News Story

Church Donated Computers Help Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals in French Polynesia 

Late last year The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donated two computers equipped with text-to-speech software to the Mata Hotu Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired of French Polynesia.

The computers, which assist the association in its training programs for visually impaired individuals, were provided by Latter-day Saint Charities, the charitable organization of the Church. 

Latter-day Saint Charities representatives were recently invited by the association to see how this system has made a difference for its 50 members. 

“The computers provided by the Church are great because they are equipped with specially adapted software,” said Diego Tetihia, president of the association. “Thanks to this speech synthesis software—a technique that creates artificial speech from any text—the blind and visually impaired learn an easier way to use a standard computer keyboard.” 

He added, "It is not easy, but we know that our Heavenly Father has given us other senses to develop, and this is what helps us to live our daily lives."  

On the day of the visit, training was being given by computer teacher Ariipaea Cheung Fok, who has adapted his teaching approach to allow individuals with different needs to understand the computer tool. 

Cheung Fok explains that for the visually impaired, computer use begins by learning to use very large font sizes and proper screen brightness. Visually impaired people can be very sensitive to an excess of light. 

For the blind, using a text-to-speech computer is more complex and requires patience and ingenuity to make the keyboard and navigation accessible. 

“Five people with disabilities attended the first introductory computer training course,” said Cheung Fok. “You need to put yourself in their shoes to better understand how to relate and help them learn. When I prepare my lessons, I sometimes blindfold myself so I can feel their difficulties." 

Members of the Mata Hotu Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Latter-day Saint Charities gather for a photo. French Polynesia, May 20212021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Noella Sulpice, vice-president of the association and herself blind, showed the group how she uses the text-to-speech computer. 

After a remarkable demonstration of her newly acquired skills in using the text-to-speech computer, she shared, “I want to make my dearest wish come true, to find a job in a private company as an office receptionist, for example. By following this computer training, I want to be independent on a computer. I can increase my employability as a disabled person and plan for my future." 

Elder Frederic Riemer, who represented the Church at the meeting, said: “When I see people who don't have eyesight and are so brave and want to improve their situation, it really is a lesson for all of us not to give up. We need to continue to reach out to those in need. This is what the Lord expects from us."

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