World Telecommunication Information Society Day-Essay Competition

WINNERS WTISD REGIONAL ESSAY COMPETITION 2008

Ranking
Name of the winner
Country Go to
1st place winner Celeste Augustine Trinidad & Tobago Biography essay
2nd place winner Brandy Moulton Cayman Islands essay
3rd place winner Melanie- Anne Holder Barbados essay
4rd place winner Jamesa J. Fabien Dominica essay

 

1st place winner: Celeste Augustine
Age: 16 
School/Institution: The Bishop Anstey High School
Country: Trinidad & Tobago
 

Celeste Augustine Biography

Celeste Augustine Essay

"Connecting People with Disabilities: ICT Opportunities for All"

 

Do you know that on planet earth there are two worlds?  In an article entitledFleur’s Journey to Success” by Sandra Singh; Fleur said “When integrated early the (visually impaired) child learns the difference between the sighted world and his world, and the sighted world learns the difference between his world and the visually impaired world.”

It is disheartening to note the sense of disconnection that disabled persons feel with the rest of the world. A way of bridging the gap between these two worlds has been found with the advancements in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems. ICT has given the blind, deaf, physically and the learning disabled, easy access to information peers and places which leads to independence. 

In Fleur’s case, she was introduced into a ‘normal’ school system because she accessed information through books in Braille and wrote her examinations using a Braille typewriter. As Fleur progressed through school, her deteriorating eye sight made accessing information difficult.

 ICT has introduced a portable note taking device which would have eliminated Fleur’s problem. This tool puts the key to the World Wide Web in the hand of the visually impaired! Computers with large screens and large ball mouses allows easy access to the internet, multiple Word applications and digital book readers using either an adapted keyboard with Braille keys or a refreshable Braille display unit. 

The internet is awashed with the information necessary for student assignments and the Word applications ensure that examinations can be typed, formatted and easily transferred from student to teacher.

Can becoming part computer make you more human? According to Michael Chorost, it does! The telephone, one of his only connections to distant family and friends, instantly fell dead when he became deaf. It grew difficult to communicate with a world that doesn’t “speak” sign language. The gift of oral communication was given to him by ICT through an Assistive Listening Device (ALD).

ALDs like cochlear transplants are surgically placed into the ear to amplify sound, minimize background noise and prevent poor acoustics like echoes. Deaf people, like Micheal, are finally able to hear, understand and speak the common language of their hearing peers over the telephone, face to face or even through video conferencing over the internet. And furthermore they are able to watch television with them through the real-time captioning and live interpretation.

Physical impairment limits persons to an extent but the society limit the availability of opportunities much more than any impairment can!  For example, wheel chair users are denied access to many public areas, and even their own homes, since common environments are carpeted with staircases rather than ramps. An Environmental Control System (ECS) can improve home safety by using either switches, sensitive programmable key pads or voice controls to activate automated items.  With ECS technology, a wheelchair user can now control automatic entrance doors to accept visitors or hands free telephones for emergencies.

Dyslexic persons have eyes and hands yet they cannot read or write independently! Persons with Cerebral palsy have legs but cannot walk! How has ICT helped them to attend school?  Dyslexic persons use voice-activated computers instead of keyboards to input written work and Cerebral palsy victims use light weight laptop. They educate themselves and become employable as artists, musicians, software designers and data entry clerks.

AAn integral part of all of these lives is an ongoing battle for acceptance in society to overcome social, emotional and physical barriers to their independence. The advent of new and improved ICT systems has really become the oyster for these and many other disabled persons!

Bibliography

         What do you know about people with disabilities? – Pete Sanders

         Being in a wheel chair – Lois Keith

         Living with deafness – Emma Haughton

         A different way of seeing – Patricia Souder

         www.whirlwindwheelchair.org

         www.disabilityworld.org

         www.hospitalnews.org

         www.bbc.co.uk

         www.trinidadexpress.com

         www.guardian.co.tt

         www.rehabtool.com


School/Institution: Cayman Brac High School
Country: Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

"Connecting People with Disabilities: ICT Opportunities for All"

 

In today’s society, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has become a vital part in the lives of many people, whether in regards to work, education, communication, or entertainment.  If ICT can make the life of ordinary people more efficient, why shouldn’t people with disabilities be involved in the technological advances too?   A lot of disabilities impair the capability to retain and understand information, obtain a stable job, perform normal procedures, and live a safe and healthy life.  ICT can offer individuals the ability to compensate for physical or functional limitations, which, in turn, allows them to enhance their social and economic mixing in communities by widening the range of activities available to them.

