Singapore, 3 July 2008 – The Infocomm Accessibility (IA) Centre, a new pan-disability training facility, run by the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD), officially opens today to offer industry-relevant infocomm training, IT-related apprenticeship as well as library facilities for assistive technology equipment.
All Under One Roof, Across All Disability Types
Located at Peng Nguan Street off Tiong Poh Road, the training facility spans three floors in the SPD Ability Centre and occupies a total of 600 square metres. It comprises three computer labs for various levels of infocomm technology courses and four training rooms for the apprenticeship programme. It also houses the first ever Assistive Technology (AT) Loan Library in Asia catering to people with disabilities.
Through support from the Government and the business community, SPD was able to expand its IT training services to cater not only to people with physical disabilites, but also to those who have visual and hearing impairments.
The IA Centre is equipped with a range of computer accessibility tools like large-key keyboards and vertical mouse devices for people with physical disabilites; Zoomtext software and Braille notetakers for people who are visually handicapped; and augmentative communication gadgets and sound amplifiers for those with hearing impairments.
Structured Learning Path for Beginners and Advanced Learners
Over the next three years until 2010, the IA Centre aims to provide 4,000 training places for people with physical, sensory and developmental disabilities. The training curriculum covers basic computing skills like word processing, database and presentation fundamentals, as well as industry-relevant skills such as digital imaging, web animation and graphic design. The training is customised to the special needs of the trainees, who each will be assessed and appraised using a mutually agreed individualised training plan before he or she enrols in the programme. Some of those who have been trained may be selected to undergo further specialised training leading to certification and professional qualifications.
IT-Skilled People with Disabilities Find Open Door Awaiting from Eight Employers
After completing the IT training, trainees who have the aptitude and capability for an IT-related career may progress to the IT Apprenticeship Programme (ITAP) offered by this Centre. For a start, ITAP offers three career tracks, namely in the areas of Corporate Services, Multimedia Design and Music & Video Production. Under this programme, trainees will undergo between three to 12 months of training, comprising competency training, internship placements and engagement in commercial projects to acquire hands-on industry experience and develop workplace confidence to apply for employment in the open market.
Specific to the Corporate Services Apprenticeship Track, the intermediate level training will be aligned with the international LCCI syllabus. ITAP will prepare trainees to achieve LCCI certification.
The IT Apprenticeship Programme which commenced operations in May 2008 has already received positive support from eight employers including Blue Singapore, Fico Sports Hub, FurnisHub Pte Ltd, Kentucky Fried Chicken Management Pte Ltd & Pizza Hut Singapore Pte Ltd, KK Women’s & Children’s Hospital, Onion Design Pte Ltd, Lucidity Pte Ltd and Research2Trails. These companies have committed to offer internship opportunities, commercial projects and employment to trainees upon their course completion.
Asia’s First AT Loan Library
The IA Centre will also house an Assistive Technology (AT) Loan Library which allows trainees to borrow computer accessibility tools and AT devices for trials before purchase or for replacement use when their personal sets have been sent for repair or servicing. This is the first AT Loan Library in Asia that will benefit the people with disabilities directly other than professionals who work with them.
“I had to stop working whenever I had to send my Braille notetaker for repair or servicing. Now that I can borrow the Braille notetaker from the AT Loan Library, my work will no longer be disrupted” said Ms Yeo Sze Ling, Research Engineer, Department of Cryptography and Security, Institute for Infocomm Research.
Adopting a many helping hands approach, the IA Centre is realised through a people-public-private collaboration. The supporting organisations include the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), National Council of Social Service (NCSS), Singapore Tote Board and industry partner, Microsoft Singapore, and together with SPD’s fundraising efforts, a total of S$12.7 million has been budgeted for the set up and operating costs for the next three years, from 2007.
“One of the aims of our Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015) masterplan is to see everyone benefiting from using infocomm technology,” said RADM(NS) Ronnie Tay, Chief Executive Officer, IDA. “Through our support for the IA Centre, IDA hopes that people with disabilities can also enjoy easier access to infocomm as well as realise their career ambitions through the training provided by the Centre.”
As a private sector partner, Microsoft has raised S$1 million in the last two years under its “Unlimited Potential” programme to help the disabled community. Today, Microsoft launches the first Scholarship and Grant scheme for promising IT trainees who meet professional qualifications such as the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MSCE) and the Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDA). Two scholarships will be awarded annually.
“Microsoft is passionate about helping people with disabilities realize their potential through IT. The IA Centre is at the heart of Microsoft’s vision of empowering and enabling people with disabilities through acquiring the relevant infocomm skills. Today’s launch of the scholarship and grant program for the trainees with professional aspirations will in turn enhance their chances of employment”, said Ms Jessica Tan, Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore.
The funds raised have also contributed to a lab, certification, curriculum, software, transportation for less mobile trainees and training fee subsidies.
The new training facilities were conceptualised to dovetail with the Enabling Masterplan 2007-2011 for the Disability Sector, which emphasised the vision of linking market-relevant training for people with disabilities with supporting infrastructure such as vocational assessments, job placements and workplace support. With proper structured training, more people with disabilities can also be equipped with relevant work skills to progress to IT-related careers.
“Technology can bridge social and economic gaps by creating an environment that provides equal opportunity to all. SPD is honoured to manage the first national infocomm training centre for all people with disabilities to provide state-of-the-art IT training to those who would otherwise lack access to even basic computer skills education. We are helping disabled members of our community attain the skills they need to not only survive, but to succeed in today’s workforce,” said Dr Ow Chee Chung, Executive Director, SPD.
Elaborating on the all encompassing training facilities, Dr Ow added, “We hope that this unique classroom setting, allowing people from different types of disability groups to come together and learn under one roof, can spin off new training models for operators in the social service sector.”