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Blind Kazakh Shares Love For The Games

Adil Uralbaev (right), who was born without sight, says the Internet changed everything for him.
Adil Uralbaev (right), who was born without sight, says the Internet changed everything for him.
Like many 16-year-olds, Adil Uralbaev loves surfing the Internet and playing online videogames.

The pastime offers the Kazakh teen a window to the outside world, and Uralbaev has a global network of gaming friends to show for it. It also inspired his dream -- to share his love of computer games with blind and visually impaired children in Kazakhstan.

Uralbaev, who was born without sight, says the Internet changed everything for him. He was introduced to an entire industry that specializes in producing fun and educational computer games for the blind and visually impaired, but few in Kazakhstan are so fortunate.

So to help other blind and visually impaired children get connected, Uralbaev recently started a special course in his hometown of Karagandy, in central Kazakhstan. The Akbota Center to Support Children with Special Needs provided a classroom for Uralbaev to conduct once-a-week computer lessons.

"There are many visually impaired children in the area, and Adil Uralbaev offered to teach them how to use a computer," says Saule Alshinbaeva, the director of the Akbota Center. "We decided to give him a chance, and his abilities exceeded our expectations. The classes opened very recently but we can already see how the children are making progress."

So far, attendance is limited because, while many children have expressed a desire to join, only a few are outfitted with the specially designed laptops used in the course. Uralbaev hopes to find sponsors to help raise funds to purchase some of the computers, which are designed for the blind.

Lacking Facilities

"My son developed an interest in Internet technology at the age of 11," recalls his mother, Adilya Uralbaeva. "First he installed a special program for the blind on his mobile phone. Then he adapted his laptop to his special needs because he really wanted to play videogames."

Uralbaev's favorite game is called "The Meadow." It is very popular among blind computer users, he says, and "the sighted can't see or understand it."

Uralbaev wants to help develop a videogame industry in Kazakhstan that caters to the blind and visually impaired, and says he has online friends who can help.

According to Kazakhstan's Ministry for Employment and Social Affairs, there are 3,500 blind and visually impaired children registered in the country. But many Kazakh cities, including the capital, Astana, don't have educational facilities specifically for blind children.

Astana authorities say they are planning to build a special school for 365 students, as well as a kindergarten, for visually impaired children next year. And authorities add that they have allocated funds to prepare qualified teachers for such schools.

In the meantime, Uralbaev is making the best of what is available. "I wish we had specially designed textbooks with the Braille alphabet for the blind," he says. "We have some books, but they are very old, and not enough for all children in our school. We don't also have maps for geography classes, and we don't have printers."

He does, however, have computer games -- and "it's a life-changing experience."
Written by RFE/RL Kazakh Service correspondent Yelena Veber; translated and compiled by Farangis Najibullah