ICT in employment for people with disabilities
Information and Communication Technology, ICT, opens up great opportunities to improve the quality of life of disabled people. We must make the most of these opportunities. Without substantial efforts throughout society, there is a risk that these technical developments will only give us products and services which increase the information gap. However, if determined efforts are made, ICT can become an effective tool, allowing a greater number of people to play a part in society.
What is ICT accessibility?
ICT Accessibility consists of building and distributing a hardware or software product whilst ensuring that its content and application are available to the broadest possible audience, independently of the fact of whether individuals are using assistive technology or not.
How does one benefit from ICT?
Individuals must reach out for ICT but Information and Communication Technology must reach the individual. The impact of information technology on the lives of disabled people has long been the subject of speculation.
There is now a general consensus that for disabled people to share in the benefits that new technology may bring, they need to be provided with much better training than has previously been available to them. For disabled and elderly people, IT is something far more important than for most others. Its is not a question of doing the same thing more quickly or in a simpler way with the aid of IT. It is a question of being able to perform tasks independently, which would be impossible without IT.
IT has contributed towards the greater independence of disabled and elderly people. But at the same time, developments in IT have changed society as a whole. A host of new products and services have become part of our everyday lives. However, only some of these developments have benefited disabled and elderly people.
That things have turned out as they have is not due to the limitations of this technology. It is because the new systems and products have not been designed with the disabled and elderly in mind.
Disabled people, who are usually at a disadvantage when competing for jobs with their able-bodied peers, are at a positive advantage if they can offer employers skills that are in demand. This is the basic idea that has prompted many initiatives elsewhere, to establish vocational rehabilitation facilities that are specifically geared to teach people with disabilities, skills in IT, in order to help them gain employment. The Employment Training Corporation is already providing some form of training in this regard. We need to improve upon this, by developing the necessary human and knowledge resources required to deliver the specialised training, which will enable disabled persons to become gainfully employed. Please refer to the Foundation's overview document contributed towards the National Employment Action Plan for more information.
As Government and industry carry out the implementation of an electronic society and economy, they will simultaneously draw attention to the breadth of potential value in ICT for persons with disability in education and employment. All individuals who are left out, are bound to end up with outdated professional skills and lose social status.
The Foundation also places great importance on the development and implementation of accessible teleworking and online learning facilities. Please refer to the Resource Centre articles listing for more information.
FITA promotes the integration of disabled persons within the community. A basic knowledge of ICT literacy and the availability of ICT equipment at all levels are the key criteria which will allow individuals to share in the benefits resulting from the information age.