been gained. If we go towards ebooks, we believe it’s exciting and something everyone will look forward to and breed the inquisitiveness to want to read more.” Maureen Masamba, President of the Book Publishers Association of Malawi, also an editor at Dzuka Publishing, Malawi.
The accessible digital content workshop was held in collaboration with All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (USAID, World Vision and the Australian Government) under the Begin with Books project. It was designed to build on the recent book development training activities led by the Global Book Alliance In Action (GBAIA) in Malawi to strengthen book supply chains and ensure easier access to quality books for all children.