IAC Open House – Speech by Ms Chia Yong Yong

Ms Jessica Tan, Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore

Ladies & Gentlemen

On behalf of Microsoft Singapore and the Infocomm Accessibility Centre, I would like to thank all of you for taking time from your busy schedules to come and attend the open house for the Infocomm Accessibility Centre this afternoon.

Computer knowledge is such an important part of life today. It is hard to get by without at least some basic IT knowledge or skill. This is the case in the job market, and is slowly becoming so in daily living. We see more and more information being accessible only through the Internet, more people communicating online, instant banking made possible through the Internet and, even application for jobs are done online.

Technology can do much to level the playing field for people with disabilities. Recognising this, the Infocomm Accessibility Centre (IA Centre in short) was started with help from Microsoft, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, MCYS and NCSS. It is Singapore’s first training facility catering for people across disability types.

Here, people with physical, visual and hearing impairment can learn basic to intermediate IT skills in various areas in an environment built to cater to their needs. We equip people with disabilities with IT skills so that they are given every opportunity to acquire the knowledge relevant to society today. This in turn enhances their employability, and hopefully, ultimately, helps people with disabilities achieve self-reliance and independence.

Courses are specially tailored for people with disabilities. The IA Centre also has an array of assistive technology software and devices to help these clients use the computer, and enhance their learning experience.

At the end of the course, those found to be proficient can progress to learning industry-relevant skills under the IA Centre’s apprenticeship programme to equip them for open employment.

The IA Centre is an accredited Certiport Test Centre and Certified Training Centre for Internet & Computer Core Certification (IC3). The Centre also targets to be a Microsoft Certified Training Centre by November this year and as an Adobe Authorised Training Centre by March 2009. With such qualifications, students will be able to look forward to industry recognised credentials.

I’m pleased to announce that Certiport Singapore Pte Ltd is fully sponsoring the first 10 IA Centre trainees for the IC3 certification, including the courseware and exam fees. Today, 6 of our trainees will be receiving their IC3 certification which will put them in good stead as they seek employment outside.

We are very grateful to Certiport for providing a 50% discount on the exam fees of the Microsoft Business Certification, Adobe Certified Associate Certification as well as IC3 Certification for all IA Centre trainees in the future.

Thanks to Certiport, our trainees with disabilities have also been granted an extension of the duration of test.

Since it started, the IA Centre has trained 200 people with disabilities, one of whom is George Ng. George is the first of our trainees to secure a job in the open market.

The 26-year-old stroke survivor had been taking courses in web programming, desktop publishing and digital imaging at the IA Centre from September 2007. After undergoing apprenticeship training in May 2008, this opportunity for employment came about and he was found to have the skills needed for the job. Today, George is working in an organisation supplying books to libraries.

George is very happy and excited at his new job and at the prospects of being financially independent. In the office, he fulfills book orders and sources for overseas publications.

To further improve the accessibility of IT training for people with disabilities, subsidies are offered by IDA and Microsoft. All trainees at the IA Centre only pay 10% or less of the full course fee which amounts to between $35 to $48 per module.

And today, we are indeed thrilled with the launch of the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship and Certification Training Grant to further enhance the employment opportunities of people with disabilities.

Under the scheme, financial assistance will be provided for trainees sitting for Microsoft Certification Examinations such as Microsoft Office Specialists, Microsoft Certified Application Specialist and Internet and Computer Core Certification. The scheme will also help in paying the course fees for Microsoft professional training courses.

The scholarship will provide a maximum of $29,000 to one student each year to pursue IT courses locally that leads to a basic diploma and degree qualifications.

No bond will be imposed on the scholars. Instead, they are encouraged to contribute in the form of community service with any organisation in the social service sector.

In addition, with contributions from the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore and Microsoft, 300 IT training vouchers will be offered to 25 voluntary welfare organisations. Each voucher enables the VWO to send their clients with disabilities to undergo a basic to intermediate module, valued between $350 and $480 from October 2008 – June 2009 with the IA Centre.

From these, we hope to see over 350 people benefit over the next 4 years.

We want once again to thank Microsoft, IDA, NCSS, MCYS & Certiport for their support in making all these possible. People with disabilities may have a disadvantage given their disabilities, but let not let this deprive them of opportunities there are ahead. Let’s give them a chance to be equipped like the rest of society, an avenue where they can perform not as someone disabled, but as someone enabled. As you walk through the IA Centre later today, we hope you will also be able to see what opportunities there lie ahead for your clients.

We wish you a pleasant afternoon. Thank you.