The term ‘disability’ summarizes a number of various physical and intellectual limitations occurring in any country of the world.  ICT greatly contributes to the independence of disabled persons, which affects society as a whole.  Disabled people, who are at a disadvantage when competing for jobs, can be at a positive advantage if they can offer the skills that are in demand.  This concept has driven many initiatives to create vocational rehabilitation facilities that are specifically intended to teach people with disabilities skills in IT, in order to assist them in obtaining gainful employment.  Such initiatives include measures instituted by Mr. George Bush, President of the United States.  In February 2001, President Bush announced the New Freedom Initiative, which is an intelligible program that is designed to endorse the full participation of people with disabilities in all areas of society by increasing access to assistive and universally designed technologies, increasing educational and employment opportunities, and promoting improved access into daily life.

Persons with disabilities struggle to access information and struggle to communicate, in person and over the internet, with other individuals; visually impaired persons are not able to access printed materials, hearing impaired persons have problems communicating with others, and people with mobility impairment have difficulty going out to get information.  Fortunately, ICT has developed new and easier ways for these disabled persons to access in demand information, and communicate with others around them and on the web.  Some tools, such as captioning and translators, allow visually impaired individuals to access and understand the internet and television.  For example, a special type of software called Screen Reader is used to help in reading information by interfacing with an existing operating system and sending speech output to the sound card.  When the Screen Reader is loaded onto a computer, the program “reads” what is typed from the keyboard and the messages from the computer screen will be verbalized.  Simple tools such as audio devices that read material off the internet make obtaining information for hearing impaired persons much easier and convenient.    For mobility impaired persons, making the resources available right at home for them makes retaining information much easier than going out to find the information; the internet is a good source of information and entertainment for these individuals.

In conclusion, ICT is an excellent way to enhance the life of all individuals, specifically those with disabilities. It provides a way of communicating with other individuals; it provides valuable resources for career research and educational purposes, online stores for convenient shopping, technical services such as banking and flight scheduling, various forms of customer service, and personal entertainment.  Taking advantage of the opportunities that ICT provides is progressing towards redressing the unfavorable level of employment among people with disabilities.

References

Freedom Initiative: Americans with Disabilities.  Retrieved April 23, 2008 from www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/newfreedom/

ICT and Society.  Retrieved April 23, 2008 from www.qca.org.uk/qca_4248.aspx

ICT and People with Disabilities.  Retrieved April 23, 2008 from http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/

ICT and Information for Persons with Disabilities.  Retrieved April 23, 2008 from www.apcdproject.org/publications/2006/newsletter16/ict.html


3rd place winner: Melanie- Anne Holder
Age: 16
School/Institution: Queen’s College, Barbados
Country: Barbados

"Connecting People with Disabilities: ICT Opportunities for All"

 

New information and communications technologies can improve the quality of life for people with disabilities, but only if such technologies are designed from the beginning so that everyone can use them.

Bill Clinton ( 42nd American United States President) 

         

       Indubitably, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has had the most striking impact on billions of lives around the globe. However, while ICT continues to expand at a mind-boggling speed most persons with disabilities are denied the opportunity to use ICT to their advantage.  The lack of ICT devices which can be used by disabled persons, as well as the limited accessibility to these, discourages members of the disabled community from integrating into the educational, social and professional world.

          Nevertheless, ICT must be commended for initiating a means by which the standard of living for persons with disabilities may be improved. In today’s technologically advanced epoch these persons can be liberated from the shackles of social bondage by using ICT.

          For instance, a friend of mine, Halcyon, who is hearing-impaired uses a hearing aid which amplifies sounds in order to communicate and partake in normal activities. Additionally, the “Buddy Protector” is a pocket-sized gadget that is used by physically challenged people for security purposes. In a case of emergency, the disabled person simply has to press the safety clip in order for a siren and a blinking light to be activated. This would alert nearby persons to come to his rescue.

          Currently, the few persons with disabilities who are given the opportunity to use ICT are proving that they can exceed expectations in their various professional endeavours. Senator Kerry Ann Ifill of Barbados epitomizes greatness despite being visually impaired. The thirty-four year old competently performs her job as a Research Project Officer at the Barbados Council for the Disabled with the aid of a computer programme called Job Access With Speech (JAWS) for Windows. It reads what is on the computer screen aloud.

