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The workshop ICT Assistive Technologies organized by the International Aid Network on the 22nd and 23rd of November 2011 in Belgrade attracted great attention of people with disabilities, their associations, schools working with children with disabilities and associations that support people with disabilities in their full inclusion into our society. The workshop is a part of the Click to Europe project supported by the European Union and Microsoft.
With the aim to demonstrate the importance of enabling people with disabilities to use computers and other information and communication technology in order to be equally included in our modern society, the workshop presented different hardware and software tools that reduce or eliminate barriers faced by adults and children with disabilities when using computers.
The Workshop was attended by 17 lecturers. Experiences , products and examples of good practice from Macedonia, Austria and Serbia were presented. Assistive ICT now allows people with certain types of disabilities to use almost all features of computers and thus express their full potentials. This technology of facilitated access can be used in education and in adapting the workplace for employees with disabilities.
"Today, ICT assistive technologies are changing the lives of people with disabilities. Taking into account that the modern life can not be imagined without computers because most jobs require computer skills, because Internet represents a vast source of knowledge and is an integral part of the process of lifelong learning , because the communication and socialization through computers are an integral part of contacts among people today, enabling or facilitating the use of computers for people with disabilities, actually makes it easier for them to achieve what belongs to the realm of basic human rights - the right to work, right to education, right to creative expression. This is why digital inclusion of people with disabilities must be an integral part of their inclusion into the society", said Gordana Stankov Stojilovic, Project Manager from IAN .
A center where people with disabilities can turn to for help in choosing equipment, selecting and testing different types of assistive devices is the EHO Resource Center for people with disabilities in Novi Sad. Representatives of this, unfortunately only center of its kind in Serbia, demonstrated the practical us of alternative devices such as keyboards, mice, software programs for mastering and practicing computer skills for children and adults that they use at their center. Open the windows, an organization from Macedonia, presented some great pieces of equipment that they themselves constructed in their innovation center in order to make them more accessible to users, since one of the major issues accompanying assistive technology in our region is their high prices and lack of possibility to purchase them, because for most of the equipment there are no official importers.
Workshop participants had an opportunity to become more familiar with assistive technology already built into Microsoft software, including a virtual keyboard on the screen, zooming parts of the screen with the magnifying tool, the possibility to enlarge and adapt a pointer on the screen, adjusting the speed of mouse clicks, typing, etc.
David Hofer from the Austrian organisation LifeTool that produces and promotes assistive technology showed, among other things, their product called Integra mouse which enables people with disabilities who can only move their head, to successfully use a computer by blowing or sucking in the air.
Professor Vlado Delic from the Faculty of Technical Sciences in Novi Sad and the company AlfaNum hosted a premiere of the latest version of anReader they had developed. The AnReader is a speech synthesizer that enables blind people to fully read the texts in Serbian. The program can read both the Cyrillic and Latin, has a built- in syntax and morphological dictionary containing information about the correct pronunciation of over 2 million words in Serbian, and it successfully pronounces other words, too. This software allowed the visually impaired to listen to extensive articles, be it books, magazines or letters, and thereby it improves their chances for education and professional training for many new occupations.
As regards other assistive technologies for the visually impaired, the participants saw how the Braille row , special sound keyboard, games for blind children, they learnt from the Music School "Kosta Manojlovic" from Zemun how the blind pupils can be fully included in music education. The school "Milan Petrovic" from Novi Sad convinced all present people that with the help of assistive computer technology, but also with the extraordinary enthusiasm of teachers, children with disabilities can have the opportunity to learn, play and develop.
What should be kept in mind when choosing an assistive technology tool is that each user needs to choose a piece of equipment that suits him/her best, and this is why individual approach is crucial when helping a person with disability with this.
Thanks to the agency INSERT there was a direct audio transmission of the workshop over the Internet, and the audience, among others, included the blind and visually impaired people from Serbia , Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia.
The main problem in our country that the participants of the workshop pointed out is the lack of systematic support in information distribution, selection and purchase of assistive technology, and that it was difficult to get information, and the acquisition of most hardware and software tools still largely depends entirely on the resourcefulness and financial resources of a person with a disability or a small number of organizations or institutions that support them.
Venue: Privredna komora Srbije, Terazije 23, 8 floor, Belgrade
Agenda: Detailed workshop agenda is given here.
IAN International Aid Network, Admirala Geprata 10, Belgrade , 011 7617 197
International Aid Network, Admirala Geprata Street 10, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia, 011/ 7617 197 i 011/ 7617 205,
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