2 August 2011, Singapore – Tweet Meet 2011, organised by the Infocomm Accessibility Centre (IAC), gathered volunteers, bloggers and supportive members of the public in cyber space to help bridge the digital divide for people with disabilities (PWDs) in Singapore. Singaporeans were encouraged to rally the cause online via networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Windows Live and Skype, and to enable virtual interaction and engagement between those with disabilities, friends, families and the public.
Building on the success of its inaugural edition in 2010, this year’s Tweet Meet had gone entirely online. As of July 31, the movement had garnered a total of 198 monthly active users on Facebook and more than 170 Tweets about the event on Twitter.
In conjunction with this year’s Tweet Meet, 40 people with disabilities have been empowered by the use of technological and online social media, thanks to the 40 netbooks donated by Microsoft Singapore. Recipients, with the help of volunteers, were able to leverage on these netbooks to connect onto the Internet, and they now have the chance for greater interaction with friends and families online while exploring the endless possibilities of the various online social platforms.
Lee Seng Ngiap is one of the recipients who benefited from this initiative. “I didn’t know how easy to use and fun Twitter and Facebook are. I’m happy that the IAC organised this activity. Now I can stay in touch with my friends through these new ways.”
Twenty-eight volunteers, including eight staff members of Microsoft Singapore, were part of the volunteer expedition held from 25 to 28 July, to personally deliver the netbooks to the homes of these 40 people with disabilities. They provided assistance in setting up and helped them get connected to the online networking sites.
Ms Mok Sin Mun, a Microsoft volunteer, was glad to be part of this year’s expedition entourage. “When I heard about Tweet Meet and how it would help people with disabilities to pick up new IT skills and knowledge, I was excited to volunteer my services. What better way to share my knowledge on social networking with the people with disabilities than through this excellent platform?”
She and other volunteers like Ms Boh Lee Ping, Mr Chan Wai Leong, Mr Julian Chan, Mr Ponrawat Chirajakwattana and Mr Lim Wei Wah will continue to commit to online interaction with the netbooks recipients after the initial expedition to befriend them online and allow them to practice using social media to interact. Videos of the volunteer expedition to homes of the people with disabilities were also uploaded on the IAC Facebook page since 26 July.
Mr Jason Ng who posted one of the videos online, said: “I have learnt much about the great potential of technology in empowering the people with disabilities and am extremely blessed to be given this opportunity to help someone who previously had little knowledge about social networking. I urge all Singaporeans to join the IAC in promoting its cause and to create more opportunities for people with disabilities in Singapore.”
Tweet Meet 2011 aimed to generate greater awareness of the IAC and to encourage more people with disabilities to take up IT training. Microsoft Singapore, a major supporter of the Society for the Physically Disabled, is thrilled to be involved in this online initiative.
“Microsoft is proud to be part of this inspiring journey, and is delighted to be working with the IAC on this digital movement. We will continue to support and contribute in whatever way possible, to enrich the lives of people with disabilities in Singapore,” said Verdayne Nunis, Central Marketing & PR Group Manager, Microsoft Singapore.
Royson Poh, Senior Assistant Director, Technology & Vocational Training at the IAC, is also encouraged by the response for this edition of the Tweet Meet: “We are heartened that once again, people from all walks of life have gathered to support the people with disabilities and helped further our cause of empowering them with IT and social media. The feedback received has been very positive so far, and we do hope that this will inspire more people with disabilities to come forward in joining us for our courses at the IAC.”
The IAC, managed by the Society for the Physically Disabled, offers IT training for people across disability types, including physical, intellectual, visual and hearing-related impairments. The IAC partners with 23 Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) to provide training for their clients and as of 1 July 2011, more than 4,000 training places comprising IT training sessions, apprenticeship training sessions and assistive technology training sessions have been offered to over 1,000 trainees who have benefitted from IT training at the Centre. Currently, 26 trainees who completed the apprenticeship training secured employment.
Elaborating on the future plans of the IAC, Poh added: “It gives us great confidence moving forward, to further our goal of connecting more people with disabilities to the online world, and to continue pursuing more opportunities for people with disabilities in Singapore by bridging the digital gap.”