We use ICT products every day, thinking that very few things can surprise us. But challenges can occur the minute we sit in front of the computer of our friend, colleague, or partner. Every person adjusts his/her device the way it is most suitable and convenient for them. Not having the needed alterations is how people who encounter difficulties accessing standard IT equipment feel on a daily basis.
The variety of assistive devices and software gives us opportunity to enable easier access. Now and then we do not need sophisticated tools to create an accessible environment. Actually in a situation of limited resources people do the most innovative and creative things. Sometimes lamps become separate clicks, and joysticks become pointer controllers, and these simple efforts can easily transform disability into ability.
Two persons with the same disability are not likely that will need the same assistive device or software adjustment that can support access to computers and internet. Assistive technology use is connected with different circumstances that are not always connected exclusively with the type of the disability. That is why we adapt the technology needs to people, not the other way around. We develop and promote innovative ICT and AT solutions to create an inclusive environment.
Starting from its beginnings, Open the Windows is working to promote AT in an environment that is not encouraging enough when it comes to inclusion of persons with disabilities. Even though the process of inclusion started at the beginning of this millennium, this concept is still not broadly accepted. For example, there are still mainstream schools with professionals having strong cons relating the issue.
In Macedonia, the process of the instruction digitalization in schools started in 2008. That encouraged us to design initiatives and take actions that will support the students with disabilities in mainstream primary schools. Our efforts attracted supporters from the schools such as teachers, special educators and other directly involved in the education process that have created positive models. We transferred our enthusiasm and motivated them to innovate alternative solutions for their students. For example, “one teacher shaped and glued silicone letters on the big-button keyboard to ensure that her student with vision impairment can use the key-board by touching and recognizing the buttons.” [see reference]
The pioneering steps for introduction of AT in education were effective and we succeeded to improve the digital access for students with disabilities in more than 10% of the mainstream schools in Macedonia. [see reference]
Even though there are efforts put in the adoption of necessary legislation and strategic papers there is still a lot to be done in the field of implementation and creation practice that will introduce the benefits of AT in every sphere of the daily life of persons with disabilities. We all need serious solutions that will systematically provide better conditions. Until it happens we are left to rely on our creativity and innovation skills.
By Margarita Gulevska, Entelis Partner Open The Windows