Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Technology creates career opportunities

Little did I know when I was invited to attend a meeting, as Volunteer Chairman of the Cyber Club of Malaysian Association for the Blind  (MAB), to brainstorm the organising of an ICT and Job Fair event, in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of MAB, I would be landed with the task of heading the organising committee.  I was indeed flattered as I was the only non-staff member of MAB in the group.  Heading and managing a team of both sighted and visually impaired, was indeed most challenging.  From a blank page, the 2 months of deliberation and hardwork culminated into a hugely successful and well attended affair.

All this while public opinion is such that when one loses one's sight, one is labeled as a person with disability.  However, the experience of managing, directing the meetings and churning out all the ideas into reality, with the end result of a successful event proves to me that my blindness is not a disability but only an inconvenience.

Here's the write-up of the event in the Malay Mail news online.

`Insight into sightless tech

TalksPE software gives the blind ability to use phones through voice command

Hamzah Nazari

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011 11:50:00

BRICKFIELDS: As he skillfully scrolls down the blank screen of his iPhone, it could be heard listing applications.
"I'm now checking my email… and I have three messages," said Yam Tong Woo.

"Oh! Is the screen black? Can you not see anything?" asked the 57-year-old blind man from Sungai Buloh.

"Sorry, I normally leave it blank for privacy," he apologised with a laugh. He then brought the screen to life with a tap of his fingers and continued his demo.

Yam, blind since January 2008 because of a bacterial infection, is an avid blogger and golfer.

He was the organising chairman at the ICT Day & Job Fair 2011 held at the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) in Jalan Tebing yesterday.

One of the most popular booths at the fair was run by Smartphone Mobility Enterprise executive director Allan Wong.

The 34-year-old blind man from Kuala Lumpur demonstrated how he could use a Nokia N8 phone with a touchscreen to check his calendar or dial a number.

The phone had been installed with TalksPE, a software that would read out the text on his screen wherever he touched.

To select an item, Wong would quickly lift his finger and tap it in the same spot.

The TalksPE software has been around since 2002 but was recently modified to be used with touchscreens.

These phones were of particular interest to Chan Chen, a blind phone user who was looking to upgrade as he uses an old Nokia phone with the special software to send and receive messages, as well as record names in his address book.

"After I save someone's name and number, the phone tells me the name of the caller so I can choose who I talk to," said the 63-year-old masseuse.

Aside from the highly popular mobile phone offerings, other products such as electronic notebooks with Braille keyboards and teaching software for the blind were also demonstrated to show how such products could help the blind be more independent.

Internationally-recognised courses in information technology for the blind were also offered by the St Nicholas' Home Penang.

"The International Computer Driving License (ICDL) is an internationally-recognised course started in the European Union and provides students with a good foundation in Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office," said the home's IT department volunteer David Hathaway, 35.

"A modified version for the blind offered by St Nicholas' provides graduates with the same certification. We simply changed the directions from using the mouse to using keyboard shortcuts," said Hathaway, who moved from the United Kingdom to Penang.

During the opening ceremony officiated by Higher Education Minister's political secretary Mohammad Khairi A. Malik, 10 employers were honoured with plaques for their efforts in providing employment opportunities for the blind.

Among those present were MAB president Datuk Dr Abdullah Malim Baginda and acting executive director Godfrey Ooi.'

More challenging times ahead!