          On the other hand, more ICT programmes which are geared towards mentally disabled persons must be created. Can you imagine being trapped in a world in which numerous ICT devices surround you but you do not know how to manipulate them and you have difficulty reading and writing? Unfortunately, this situation is reality for some autistic persons, such as my younger brother, who currently does not attend school because of his temper tantrums that are probably caused because he cannot communicate effectively with others. Autism is a developmental disorder which hampers one’s social interaction and communication skills.

         Programmes, such as Sounds Into Syllables, which was recently created by sixteen year old Kayla Cornale of Canada, have the potential to significantly improve the communication skills of autistic children.  Other such programmes need to be created so that they may be utilised by mentally disabled persons to provide them with a way of expressing themselves to those around them. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) only 2-3% of disabled persons in poor countries attend school and this, in turn, would help some persons who are verbally challenged to improve their standard of living through education.

          It has been said that the only constant aspect of life is that change will occur. ICT is constantly proving this statement in relation to the disabled. It is changing its baby steps into giant strides, bridging the gap between people with disabilities and abled persons of society by changing the misconceptions of the public that disabled persons are limited in whatever paths they choose in life. Most importantly, ICT provides a means of evoking some of the most thrilling human emotions – the sense of pride, independence and accomplishment -  from people with disabilities who know that they are integrated with their neighbourhood.

 

Bibliography

http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/hearingaid.asp

http://www.barbadosdisabled.org

http://www.freedomscientific.com/fs_products/software_jaws.asp

http://en.wikipedia.org

http://www.worldbank.org

http://edition.cnn.com/

http://nationnews.com

http://quotationspage.com

An interview with a spokesperson from the Barbados Council for the Disabled


4th place winner: Jamesa J. Fabien
Country: Dominica
 

“CONNECTING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: ICT OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL”

 

             Can a fish enjoy swimming with a missing fin? Can a bird fly freely with a broken wing? Can an individual enjoy life with a disability?

              Over the years ICT has opened numerous gateways for the people of this earth. It provides us with opportunities to explore the entire universe with the mere click of a button; to enter a world where only our imaginations can limit us, a world where anything is possible and where we are free to broaden our horizons beyond our wildest imaginations. Thus, the questions have been answered. ICT enables even a disabled person to live a life of unlimited enjoyment.

              A disabled person is someone who suffers from physical, sensory, cognitive or intellectual impairment or mental illness. One can well imagine the trials that these people go through. They have increased difficulty in daily life and a decrease in luxuries. However, one luxury that the disabled are certainly able to enjoy is ICT. Modern technology is so amazing that adaptations have been made on almost every modern ICT device in order to accommodate any individual, especially the disabled.   For example, Braille keyboards and voice activated computers have been developed for the benefit of the blind. In fact adjustments can be made to ensure that no disability can hinder a person’s ability to use an ICT device.

                While ICT opens numerous gateways for us all, many benefits lie within its realm particularly for the disabled.  By using the computer, disabled persons who are unable to move about freely, can acquire online education and eventually, even home based jobs. They can also link up with their disabled counterparts across the globe. Imagine that! There’s no better feeling in the world than knowing that you’re not alone in a bad situation. Through ICT, disabled people can offer support to one another. They can educate each other about their experiences and about coping with their disabilities. They can work together to find common solutions to problems faced due to their disabilities. This interaction will not only benefit them socially, but will also boost their self esteem and give them the courage to step out in society, no longer ashamed of their disabilities, but proud of the things which make them stand out. Isn’t that grand? The disabled, through the use of ICT are able to get such moral support without even leaving their homes.

               Although they have been plagued with disabilities, don’t underestimate the things that the disabled can do and have already begun doing. Disabled people have already begun stepping out of the darkness and taking their places in society. ICT supports their endeavors with full fire. Through the use of ICT, the achievements of disabled persons are broadcasted internationally. Information about persons such as Stevie Wonder (famous blind musician) and Adrian Camp (famous disabled swimmer) are readily available on the web. Learning of the experiences of such persons will greatly inspire other disabled. It will serve as encouragement towards the pursuit of their dreams, ensuring them that, although disabled; they can still achieve any goal.

                 Being disabled might give one the feeling of emptiness and loneliness. However, it is evident that ICT allows one to overcome this. ICT can connect the disabled as long as they take the initiative to use it for the greater good! Hence the problem of a missing fin or broken wing or whatever the disability one might have will seem as tiny as an ant bite when the gateway of ICT is entered and the leap into its boundless world is taken. ICT connects people with disabilities. ICT for all!