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Online training in digital accessibility for visually impaired people opens doors to new job opportunities

The National Association for the Blind is organising online programmes on digital accessibility training for visually impaired people. This is important given the potential growth of job opportunities companies need people who can test websites and other digital mediums to ensure they are accessible for people with disabilities.

With information technology accessibility (ICT Accessibility) among the key mandates of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPWD Act), digital accessibility is offering many promising employment opportunities for people with visual impairments. Companies are looking for qualified people who can ensure that their digital systems are usable and accessible to people with disabilities on a sustained basis.

Having the required skills is critical and blind people who have them are finding lucrative jobs as accessibility evaluators, software testers, technical writers, to name a few.

Recognising this need, the National Association for the Blind (NAB), Delhi has launched online training programmes for visually impaired people across age groups in the use of computers and assistive technologies.

The first batch of 30 people recently finished training according to an internationally recognised curriculum. The aim, says Prashant Ranjan Verma, of NAB Delhi, is to enhance their employment opportunities in the IT industry.

In 2018, a company approached us and said they wanted to do projects that are tech-related. We interact with visually impaired people regularly and find that accessibility to software/websites is a major issue. There are not enough testers or people to guide developers. Some of our best candidates have got jobs as accessibility testers and are doing well. That's how the idea came of selecting visually impaired people with strong basic technical skills and training them in accessibility. - Prashant Ranjan Verma, General Secretary, National Association for the Blind, Delhi

Called Arise - Roshni Ka Safar, the programme is a CSR initiative of Aricent Altran Group, a global design and engineering company. Deque Systems, a leading web accessibility company was the knowledge partner.

Free programme

The first programme, from January to May 2019, saw participants from different parts of India, including Jammu & Kashmir. The classes were free and there were three trainers, each of whom was assigned 10 candidates.

"The training was held every alternate day and we used the training material of Deque Systems, adds Verma. There are plans to start the second batch in a month or two. Verma is encouraged by the response. "Some of the candidates have found jobs already and we are confident the others will too. Even if they take time to find jobs, these are useful skills to learn.

Among those in the first batch was Sana Samad from New Delhi. "As a visually impaired person, I found the course relevant because we must be aware of the accessibility standards. This way wherever we work, we can tell the company how to make the services accessible and more importantly whom to contact for this.

Vibhu Sharma, also in the first batch, plans to use the skills learned in her field of inclusive education. "My Masters degree from the University of Edinburgh is in Inclusive Education, which deals with educating children with disabilities in mainstream, inclusive classrooms. This course has been very useful for me. I can now not just create but also test the academic and curriculum materials given to children with disabilities to ensure they are accessible by all".

This is critical need, one that is begging to be met. Globally, there are about 600-700 professionals in the accessibility space for a population of one billion disabled people. Perhaps even more important is that CSR getting used in a way that is generating employment opportunities as Amar Jain points out. Jain is a corporate lawyer and Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) from the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP). "It's also good from the perspective that it opens up awareness about how accessibility is now mandated.

Jain, who frequently dons an activist avatar in his mission to ensure that essential financial services are accessible, finds that most people employed by companies in the accessibility space are freshers. "They have no information so this training that is being offered will make them better skilled. They will be able to give inputs that include perspectives of different disabilities, so they will know what a person with low vision will need, or someone with a learning disability.

Awareness generation among corporates about accessibility is critical as well and this is something the NAB is looking at as well. As part of the project, a conference is being held in New Delhi today with 25 companies. The conversation will be focused on how accessibility is important for education and employment as well as the legal framework around it. The event will bring together companies testing the waters as well as those that employ people with disabilities to share their experiences and concerns.

GET IN TOUCH: To find out about future training programme conducted by the NAB, check out their website http://www.nabdelhi.in/. You can also call the office at 011-26176379, 011-26102944, 011-8826260010 or reach Prashant Ranjan Verma at +91-9811686966 and gs@nabdelhi.in.

ALSO READ:Big Bazaar has some unique workshops planned for visually impaired people

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