Enabling technologies for the differently-abled

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Enabling technologies for the differently-abled

With the help of computers enabled with speech synthesizers, students with vision impairment doing higher studies, are becoming independent in all their reading and writing needs. Computer literacy is giving the visually impaired and low vision persons new professional opportunities, thus enhancing their job status, and giving them additional proficiency (edge) and confidence at work.

Definition of disability
According to the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 (India), disability means: blindness, low-vision, leprosy-cured, hearing impairment, locomotor-disability, mental retardation, and mental-illness. The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 (India) is considered as an important landmark and is a significant step in the direction of ensuring equal opportunities for people with disabilities and their full participation in the nation-building. The Act provides for both preventive and promotional aspects of rehabilitation like education, employment and vocational training, job reservation, research and manpower development, creation of barrier-free environment, rehabilitation of persons with disability, unemployment allowance for the disabled, special insurance scheme for the disabled employees and establishment of homes for persons with severe disability etc. Disabled (differently-abled) people are often discriminated in the African and Asian societies. If one is born disabled (differently-abled), then it is seen as a curse by his/ her family and society. For example, in Senegal, as elsewhere in Africa, the disabled face enormous difficulties of social and labour market insertion because of discrimination and especially, physical obstacles to workplaces and transportation, lack of audio or visual-signaling etc. Hence, the ICTs and the Employment of People with Disabilities Project (Acacia II) of the International Development Research Centre, was designed to combat the workforce exclusion generally experienced by the disabled and to promote their insertion into social life and the labour market through the exploration and implementation of tele-work opportunities adapted to their functional disabilities.

ICTs for the empowerment of the disabled
For too long, it has been observed that the benefits of ICTs was not reaching the visually and physically-challenged persons. However, things are changing slowly and steadily. Multi-national IT giants have started producing interactive-softwares for the visually-challenged. IBM was going to launch a multimedia browser code-named the Accessibility Browser or A-Browser, in order to make audio and video content accessible to people with vision impairments. The software was created by a blind employee of IBM in Japan named Dr. Chieko Asakawa. Nowadays, innovative softwares are also being produced by common man, which is much cheaper than the branded/ proprietary software products.

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