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Mobile Financial Services for Visually Impaired End-Users Pilot Initiative

May 21, 2013
institutional sponsor: 


As part of its twin goals of promoting new payment systems and supporting inclusive development for persons with disabilities (PWD), USAID is working to identify and mitigate the implicit and explicit barriers to entry to economic enterprise, including those related to PWD. USAID is partnering with The Perkins School for the Blind and mobile network operators to focus on the visually impaired, within the context of discussing appropriate technology-based new payments systems.

The research focuses on Kenya, where 70–80 percent of the population moves money, sends remittances, and makes payments over mobile money transfer platforms. To the extent that mobile financial services (MFS) utilize sight-dependent text-based interfaces, visually impaired persons may be excluded from fully utilizing MFS. The Kenya Union of the Blind estimates that 1.4 percent of Kenya's current population, or 518,000 Kenyans, is visually impaired—representing lost economic activity brought on by the inability of the visually impaired to utilize fully the mobile-enabled conduit.

Integrating cost-effective adaptive technology into current systems could increase utilization of MFS by PWD, allowing visually impaired end-users the opportunity to take advantage of a full range of financial payments systems that forms an increasingly more prominent role in economic enterprise. Aubrey Webson, Director of Perkins’ International Programs, and Martin Kieti, Senior Consultant at the Perkins’ Institute’s Institutional Development Program, will discuss how the pilot initiative will address these broader issues.

  The webinar platform we use allows universal support access for people with disabilities by offering several advanced accessibility features such as keyboard navigation, support for screen readers, and closed captioning support.

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Aubrey Webson
Aubrey Webson
Perkins International

Aubrey Webson

Aubrey Webson

As Director of Perkins International, W. Aubrey Webson oversees Perkins' work with hundreds of partners in 65 countries around the world. Webson started at Perkins in 1992 and led initiatives to grow services in Africa and the Caribbean. He helped shape educational services for children who are deafblind and those with multiple disabilities and introduced and implemented the Institutional Development Program, a capacity building project for organizations of the blind in Africa and the Caribbean. Prior to joining Perkins, Aubrey worked with SightSavers International and Helen Keller International. From 1981-86 he served as the Executive Director of the Caribbean Council for the Blind.

Webson works with policy makers, families, educators and students to expand services, bring resources and opportunities where none exist, and join the world community in the social network of creating possibilities for all.

Martin Kieti
Martin Kieti
Perkins International
Martin Kieti Martin Kieti is currently
Martin Kietithe Senior Consultant at the Perkins’ Institute’s Institutional Development Program. He holds a Master’s Degree in Linguistics and has previously held numerous positions including that of Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Union of the Blind. He has professional experience in education, social development, non-profit management and research.
Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo
Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo (moderator)
United States Agency for International Development

Charlotte McClain-NhlapoCh

arlotte McClain-Nhlapoarlotte McClain-Nhlapo was recently appointed USAID’s Coordinator for Disability and Inclusive Development, where she will lead work on mainstreaming disability throughout the Agency. Formerly, McClain-Nhlapo was a Senior Operations Specialist at the World Bank, working in Africa, East Asia and the Pacific regions. She has also served as a Commissioner on the South African Human Rights Commission, Project Officer on ild Protection for UNICEF, Legal Advisor to the South African Presidency, and Deputy airperson of the Council of the University of South Africa. She studied law at the University of Warsaw and Cornell Law School.

Maria Stephens (moderator)
United States Agency for International Development
Maria Stephens is a Senior Technical Adviser at USAID and subject matter expert on emerging payment systems risk and regulatory issues.
She has over 18 years of experience in economic development and financial economics. Stephens' current areas of expertise are in identifying backdoor vulnerabilities specific to national and cross-border payment systems viz. emerging payment systems (EPS) funds flows within and through threat finance networks, and the role of donors and NGOs within an emerging payment systems context. Stephens' regional areas of expertise are East Africa (with a focus on the Horn of Africa), and the PR of China. Stephens served as a Foreign Service Officer with USAID from 1995-1999, with tours in Washington and Nairobi.

Stephens has extensive NGO-based technical experience, including having acted as director of CRS's microfinance unit and from providing long-term in-country technical support to the Central Bank of China through GTZ to establish the People's Republic of China's first private-sector microcredit company. She continues to lead in the development of USAID's emerging payment systems policy and risk management agenda, is a contributing member of the Department of Justice and FDIC-led Payments Fraud Working Group and the State Department-led Terrorist Finance Working Group (TFWG), and co-chair of the TFWG EPS sub-working group.