Help for people with disabilities in digital journey

Mr David Woodbridge (in purple) teaching visually-impaired participants at the Enabling Village in Lengkok Bahru how to use built-in assistive technology features on Apple devices, on April 6.
Mr David Woodbridge (in purple) teaching visually-impaired participants at the Enabling Village in Lengkok Bahru how to use built-in assistive technology features on Apple devices, on April 6.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

With the VoiceOver screen reader enabled on his iPad, a user who is blind can tap the screen once to hear a description of the app his finger is on, then tap twice to select it.

Such assistive technology features help people with disabilities perform tasks independently. Noting that, the Government announced that efforts are under way to raise awareness of built-in assistive technology features in popular devices such as the iPad. It will also give more grants for voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) to acquire assistive technology devices.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim announced these initiatives at his ministry's workplan seminar yesterday. He said: "We need to expand our hearts and ensure that every Singaporean, especially the less privileged and people with disabilities, are part of our digital journey."

Under the Government's Enable IT scheme, grants given to VWOs will be doubled to $100,000 per project, and this is expected to help another 3,000 beneficiaries over the next four years, up from 1,500 now.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) is also partnering technology companies to train a pool of people with disabilities to be "assistive technology ambassadors". For a start, it plans to work with Apple and Microsoft to train about 160 people this year.

IMDA and Apple rolled out their first assistive technology ambassador workshop for the visually impaired at the Enabling Village in Lengkok Bahru a week ago. It was conducted by Mr David Woodbridge, 53, a senior adaptive technology consultant from Australia who is blind. About a dozen people took part and found the workshop useful.

Waiter Zahier Samad, 30, said he was glad to learn of mobile apps that are useful for those who are blind.

Participants said it was important to raise awareness of built-in assistive technology features in devices used by the public.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2017, with the headline 'Help for people with disabilities in digital journey'. Print Edition | Subscribe