Thirty-five-year-old Candice John is no ordinary teacher. For the past three years, she has worked at National Centre for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) in San Fernando as resident Information Technology (IT) Instructor.
John is visually impaired, though if you look around her IT lab, it has the appearance of any other you would find at institutions around the nation. Have a closer look and you would see that this is no ordinary lab.
As a person with a visual impairment, John is aware of the potential challenges of her trainees who have a wide range of disabilities: physical, autism, deaf, hard of hearing, speech impairment, cerebral palsy, Down’s Syndrome, blind and visually impaired, intellectual and learning disabilities, as well as mild mental and seizure disorders.
While assistive technology such as specialised computer equipment or software programs can help compensate for disabilities and impairments that affect hand dexterity, vision, and hearing, the high cost of such technology makes personal acquisition prohibitive for many individuals.
Over the past 14 years, International Game Technology (IGT), formally known as GTECH, has partnered with NCPD to donate required assistive hardware and software to keep the IT lab continually updated and relevant.
During a recent handover ceremony, the lab received an upgrade of computer systems and software as well as nine desktop computers, three headsets, an all-in-one printer, an iMac, a touch screen laptop, software, and six uninterrupted power supply (UPS) devices. At the event, IGT Country Manager Roger Bolai said: “IGT believes that providing communities with the tools for accessing knowledge and opportunities is an important element of societal advancement that is essential in this age of instant-social interaction.”
In addition to specialised hardware like mouses that are controlled by foot, joystick, or trackball and large print keyboards designed with high-colour-contrast letters, John teaches trainees at NCPD how to use software to get their work done. For example, Dragon NaturallySpeaking converts speech to text and JAWS (Job Access With Speech) is a screen reader programme that enables a blind or visually impaired user to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer or braille display.
John commented: “I’m proud of the work that we’re doing, and technology has enabled us to do so much more, but I realise that many people don’t know much about the lives of the disabled community nor the services that we offer at NCPD.
There is a place in Trinidad and Tobago that welcomes and trains all persons with disabilities—we don’t discriminate. If you have an acquired disability, there’s help.”