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Microsoft promotes disabled’s access to technology for more inclusive society

Microsoft promotes disabled’s access to technology for more inclusive society

The main objective of this conference was to obtain maximum information in terms of accessibility to allow people of any ages and capacities to realise their full potential. (Image: Microsoft)

Microsoft Indian Ocean Islands and French Pacific, in collaboration with “Disabled People’s Organizations”, held an interactive workshop based on the theme “How Technology removes Barriers”, at Hennessy Park Hotel, in Ebene on Friday 13 February 2015.

Shari Villarosa, the US Ambassador to Mauritius, served as the guest of honor at this workshop. Representatives of various ministries, NGO’s from Mauritius, Rodrigues and Zimbabwe, public and private entities and enterprises were also present at this workshop.

The main objective of this conference was to obtain maximum information in terms of accessibility to allow people of any ages and capacities to realise their full potential.

The workshop also served as a platform of expression where reviews and proposals were debated by the audience at different levels.

The workshop session revolved around four specific sessions: Inclusive Education, Access to Information, Technology as an Enabler and Employment and Employability.

The Country Manager of Microsoft Corporation, Paul Bunting, issued the inaugural speech at the workshop sessions, dedicating it to the achievements of Aarthi Burthony, a disabled individual who successfully completed an internship on technology and accessibility at Microsoft.

“Microsoft has created the opportunity to provide accessibility solutions in technology that help the disabled to fully realise their potential. We have created technologies for all ages and all abilities, in order to provide more digital inclusion for better access to education, employment and public services. We have worked with NGOs for a very long time with whom we have held continuous exchange to better understand the technological needs of people with disabilities, and this is, in fact, the aim of this workshop.”

The opening session was followed by a speech by Reynolds Permal, President of “Lizie dan la main”, an NGO that caters to visually challenged people.

He noted, “Education and Technology is the cornerstone of human development, and we are going to explore this concept in different conventions and workshops that include teachers, disabled persons, government and directors. The technology should be at the centre of human development and this workshop will give the disabled the opportunity to move forward and grow in their lives.”

As for the guest of honor, Shari Villarosa asserted that disabilities and technology are an important topic for discussion in the 21st century which offers brilliant development technologies.

“We have to make sure that disabled persons are integrated and help Mauritius to become a more inclusive society that truly extends equal opportunities to its citizens,” she noted.

“Today there are an estimated 1 billion people with disabilities in the world, who make up 15 percent of world’s population. This is not some small segment of population that can be ignored,” she stressed.

“Unfortunately, too many of these face discrimination, in terms of their rights, employment, education and access to public service. This discrimination prevents disabled people from achieving their full potential but also act to reduce economic growth of the country,” she added.

“Through our Embassy, we help in removal of barriers for disabled people and creation of a world where all disabled people can enjoy a life full of dignity and inclusion in society and today, we have technology that can integrate them as ever before,” she concluded.

The first session of the workshop was based on “Inclusive Education” and reflected on the support of the Ministry of Education in schools to provide technological accessibility to disabled students. The aim is to provide assistance to visually challenged learners with Braille displays and relevant devices and tools to fully integrate in the education system.

Moreover, Mr Junaid Muslun, Director of Pick and Eat, gave an employer’s perspective on how KFC integrated disabled persons with hearing impairment and how there has been a working session with the employees and trainings based on sign language.

He concluded on the note that a disabled person should be employed under the same terms and conditions and that “we can make a difference as we have a fair share.”

The third session under the theme of “Technology as an Enabler” was led by Aarthi Burthony, as she guided the audience to obtain ease of access to their computer according to the nature of the person’s handicap.

She demonstrated how Windows proposed recommendations to make a computer easier to use despite having a speech, hearing and vision impairment.

Finally, Kelly Ford from Microsoft reflects on the Web Content and Accessibility Guidelines for disabled persons. He demonstrated how to make content and information more accessible to wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and lo vision.

- By Kashish Jadoo

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