Moses Chiira shares his personal story of career progression as a blind person. His is a story of resilience.
Freedom…even after four hundred years is a human ambition that cannot be suppressed! This is not that story though…but is equally about the liberating power of assistive technology and digital skills!
I have one mission for this story…to get a job for Moses, let’s begin!
Moses was born in 1991. He survived a difficult birth that nearly claimed his life and that of his mother. As he was growing up, before the age of five years, he started having problems with his eyes. He would later be diagnosed with glaucoma! Strong-lensed eyeglasses, an eye-drop a day…kept the glaucoma away.
Moses got by well, like all kids and boys his age, adventure, play and getting in trouble was how he grew up. He was raised in Nakuru and has many childhood memories in that part of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya.
His childhood dream was to become a journalist. When he completed his high school education, he had his sight set on this ambition. Unfortunately, many kids in Kenya struggle to get through tertiary education. Higher education in Kenya is largely expensive and many times graduates do not transition into the job market. Moses’ dad had passed on now a couple of years. His mom could not afford to pay for his higher education and like many kids do when they complete high school, he boarded a bus to the big city, Nairobi, the green city in the sun…to look for opportunities.
Moses was close to his dad…and maybe that’s why we became close. You see I am named after my mother’s big brother, Moses’ dad. He is staying with us now, at my parent’s place.
Moses tells me he is interested in pursuing a course that would give him skills to get a job or become a consultant. He already has a certificate in computer applications and some decent computer hardware skills training too. I recommend information technology and take him on a visit to Nailab, an accelerator company based in one of the busy business districts in Nairobi. This is where we meet a young man called Victor who recommends a program by the Nairobits Foundation. The program supports youth from vulnerable communities to learn web design and development. He is super-excited about it and applies!
Moses gets accepted into the program and quickly discovers a new passion…graphic design. Within a couple of months, he graduates with a diploma in web and graphic design. For about a year, he practised his newly found skills on web design projects.
Then something terrible starts to happen… “Chiira, I think I'm losing my sight…and I’m terrified,” … I tell him it’s going to be ok and we’ll do all we can. He goes in for surgery, the doctors tell him, there’s a chance he could lose the little vision left. It gets worse, his retina gets scarred…it is all not okay anymore. That terrible day finally comes…Moses is declared clinically blind! He is scared, he has to start from the bottom. He gets depressed, there’s no easy way back up! It will take a great deal of character and courage. I take him to Kenya School for the Blind in Nairobi West. He joins a six-month rehabilitation program, gets counselling, learns braille and how to use a walking cane. He graduates top of his class.
Moses reconnects with his childhood dream and ambition for journalism. He applies for a single subject diploma in radio journalism at Kenya Institute of Professional Studies College. He gets a full scholarship after his impressive performance and meeting with the school director!
Just like that Moses gets on a path of self-discovery. He excels in his diploma and more than that he finds his mojo! Moses is really good in voice-overs and commercials. He has also now mastered sound editing and gets into his element every time he is in the studio. Soon enough, Moses lands an attachment position at Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC). Things are going great. Moses loves the radio and studio. Now he knows his way around the compound and with the use of his 4th Eye, a new assistive tech he got from Hope Tech Plus, he does not need the white cane to move around the office. “The 4th Eye is really cool, you can use it with or without the cane and it helps you detect overhead and lateral objects before you get into contact with them. Shout out to Brian and the entire team at Hope Tech for all the awesome work you are doing” chimed Moses. Check them out here.
KBC is so impressed with Moses, they promise to extend his attachment. Moses is really excited. He wakes up every morning at 5 am. By 6 am he makes his way to the matatu stage and by 7 am he is in the office. If you want to learn the experience of blind people navigating public transport in Nairobi, you need a date with Moses. He has tales about it!
Moses loves tinkering with tech and is always on the lookout for new assistive tech that can help him get things done. I tell him about the Orbit 20, a new digital braille reader that could potentially enable him to read news for radio or TV. We soon visit Kilimanjaro Blind Trust (you are doing an amazing job Suparna. Thanks for powering Innovate Now Live Labs!) who specialise in providing digital braille solutions for kids in schools. Moses gets an Orbit 20 and he is over the moon, “I am now ready to take on the world!” he said.
Just as he starts mastering the Orbit 20, he gets some bad news…KBC is terminating his contract. The prospects for a permanent job at the national broadcaster come to a disappointing end.
Moses does not give up, he has a dream to work for BBC radio soon. He also tells me he thinks one day he will see again. He continues sharpening his voice-over and commercials skills. Every day he sends me a recording on WhatsApp and asks me to listen and give him feedback. He is getting really good. He asks me to buy him a commercial license for Goldwave, a sound editing studio. I get him the license and I am super impressed by the quality of his work. I opened a SoundCloud account for him, where he could easily save and share his voiceover demos and work. Check it out here.
One day, Moses comes to me with an idea. “I want to start a podcast to help persons with disabilities share experiences and get a daily dose of hope that all barriers can be overcome.” He is currently working on this project and will be releasing his first episode soon!
All Moses wants is a chance to showcase his great talent for radio! Are you going to give him that chance? To all my good friends in the media and BBC, will you give Moses a chance? Reach him by email via [email protected].