Singapore, 17 October 2008 – He hasn’t been formally employed for the last 20 years, but that isn’t dampening Mr David Chan’s excitement at finding a job soon.
The 45-year-old wheelchair-user is a trainee of the Infocomm Accessibility Centre (IA Centre), and will be one of over 350 people with disabilities to benefit from the launch of the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship & Certification Training Grant, and special training vouchers offered to voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) entitling their clients to attend one basic or intermediate training module conducted by the IA Centre.
This is made possible by Microsoft’s S$1 million contribution pledged in 2007 through its Unlimited Potential Grant and fundraising activities in Singapore. The donation went towards the IA Centre which was officially opened in July this year to help bridge the digital divide and improve the career prospects of people of various disabilities.
“With talent as our main asset in Singapore, it’s important that we enable people to be empowered to contribute to society. Through Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential program, we are committed to giving every individual the opportunity to be the best they can be with technology as the key enabler. With the scholarship and grants being announced today, people with various disabilities can now enhance their skills beyond basic IT skills and arm themselves with deeper knowledge to help them become more independent, and potentially have equal employment opportunities as those of us who are able bodied,” said Ms Jessica Tan, Managing Director of Microsoft.
The Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship Award and Certification Training Grant is a new Microsoft Singapore initiative which will disburse up to S$200,000 to over 50 people with disabilities over a four-year programme.
The scholarship aims to motivate people with disabilities to pursue higher levels of learning in IT, and to nurture outstanding students with disabilities as an encouragement to other people with disabilities. It will fund the course fee of local basic IT diploma or degree courses recognised by the Ministry of Education. One scholar will be selected each year and awarded up to S$29,000 per scholarship.
The certification training grant will help people with disabilities pay the fees of approved industry standard examinations and certification of professional and specialised IT skills. Examples of certification examination include the Microsoft Certified Application Specialist (MCAS) and Internet & Computing Core Certification (IC3). Close to 50 people are expected to benefit from the certification grant.
To ensure a wider reach, the IA Centre will also be giving out 300 training vouchers to 25 voluntary welfare organisations for their clients with disabilities. Each training voucher allows the person with disabilities to take up either a basic or intermediate IT course valued at between S$350 and S$480. The total sponsorship of over S$100,000 of training vouchers is made possible by Microsoft and IDA.
It is hoped that the training vouchers will help to encourage those VWOs affected by the economic crunch to send their clients to the Centre for training. Since the pilot run following the Centre’s official opening, improvements have been made to the courses.
“IT has become an essential life skill. This is especially so for people with disabilities. IT training, especially when it is combined with assistive technology for people with disabilities, enables and empowers them to reach out beyond the confines of their disability to maximise their potential. And in doing so provides them with a richer and more meaningful life by creating possibilities out of apparent impossibilities. We are therefore appreciative of the generous IT initiative by Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore and Microsoft Singapore to provide IT skills to people with disabilities,” said Mr Dennis Lim, Chief Executive Director of the Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled.
“Technology enables people with disabilities and often also helps to level the playing field for them. Since 2007, over 200 people with disabilities have benefited from the various IT courses. The additional support from Microsoft and IDA to provide training vouchers especially in the current economic downturn will help ensure that people with disabilities will not be denied training opportunities to keep up and upgrade their IT skills,” said Ms Lee Hui Lin, Assistant Director, Infocomm Accessibility Centre.
For David whose muscles became progressively weaker from eight years old, the announcements are nothing but good news. He has been undergoing IT training at the IA Centre from September 2007, and today is proficient in Microsoft Office and web designing. He is hoping to sit for the MCAS PowerPoint examination by the end of the year.
“I am looking forward to finding work which I can do from home. My muscles may be weakening which makes it harder for me to leave the house. But I can still work and earn a living to take care of myself, and maybe help my family too,” he said.
Those interested in finding out more about the Microsoft Unlimited Potential Scholarship and Certification Training Grant and how to acquire the training vouchers can call 6579 0710 or visit the website www.iacentre.org.sg.